- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The tape job on Mark Stuart's right forearm was noticeable.
Underneath the gold tape lies a portal that the Boston Bruins' injured defenseman is required to hook up to an IV twice a day in order to kill an infection that has ravaged his left hand. He is in the middle of a six-week treatment program.
There's still no timetable on a possible return, but he's been allowed to get on the ice the Past two days, which is a good sign because he wasn't able to do anything for a while. Other than lifting weights, he has no limitations at this point.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said earlier this week that Stuart was not likely to be available for the second-round series against the Flyers.
"What he's gone through is unpredictable, as far as the length of time he would miss," coach Claude Julien said. "We were told something at the beginning and it didn't respond as well, so we got bad news in his case and it was looking worse. Now, all of a sudden it's looking much better. That's what happens in the type of injury he suffered, so it's nice to see him back on the ice and nice to have good news again."
Julien explained that Stuart is listed as day-to-day.
"Hopefully, if everything goes well, we'll see him practicing with the guys real soon," the coach said.
During a scrum with the Kings' Wayne Simmonds on Jan. 30 at TD Garden, Stuart broke the pinkie finger on his left hand. He required surgery two days later 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.
His hand swelled and throbbed, which meant the infection was back and worse than before. It escalated quickly, according to Stuart. He needed surgery again and he's been out of the lineup ever since.
"I was pretty surprised, pretty disappointed," Stuart said Friday. "You realize what you have to do and you try to tackle it. I knew it was going to be six weeks of taking the antibiotic medication. Actually, getting out and skating, even jumping in the bike was huge for me just to start doing something. The worst part, besides not playing, was not being able to do anything physical or sweat was pretty tough for me. It's just nice to be out there again and we'll work on trying to get back and maybe playing."
At the beginning of the healing process, Stuart and the medical staff had to figure out exactly the right diet of medications that would kill the infection.
"We're on the right track now, it's just a matter of finishing it off," he said.
When the infection returned, Stuart and the Bruins were concerned because this type of infection can cause major problems.
"It can get very serious and you have to take care of it," Stuart said. "It's very serious. They did a good job, going in and cleaning it out. Now it's up to me to make sure I watch it and make sure I'm taking the meds the right way. I definitely have to take care of it."
Stuart's career seems to be hampered by freak injuries and this season has been no different. The blueliner missed a total of 14 games with a broken sternum and returned to action before breaking his finger.
"It's been tough," he said. "It's been a rollercoaster these last few months. We're still playing and I'm still holding onto hope that I'll have a chance to get back out there."
Every time he thinks he's getting closer the timetable changes, which has been the most frustrating part for Stuart.
"I just kind of have to go with it," he said. "It's easier said than done, but I'm just trying to stay even-keel. The team is playing great right now and that's fun to watch. I'm happy we're still going and I still have hope that I'll be able to help the team at some point -- hopefully. I'm feeling good and I'm ready to get back on the ice."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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