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Contract year for Alberts

Posted by Fluto Shinzawa, Globe Staff  September 12, 2008 09:10 AM

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andrewalberts091208.jpg
This Scott Hartnell hit on Nov. 26, 2007, most likely triggered Andrew Alberts's head and neck woes. (Getty Images)

Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that a still-green Andrew Alberts was skating on the fourth line for Mike Sullivan? Hard to believe that he's headed for unrestricted free agency after this season.

"I know. Two years go by fast," said Alberts, referring to his current two-year contract. "Last year was a long year. But coming back this year, hopefully I'll play well and we'll see what happens."

Last season, the ex-Boston College defenseman appeared in only 35 games because of a mysterious neck injury that left him with post-concussion syndrome symptoms. In all likelihood, Alberts's condition was a result of Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell smashing the defenseman's head into the Wachovia Center boards. Alberts appeared in two of the seven first-round games against Montreal.

"Last year, in the early parts of the year, you could see his game was really coming around -- thinking and skating at the same time," GM Peter Chiarelli said during Wednesday's town meeting at TD Banknorth Garden. "He's big. He plays hard. He's just suffered as a result of the injury last year, so he's a little bit behind."

This summer, Alberts worked out back home in Minnesota, skating in a group that included Colorado's Jordan Leopold. Alberts acknowledged experiencing headaches earlier in the summer, but said he's been skating since July and is ready for the official start of training camp.

"Couple hiccups," Alberts said. "But I'm good to go now."

This will be a pivotal year for Alberts, who must prove he's healthy and ready to get back into Boston's defensive six-pack. Aside from shooting more this season, Alberts is aiming to continue his defensive-minded style and get back into an NHL pace.

"Just don't take anything for granted," said Alberts of learning from last year's experience. "That's the biggest thing. Always protect yourself from plays by seeing what's going to happen. I think I was playing well last year when I got hurt. It was tough coming back after being out for so long."

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