Simon Gagne is smart enough to know when he is ready both physically and mentally to compete at the NHL level.

Gagne, who is 34 and has dealt with myriad injuries during his last few seasons, is humble enough to admit that trying to make an NHL club after a year’s absence is going to be one of biggest challenges of his career.

“Last season, right after Christmas, if you asked me if I’m going to come back and play this year, I was not ready to get you an answer,” Gagne said Monday after Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena.

“Around May, I decided to get back at the gym, see if my body and my head was ready to do it again. The first month went pretty good, and I decided to try and come back.

“You could feel good physically, but if you’re not ready mentally, it doesn’t make sense. For me, having the experience, I know what it takes. Right now I don’t feel I’m 100 percent. It’s getting better every day. I’m smart enough to see where I’m at.”

So for Gagne, who is with the Bruins on a tryout contract, these preseason games present a precious opportunity for him to shake off the rust and prove he is worthy of a roster spot when the Bruins open the regular season Oct. 8.

Gagne played in the first two preseason games and scored an empty net-goal in the waning seconds of a 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals Wednesday at TD Garden.

The goal was nice, but Gagne felt better about getting nearly 19 minutes of ice time, including work on the power-play unit along with Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.

It was a big improvement from Tuesday night, when Gagne logged 15 minutes of ice time …read more