MONTREAL -- There was good news on the health of Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty on Thursday as coach Jacques Martin announced he will be allowed to begin working out a week from Saturday with an eye toward accepting contact in practice within 3-5 weeks.

It was a surprising and welcome update seeing as it was only last Tuesday that everyone watched in horror as Pacioretty was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher with his head immobilized after being hit by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and having his head driven into a stanchion.

"It's encouraging, because at one time it was a question mark whether he would be able to come back and play, so that's good news," Martin said. "And it's encouraging that he'll be able to start his training in a short time and should be able to play in the playoffs."

Martin said Pacioretty will remain on complete rest until March 26, at which point the normal concussion protocol will be respected as he begins workouts.

Pacioretty suffered what the Canadiens described as a severe concussion when he was knocked out cold on the ice by the Chara hit, and he also suffered a non-displaced fracture of the C4 vertebra in his neck.

The 3-5 week timeframe, Martin said, is the time it will take for the neck to heal. He has no news on the progress of Pacioretty's concussion symptoms.

Pacioretty was at the Bell Centre prior to Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals to meet with team physician Dr. David Mulder and also see his teammates. Defenseman James Wisniewski said after Tuesday's game that Pacioretty had told him he was not suffering from any concussion symptoms.

Pacioretty was hospitalized for two days following the hit and was released last Thursday.

He has 14 goals and 10 assists in 37 games this season, with 11 of those goals coming in his last 20 games played.