Dougie Hamilton had an eye-rolling, bemused response Monday following his first practice with the Bruins in three weeks when asked if he missed playing.

“Duh,” said Hamilton, with a smirk. “That’s a stupid question.”

Of course it is. The second-year B’s defenseman lives to play hockey, and was making major strides this year before suffering a lower body injury that's kept him out of nine games. He's improved by leaps and bounds defensively, and has been an impact player at the point position on the power play reboot.

He practiced without contact for the first time on Monday morning since being hurt, and is happy to be back on the ice.

“To finally be skating again with the team feels good, and it’s just one step closer to playing,” said Hamilton. “I’ve never had an injury like this before. It’s just been nagging stuff that I’ve been able to play through in the past.

“I don’t think I’ve been cleared for contact yet. But just to get into pace of practice again was good for me, and hopefully I’m cleared for battle drills again soon.”

Hamilton’s appearance at practice is a very good thing for a team that needs the talented 20-year-old to step up now that Dennis Seidenberg is done for the year. Hamilton has averaged 19:10 of ice time while on a pace for 8 goals and 18 points this season, and ranks just behind Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk with a plus-9 rating this season.

”I want to be playing every game,” said Hamilton. “It’s obviously a lot more fun to be playing rather than riding a bike."

Among the players still standing, Hamilton is the one with the potential size, strength and skill level to step into Seidenberg's role as the No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It’s still early in his career to expect that much out of Hamilton, but sometimes factors force players to mature more rapidly.