Horton's road to recovery getting shorter

Saturday, 12.21.2013 / 7:00 AM / News
By Rob Mixer  - BlueJackets.com



COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes, it’s the little things that help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. For Nathan Horton, it’s as simple as slipping on his coat.

He’s the first to point out that his return to the ice should not be considered imminent, but everyday tasks that were once met with excruciating pain are inching back to “routine” status. For a guy as competitive - and, at the same time, frustrated - by the long rehabilitation process as Horton is, those small benchmarks keep him going and reinforce his belief that he’s on schedule.

A few weeks back, Horton emerged from his occasionally-lonely existence in the training room and conditioning skates to join his Blue Jackets teammates for an optional practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Things started to roll from there, as Horton hoped they would, and on Friday he took part in a full-team practice without the red no-contact sweater.

It’s another step in the process, Horton said, but an undeniably positive day as his timetable starts to move from “weeks” to “days.”

“I did more drills than I usually do, so it was a lot more fun,” Horton said. “There was a little bit of bumping but not too much…just to be in the situation where you could get bumped, though, that was nice.”

Horton didn’t absorb much contact during his first “full go” team practice, taking turns on right wing of a line with Matt Calvert, Ryan Johansen and RJ Umberger for several 5-on-5 drills. But he was able to feel the pace of a high-tempo practice and get the legs going again, something he had really missed over the last few months.

And at least for one day, his teammates let him off the hook.

“I don’t think anyone would have hit me because they still see me in red when I’m on the ice,” Horton joked. “I had fun, though. It wasn’t physical but it was more than I had done. It’s still a little sore but it wasn’t sore before I went on the ice, but that will go away.

“The pain’s probably not going to go away for a long time, but as long as I get my strength and I’m comfortable with hitting people and getting hit, I’ll be fine.”

One of the major final hurdles to clear is getting his upper body strength back, Horton said. In the early stages of rehab, he didn’t have full range of motion and was in a lot of pain and unable to lift any weights for a long period of time.

He has worked at that over the last little while and feels that steady progress has been made, but he’s not ready to deem himself “close” or “on the verge” of anything. The timeline is unclear but the target remains sometime after Christmas, Horton said, before he’s able to get in the Blue Jackets’ lineup for the first time.

But for the time being, he plans on being a regular at practice and a full participant as he tries to work his way back into game shape. That alone tells him he’s getting closer and helps ignite his mile-wide smile.

“I’m slowing getting into more things like I did today. It’s a long process and it’s annoying (at times) but I’m just happy to get in there…it’s a matter of time now. It’s nice to get out there and be on a line and get some line reps, so that was good.

“I can tell just by putting my jacket on or playing a game on my phone that my shoulder is getting better and I can do more. I’m hoping after Christmas, as early as possible, that I can get back into it.”

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Johansen 82 33 30 3 63
J. Wisniewski 75 7 44 0 51
B. Dubinsky 76 16 34 5 50
C. Atkinson 79 21 19 -4 40
A. Anisimov 81 22 17 -2 39
N. Foligno 70 18 21 5 39
R. Umberger 74 18 16 -3 34
M. Letestu 82 12 22 1 34
J. Johnson 82 5 28 -7 33
B. Jenner 72 16 13 6 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 32 20 5 .923 2.38
C. McElhinney 10 11 1 .909 2.70
 
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