BOSTON -- It may have been just a scrimmage against his team's AHL affiliate -- and a 7-5 loss in which he had no points, at that -- but there was no wiping the smile off Nathan Horton's face.
The Bruins winger continued to look healthy and played like the power forward he and his teammates know he can be. Tuesday night was the closest Horton has been to game action since he suffered his second concussion in a calendar year Jan. 22, and Horton was thrilled to take another step toward a real NHL game. He'll get that chance on Saturday in the season opener against the Rangers, but for now he is just happy to be playing again.
"It was nice and it felt really good to be out there because it was different than anything else I've been doing," Horton said. "Scrimmages and a little shiny or practices, that's different than a game situation like this. It feels so good to be back. I have no worries and I just feel like myself. So I'm just trying to get back to where I need to be and move my feet as much as possible."
Most hockey players will tell you that the true test as to whether they're back to where they need to be following an injury is when they take that first big hit, and that is especially true for a player coming back from a concussion. Horton wasn't on the receiving end of any thunderous hits, but he did experience some solid contact and wasn't fazed by it.
"I got hit a couple times -- nothing big or anything -- and I'm not even worried about it or it didn't even cross my mind," Horton said. "If someone does hit me hard, that will be fine too."
Horton also liked the increased tempo of the game and felt he was able to keep up.
"I feel like I am in pretty good shape and that was a good pace because it's different than playing in practice or a drill," Horton said.
One of the most positive signs, though, both for Horton and his teammates, was that Horton again was having fun on the ice. As he pointed out, that can only lead to good things for his game and for the Bruins.
"I'm just going with it and not trying to think too much," Horton said. "I just want to have fun because when I'm having fun and smiling and enjoying myself is when things happen. So that's a good sign."