UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It had been 10 days since Loui Eriksson was last seen on the ice. It was then, back on Oct. 23, that John Scott took a shoulder to Eriksson’s head in a hit that was later deemed an illegal check to the head, giving the Bruins winger a concussion.
But Eriksson was back on the ice on Saturday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, participating with his Bruins teammates in the morning skate. It was a step in the right direction for Eriksson and for the Bruins, who were starting to see chemistry blossom on their second line when Eriksson suffered the injury.
“He’s just skating with the team for the first time there, no contact,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Just kind of going step by step. That’s basically where he is right now. You just keep your fingers crossed that there’s no setback and he keeps moving forward.”
Scott was penalized with a seven-game suspension for the hit, a ruling that came down on Thursday afternoon. Eriksson has missed five games including Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Islanders.
There is no timetable on when Eriksson could return in a game, though getting him on the ice was certainly a good sign for the winger, and for the team.
“It’s always encouraging because you never know with concussions, how long they can last,” Julien said. “We’ve seen different types. Some last for a long time, and some they never come back. To see him out there and continuing to progress is encouraging for us. But again we’re not out of the woods yet until he’s cleared to play.”
Eriksson did not speak with the media on Saturday, and will not until he’s cleared for contact.
Julien had not indicated that Eriksson would make the trip to Long Island on Friday when he spoke with the media, but he did say that Johnny Boychuk was likely to do so. Boychuk, though, was left behind in Boston. The defenseman had suffered an injury in the second period of Thursday’s win over Anaheim, crashing into the boards, and did not return to the game.
“Last-minute decision on him, not bringing him,” Julien said. “He was better suited to stay back home and get some treatment there.”
Boychuk is considered day-to-day, and is a possibility for Tuesday’s game against Dallas.
With Boychuk not able to play, Matt Bartkowski took his place. The defenseman had been a healthy scratch in each of the Bruins' last six games, and last played in Florida against the Panthers. He has played in just three games this season.
“He’s worked hard,” Julien said. “He’s a guy, he’s been patient. I think we all know that probably on any other team he’d be playing on a regular basis and could basically be a top four. We’re deep in the back end and we’ve also got some young guys. He’s been an in-and-out guy, but his work ethic has been extremely good.
“To me, I’m not worried. He might have a little bit of rust, but he’s certainly not going to be a bad player for us tonight.”
Julien emphasized how much the Bruins like Bartkowski’s game, and how appreciative they’ve been with his patience. “I think he knows that,’’ he said. “I think he senses that, and it’s just a matter of time here. When a player is deemed really good and should be in the lineup, you make room for him.”
Not that that makes it all that much easier to sit in the press box night after night.
“I’ve been waiting for, I don’t know how many games, itching to get back in,” Bartkowski said. “Unfortunately it was on an injury, but those things happen.”
Bartkowski has continued to do extra work after practices, spending extra time on the exercise bike, anything he can to keep up his conditioning without game action.
Johnson gets call
Chad Johnson got his second start of the season and made 31 saves in the loss. Tuukka Rask had started 11 of 12 games before Saturday’s matchup with the Islanders, including back-to-back starts last week against Pittsburgh and Anaheim. Johnson allowed two goals, one rather shaky, at Buffalo in his first start, which came on Oct. 23. “Just keep it simple,” Johnson said, as he had before his first start. “It’s your job just to give the team an opportunity to win a hockey game. For myself, my objective is always just to get in there and try to help them win.” In that game, Johnson faced just 16 shots and made 14 saves against a bad Sabres team . . . The Islanders were in the second game of a back-to-back, something the Bruins have experienced in each of the last two weeks. New York arrived back at the airport from Ottawa at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday . . . Thomas Vanek, long a Bruins killer, scored his first goal as a member of the Islanders on Saturday night, six days after being traded from the Sabres. Vanek finished the evening with 2 points — he had an assist on John Tavares’s goal — giving him 59 points in 51 games against the Bruins in his career (30 goals, 29 assists).Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.