Matt Bradley skated with the rest of the Capitals for the first time since breaking his finger Dec. 21 against the New Jersey Devils, and although Coach Bruce Boudreau said he didn't expect the fan favorite back in the lineup prior to the All Star break, the veteran right wing hopes to return sooner rather than later.
Doctors have removed the two pins that were inserted into his broken middle finger and Bradley, who has missed 13 games because of the injury, said he has no concerns about dexterity or being able to grip his stick correctly even though his finger doesn't bend fully at the top knuckle.
"It moves fine. It's not like I was blessed with really sweet hands anyway," said Bradley, who added that he's not worried about his conditioning level. "I've been working really hard with Mark Nemish, and I feel like I'm ready to play sooner than later. I have no excuses to be out of shape. I've worked hard since I've been injured so that shouldn't be a problem."
Bradley will travel with the team to Atlanta, and although he's been happy to spend more more time with his 14-month-old son recently, he's eager to be back with the group full time.
"I guess it makes it a little easier to swallow when it's a more major part of your body that's hurt because not only can you not play but you can't do a lot of other things," Bradley said of the injury which hasn't prevented him from working out. "But when it's just the tip of your finger -- it almost seems stupid that that little part of your body can keep you out. On the other hand, you've got to make sure it heels properly because you don't want it to be a nagging injury.
"It felt great to be out there. Just being in the locker room getting ready, it's pretty boring getting ready by yourself and going on before the rest of the guys. Just to be out there today felt good."