BOSTON -- Bruins winger Nathan Horton faced the media Wednesday for the first time in weeks and admitted that coming back from a severe concussion suffered in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals has been more difficult than expected.
While he isn't being plagued by any physical symptoms or suffering from post-concussion syndrome, Horton said he is still trying to find his way on the ice.
"I'm still trying to get my game back," Horton said. "I obviously don't feel 100 percent out there. I'm not myself, you know? I'm just trying to get that back. Last game, I thought we played better. Hopefully we can build off it.
"Obviously I just need to get my timing and stuff. I still don't feel like I'm myself out there. I'm fine, but I just need to be better obviously. That's it. I just need to be better."
But, Horton went on to say, that's not just it. It's not simply a matter of a player battling through a slump. Just as it was for teammate Patrice Bergeron when he returned from his first major concussion in the 2008-09 season after missing almost the entire 2007-08 season, this is foreign territory for Horton and he admittedly wasn't ready for the impact it has had on his game.
"I had never had a concussion or anything like that," said Horton, who on numerous occasions stressed he's not dealing with any physical or even mental issues, such as the depression former teammate Marc Savard is still suffering from. "I didn't know what to expect coming in. Obviously it has (affected me) but I've just got to keep working through it. I know I've got to be better, and I can be better. It's just a matter of time. I want to be better, so I think it's got to come sooner or later."
While Horton may not have expected his game would suffer at first, Bruins coach Claude Julien -- who twice made it clear Horton has been medically cleared -- acknowledged that he and his staff knew from experience with Savard and Bergeron that Horton might find it tough to come back.
"He's had a slow start to the season," Julien said. "I think anybody that comes back from that and missed that amount of time is going to be slow coming back. It's almost a natural process.
"You saw Bergeron take almost three-quarters of a year and other guys, not just on our team but on other teams, and Savvy when he came back, so there's a lot of guys that after coming back from that kind of an injury are slow to get back. Whether it's a hesitation or whatever it is, it's something that we've noticed along the way.
"Bergy for the longest time when he came back didn't feel right either. With time it just kind of got better with him. I think it's more about finding the timing and everything else. A lot of guys that go through those kinds of things, whether it's a mental block, it takes them time to find their groove again. So it's not surprising that he said what he said."
Bergeron, who has now had to return from two more concussions, including one in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, can relate to what his teammate is experiencing.
"Yeah, for sure, that year when I came back it was more a question of timing and execution and all that," Bergeron said of his return from his first concussion. "I felt fine (physically) but I think it was just a question of forcing things and trying to put maybe a little too much pressure on myself. So I know what he's going through and he's going to come out of it for sure. I know it's not always easy but he's going to be fine."
Right now, Horton is trying to handle the experience in his own way. He isn't looking over his shoulder when he goes into the corners, but the memory is definitely weighing on him.
"I've got hit, I've hit some people, but obviously I haven't gotten killed," Horton said. "I've gotten hit as much as you can, I guess. I have gotten hit pretty hard. Again, I'm just trying to forget what happened and just move forward. I'm only human. I do think of it.
"It's not easy, obviously, but again, I'm still trying. I want to be better, and I think that's what matters."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.