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Johnny Boychuk does everything as he returns to practice

04.09.12 at 1:37 pm ET
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Johnny Boychuk has been out since April 3. (AP)

WILMINGTON — Johnny Boychuk‘s sprained knee is feeling better, and that could mean a return to the lineup in time for the playoffs.

The veteran defenseman returned to practice with his teammates Monday, and in addition to feeling good physically said his conditioning has not fallen off since suffering his injury last week against the Penguins.

“I felt good out there,” he said. “Just wanted to get back practicing and see how it feels. It felt pretty good, so I’ll take it day-by-day.”

Boychuk wasn’t held back at all during the practice, as he took regular turns in line rushes and participated in the team’s physical 3-on-3 drills.

“There wasn’t really any limitations,” he said. “I went on the ice a little bit yesterday and it was a little sore, so I tried it out today with some tape and a nice knee brace and it felt better.”

Claude Julien says that Boychuk is still day-to-day, and with three days until the Eastern Conference quarterfinals begin against the Capitals, No. 55 aims to be in the lineup.

“I hope so,” he said. “We’ll see how it feels every day. The main thing is just to come back 100 percent and be at your best.”

The 28-year-old defenseman, who this season was signed to a three-year, $10.08 million extension, admitted that he thought his injury was worse at the time. Boychuk remained down on the ice after trying to hit Penguins forward Aaron Asham and was eventually helped off by teammates.

Said Boychuk: “When you’re on the ice and you’ve never felt that feeling before, you don’t want really want to get up and then ‘what if it was bad and I made it worse by getting up?’ That was the first reaction when I was on the ice at least.”

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