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During his recovery, Pothier was supposed to go from lifting weights and riding an exercise bike to skating solo and then returning to full practices in about a month and a half.

It took five days.

So just weeks after returning to hockey activities, Pothier stepped onto the ice at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, full of nerves and some fear. In many ways, the game represented his chance to get back to normal.

“It was the emotional roller coaster, so to speak,” he said. “Once I got a puck on the stick - the first faceoff our centerman won it back to me, and I put the puck on my stick and made a couple passes and got in and bumped a few guys - all that stuff sorta disappeared.

“The instincts of the game [took over] - just sorta like riding a bike, you don’t forget how to play - so it turned into [a game] where it was a little more fun. I just reacted and had a lot of fun.”

Added Boudreau: “Well, his first game his decision making was a little off, but he was a lot better in the second game. That’s what I heard.”

Not every bit was fun, as Bears coach Bob Woods noted, given the time needed for a defenseman to get reacclimated to a full-speed game. Pothier made it through his first hit - a good, clean check from former NHL tough guy Ryan Hollweg - and by his second game Sunday, Pothier said he was “a hundred times better.”

Paired with Staffan Kronwall, Pothier played about 16 minutes against Lake Erie.

“I thought he made strides just from Game 1 to Game 2, and he just looked a lot more comfortable,” Woods said. “You could start seeing him be himself again.”

Being himself also means reclaiming his offensive game. Pothier has 20 goals and 100 points in 295 NHL games, but he registered only one shot over the weekend. He called it a “really good chance to score,” lamenting how unfortunate it was that the puck hit Lake Erie goalie Jason Bacashihua right in the chest.

But the return of Pothier’s offensive game - like everything else in the past 14 months - will be a progression, as will his status with the Caps.

“Right now, it’s day-by-day. I’m definitely gonna play Wednesday here,” Pothier said. “Then after the game I’ll communicate, see what they think. They’ll get feedback from me, and we’ll make a decision.

“It’s just about sort of refining my game, and I’m sure I’ll continue to get a little bit more ice time, get in better shape, and I’m hoping to get back real soon.”