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No playoff action for Horton

Concussion turns out to be a season-ender

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 12, 2012
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WILMINGTON - Neither Nathan Horton nor his employers thought much of Tom Sestito’s glancing hit Jan. 22.

The Philadelphia forward left Horton with a mild concussion, and the plan was for the Bruins right wing to sit out the Jan. 24 game against Washington, recover during the All-Star break, and resume playing in early February.

Concussions, however, can tear apart even the most basic plans.

After watching Horton struggle through more than two months of recovery, the Bruins announced Wednesday that his season was over. For the second straight year, Horton will not be in uniform for his team’s final game.

“It just wasn’t in the long-term interests of Nathan to have the spectre hanging over him of trying to come back during this playoff season,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He’s made one step forward and two steps back.

“We just made the determination, upon consultation with our doctors and with Nathan, that it would be prudent to shut him down for the playoffs and continue to rehab for next year.’’

Horton suffered a severe concussion in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final last spring when he was blasted by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. Horton was well enough to travel with the team to Vancouver for Game 7, and prior to that game, he poured a bottle of water from melted TD Garden ice onto the Rogers Arena sheet.

According to Chiarelli, Horton’s latest concussion was not related to last June’s. After Sestito’s hit, Horton complained of headaches and grogginess.

Horton resumed skating on his own Feb. 5, but his symptoms flared up, forcing him to halt.

Most recently, Horton had been working out vigorously off the ice and even skated with Tuukka Rask last Friday at Ristuccia Arena.

Horton’s stretches of progress gave the Bruins optimism for a return. But those upward trends were always offset by setbacks.

“They weren’t huge symptoms, but they’d always come up at some point after three, four, five, or six days of positive stuff,’’ Chiarelli said. “It was a frustrating exercise for Nathan. It was a frustrating exercise for us, because we’ve been through this rehab before with players.

“I’ve seen all kinds of rehab patterns now. Usually you can see, when the player has color and when he’s animated, you think he’s turned the corner. Then they have a bout of postconcussion symptoms. They manifest themselves in different ways.

“With Nathan, sometimes it would be just a fogginess. Sometimes he wouldn’t feel right. Sometimes there’d be a big headache.’’

According to Chiarelli, Horton felt some relief after the decision. Horton was pushing himself to return for the playoffs, which added to his frustration when he suffered setbacks.

Horton’s mood, however, has been lightened by the birth of his second son late last month.

His absence leaves the Bruins without one of their clutch postseason performers. Horton scored the Game 7 overtime winner against Montreal in the first round last spring and had the only goal in the 1-0 Game 7 win over Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final.

Rich Peverley has been skating in Horton’s usual spot alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Part of the Bruins’ success last year was having enough depth to slot Peverley on the third line.

Horton’s final line of the season: 17 goals, 15 assists in 46 games.

“In his case, it’s probably the best thing for, No. 1, him,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “As an organization, you’ve got to make the right decision. He’s tried to come back a few times. He’s had some setbacks lately.

“You could tell he was feeling the pressure of trying to come back for the playoffs. When you’re not feeling well, that’s not right.

“It was important for us to let him know we’re going to shut him down for the rest of the year.’’

McQuaid will sit

Adam McQuaid (eye/head) will not play in Game 1 against the Capitals. The defenseman, who missed all three practices this week, was shut down in the second period of last Thursday’s 3-1 win over Ottawa because he wasn’t feeling right.

He has not been diagnosed with a concussion.

McQuaid was originally injured March 29, when Jason Chimera, Washington’s No. 2 left wing, blasted him into the TD Garden end boards. McQuaid missed the next three games because his left eye had swollen shut.

Joe Corvo will likely replace McQuaid. Corvo has been practicing alongside Greg Zanon on the third pairing.

Khudobin likely No. 2

Anton Khudobin will likely serve as Tim Thomas’s backup to start the series. Rask (abdomen/groin strain) practiced the last three days but he has not been cleared to play . . . Johnny Boychuk (knee sprain) made it through all three practices without limitations. While Julien said Boychuk is not 100 percent, the defenseman should be in the Game 1 lineup alongside Andrew Ference . . . The Bruins spent a good chunk of Wednesday’s practice touching up their power play. It was the second straight practice in which they ran through PP drills . . . Mike Mottau and Jordan Caron project to be the healthy scratches for Game 1.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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