By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON – Mark Stuart skated again prior to Bruins practice on Friday morning and continues trending upward on the road to recovery from a cellulitis infection in his left hand.
The infection first sidelined him during the April 1 game against the Panthers, and he underwent a medical procedure to address the infection on April 4.
(The surgery is actually why Stuart's playoff beard is a bit fiercer than the rest of his teammates. The fallen defenseman decided to start growing his dark playoff stubble once he went under the knife back in early April.)
Stuart said there’s no timetable on his return from the injury, and he's still taking preventative antibiotics after it took weeks to find the correct medication combination for his particular infection.
"What he's gone through is unpredictable as far as the length of time that he'd miss," said coach Claude Julien. "We were told something in the beginning and then it was bad news. In his case it didn’t respond as well because things got worse. Now all of a sudden things are looking much better.
"That's what happens with the type of injury he suffered, with an infection. It was nice to see him back on the ice and nice to have good news. He's a day-to-day situation as far as how well he's doing, and if all goes well hopefully we'll see him practicing with the rest of the guys soon."
Stuart needs to take antibiotics for six weeks to battle the infection, and there was initial concern about sweat entering the infected area while the defenseman was working out; the sweat, along with the elevated heartbeat, could exacerbate the infection. But now Stuart, a known cycling and conditioning nut, is back to his happy place working out and readying for a potential return should Boston keep winning.
"Just going out skating, or even [beginning to ride] the bike [again] three days ago, was huge for me. Just to be doing something," said Stuart. "The worst part was not only not playing, but not being able to work out or sweat was really tough for me. It's just nice to be out there again, and we’ll work on trying to get back out there and playing.
"This was very serious. You really have to take care of it. Now it's up to me to wash it and take the meds the right way. It swelled up badly. It was really throbbing and the infection was worse. It was kind of trial and error at first. We had to try a lot of different medications to find the right one to fight the bacteria."
Stuart is now taking IV antibiotics twice a day to fully kill the bacteria, but his condition has improved to the point where he can begin working out again. The next step will be skating with the rest of the team if things continue to improve.
"There's easier ways to do it, but I'm going to complete the treatment no matter what," said Stuart. "This is just a different way of doing it that allows me to be a little more physical. The timetable has changed quite a bit where you hold out hope for two weeks, and then it becomes four [weeks]. Then it becomes six [weeks].
"You've just got to kind of go with it. Easier said than done, but you've just got to keep it on an even-keel. The team is playing really well right now and that's been fun to watch. I'm just happy we're still [playing]. I still have hope that I can help the team at some point."
The lack of conditioning makes Stuart a long-shot to play against the Flyers, but there's hope the team will continue playing long enough for Stuart to return before the end of the season.