For Bruins right winger Nathan Horton, the best sign early in the season is that he hasn't thought twice about giving or taking a hit.

It would be understandable for Horton to be hesitant to undertake physical play. When he stepped on the Garden ice for the season opener last Saturday against the New York Rangers, it had been almost a year since he had played a game.

The 2011-12 season ended prematurely for Horton after he suffered a concussion last Jan.?22. That followed a severe concussion that resulted from a devastating hit by Vancouver's Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

That's a scary history, but one that Horton has been able to set aside during his return.

"I haven't even thought of it," Horton said before last night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. "It's a non-issue. Especially when you feel good, you don't really have to think about it."

That attitude allowed Horton to seamlessly regain his place on the first line alongside center David Krejci and left winger Milan Lucic.

"He's been great," Krejci said. "I know it's not easy for him. He hasn't played a game in like a year, but I think he's responded pretty well. He's trying to keep things simple. He's laying his body on guys. I like what I've seen so far."

The layoff didn't have a negative impact on the conditioning of the 229-pound Horton.

"He looks even better," Krejci said. "He looks like he's in great shape. He's skating well, he's shooting well. We've been creating lots of chances."

Horton finally cashed in one of those chances at an opportune time last night. With the Bruins trailing by a goal, Horton collected a deflected pass from Gregory Campbell at the top of the left circle and uncorked a wrister that made it through traffic and into the back of the net with 4:23 left in regulation.