Stuart: Definitely hopeful to return

BOSTON -- Bruins injured defenseman Mark Stuart participated in the team's game-day skate Monday morning at TD Garden, but don't expect him to be in the lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Stuart has been out since April 2 with an infection in his left hand. He started skating on his own last week and while he won't be on the ice for Monday night's Game 2, there is a possibility he could return this series.

"I'm definitely hopeful that I'm going to get back in there," he said. "It's my job to get in shape and the coaches are helping me out with that, obviously. And then it's up to the coaches to make the decision whether to put me in the lineup. I realize where I'm at right now, it doesn't matter that I was playing this season. It's the playoffs and the guys are playing well. You've got to earn your spot. And you've got to earn your minutes. So the only thing I can do is show them that I'm in shape and that I'm working hard in practice. And then it's up to them if they want to use me."

Stuart has a portal in his right forearm that he's required to hook up to an IV twice a day in order to kill an infection that has ravaged his left hand. He still has almost two weeks to go in his six-week treatment program.

"He's coming along well," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It was a delicate injury, or situation that could go either way quickly. We're hoping for the best, and right now things are looking more on the positive side. We'll stay realistic here and take it day-by-day. Hopefully he'll be back soon, and if he is, it'll be a good help for our hockey club."

The Bruins' defensive unit has played well during the playoffs. Getting Stuart back would be another boost to the blue line.

"Things can change quickly in this situation, so you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself by making a comment that's going to backfire the next day," Julien said. "It's one of those situations we hope continue to go in the right direction, but at the same time it could go the other way, too."

During a scrum with the Kings' Wayne Simmonds on Jan. 30 at TD Garden, Stuart broke the pinkie finger on his left hand. Two days later he required surgery and a pin was inserted. After two weeks, the finger became infected, so doctors removed the pin and placed Stuart in a cast. The infection went away and he returned to action after the Olympic break and played in every game until April 2, when the infection returned.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call last Tuesday that Stuart would not be available in this series, but the prognosis has taken a turn for the better since then.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.