Horton hoping to return in Game 1

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton said Tuesday that he's hoping to return to the lineup in Wednesday's Game 1 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Displaying his trademark smile throughout most of a lengthy media scrum, Horton indicated he is ready to play in his first game since suffering an upper-body injury in a fight with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarome Iginla on April 20.

"It's nice to be out there again," Horton said. "Working hard and I feel pretty good out there. I've been skating on my own every day, for four or five days now. I feel great."

Bruins head coach Claude Julien later termed Horton a game-time decision, but the excitement of likely playing had Horton beaming.

It would be his first playoff game since suffering a season-ending concussion in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, which the Bruins went to win for their first Cup in 39 seasons.

Horton suffered another concussion in January 2012 and missed the remainder of last season, including the Bruins' first-round loss to the Washington Capitals.

Now Horton is chomping at the bit to help his team snap out of its current funk.

"Going through it and then sitting out last year, this is the time of year that you do want to play," Horton said. "The season definitely was hard on everyone this year, playing every other night for most of the year, but you play every night in the playoffs and still get up for the game because that's the way it is. Just excited to be back in it."

If Horton can play the way he was playing when he suffered his latest injury, the Bruins will get a much-needed boost with the physical style he brings.

"I thought he was playing really well before he was pulled out of the game," Julien said. "Since then, I think he's been really excited about coming back. He skated well today, so right now if he's good to go, I hope to see the same player that left the ice the last game he played."

Horton knows he can be better, and he wasn't making any excuses Tuesday. The rugged winger was asked if his contract situation -- he will be an unrestricted free agent on July 5 if the Bruins don't re-sign him before then -- played a role in his struggles this season.

"I'm not even thinking about that," Horton said. "Either way I'm just going to play hockey, so it doesn't really matter. I'll find out later what's going to happen and it's nothing that I'm thinking about right now."

He's focused on turning things around for his teammates and himself.

"It means a lot to me and I think it means a lot to everyone," Horton said. "Everyone didn't have their best season, including me. I think we're just looking forward to the new season, to the playoffs. This is when we have to be at our best."