- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Speaking with reporters following Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin was asked how nice it was to have Nathan Horton back, not just on the ice but around the dressing room. Just as Seguin began praising the “always smiling” Horton, the big winger walked by.
“Look at him there! Look at those muscles and the tight shirts he’s wearing! The guy’s a beast!” Seguin exclaimed.
Horton laughed and asked, “Tight shirts?”
As Horton headed for the showers, Seguin continued.
“That’s just how the guy is. He’s always smiling,” Seguin said. “Obviously with what he’s been through and how he’s responded, even since the first day we all saw him and how big he was and how committed he is to this locker room, it really shows his leadership qualities and his passion and love for the game. So obviously seeing him do well, it’s awesome.”
To say Horton is playing well may be an understatement. With a four-game point streak (three goals, two assists) heading into Thursday’s game with division rival Buffalo, Horton has played well above expectations for his first six games after not playing since Jan. 22, 2012 thanks to his second concussion in a calendar year.
Horton was a hero during the Bruins' 2010-11 Stanley Cup championship season, his first with the Bruins after coming to Boston from Florida in June 2010. He followed up a 26-goal and 53-point season with a 17-point performance in the playoffs, including three game-winners, two of which were series-clinching goals.
But after helping the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990 paving the way for their first Cup victory since 1972, Horton had to watch the finals from home and the TD Garden press box as he recovered from a devastating concussion in Game 3. But even in the immediate aftermath of the injury, Horton did his best to help motivate his teammates to victory.
Now, with his amazing start to this season, his teammates again are feeding off his play and ever-present positive vibes, something coach Claude Julien has taken note of.
“What he’s been through, starting back a few years ago with that hit in the finals and then to come back last year and going through that again, to see how he’s recovered and how well he competes, he’s going in the corner and he’s battling, he’s physically involved,” Julien said.
“We know he’s got good strength, he’s a great skater, great shot and he’s utilizing all his tools right now. Doesn’t seem to be anything holding him back. That’s pretty impressive because sometimes guys come back a little tentative. That’s not the case with Nathan. He’s been pretty poised and I think right now you’re seeing him at his best. We all know that he’s a machine. Doesn’t seem like he’s skipped a beat, he’s right back in great form and we’re feeding off him, no doubt.”
David Krejci is definitely benefiting from having his linemate healthy and back on the ice. Krejci, who also is carrying a four-game point streak into Thursday, seemed lost without Horton on his right wing for most of last season.
“It’s great to have him back,” said Krejci, who set up Horton with the tying goal late in regulation Tuesday. “I played with different guys a lot last year when he went down and we have so many guys that play the role, but Horty’s Horty. There’s no other Nathan Horton. No one can play like him, and it’s good to see him doing well and happy again.”
As Julien said, there always is uncertainty with how a player comes back from a concussion, let alone two in a year, as Horton has. Krejci was asked what he expected from his linemate coming into this season. The crafty playmaker didn’t hesitate in his answer.
“I never doubted him that he wouldn’t [be this good],” Krejci said. “I saw him in the summer, we skated together a little bit, he was in really good shape and, you know, he’s putting the puck in the net right now, so it’s good to see. Hopefully he’ll keep doing it.”
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45dKyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com