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Lucic 'real close' to returning to lineup

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Bruins winger Milan Lucic is so close to a return to the lineup that he can practically taste it.

After skating some drills with fellow recovering teammate Mark Stuart, frequent healthy scratch Adam McQuaid, and goaltender Tuukka Rask, Lucic said his rehabilitation from his Nov. 25 ankle sprain is about complete.

"Maybe [Thursday], maybe Saturday, maybe [next] Wednesday. So I think one of those three games most likely I'll be making my debut back for the second time in the lineup," said Lucic, who has played in only 10 games this season because he also missed time with a broken finger. "One of those three days; it all depends on how I feel [Thursday] morning. Obviously the percentages won't be as high as they will be on Saturday or Wednesday."

Lucic participated in the pregame skate with the Bruins in Ottawa Tuesday and then did some shooting drills on his own. He said it was great to have some company Wednesday. The pain is almost gone and all systems seem to be a go.

"I said I felt great yesterday and I feel even better today. So I'm definitely real close to getting back. It's a real positive sign for me, and for me to be able to get confidence every day is a great thing," he said.

As for Stuart, who suffered a broken sternum against Philadelphia on Dec. 14, Wednesday was his fourth day back on the ice. He isn't doing any passing and has to be careful not to re-aggravate the injury, but just getting back onto the ice has lifted his spirits. After all, Stuart hadn't missed a game because of injury since landing in the NHL. He had played in 214 consecutive games, including playoffs.

"It's a different experience," he said. "It was real tough at first, just new territory, and it wasn't a lot of fun. It's still not fun, but you've just got to kind of take it in steps. Getting on the ice was a huge step. That was a big confidence booster for me. And [strength and conditioning coach John] Whitesides makes it easy too. He works you really hard but he keeps it light at the same time. So I've got to thank him for that because it's easy to get down in the dumps, especially with the Winter Classic and all that going on. But he made it fun, so that's good."

Stuart said that the original prognosis of four to six weeks is still in effect. Next Monday will mark four weeks.