Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim close to returning to ice


Veterans Kris Versteeg and Ed Jovanovski are expected to miss the start of the season, but Sean Bergenheim is almost ready to play.


As much as the Panthers would like to start fresh, last year’s injury-riddled season will follow them into this one as well.

At least three veteran players — Kris Versteeg, Ed Jovanovski and Sean Bergenheim — likely will be limited when the first practice is held Sept. 12.

Versteeg (knee) and Jovanovski (hip) are expected to miss the start of the season; Bergenheim (hip/abdominal muscle) could be ready to play after a few weeks of camp.

“I was off the ice for like nine months, and that’s the longest break I’ve had since I first put on the skates,” said Bergenheim, who missed the entire 2013 season after having surgery in March.

“You miss it. You miss the NHL life, the team. It was good to see, you learn how much you miss it when it’s taken away from you. You appreciate it.”

When Bergenheim reported to camp hurt in January, the Panthers claimed he was injured during the lockout when he played in two games with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League.

Bergenheim’s medical team contended that his injury was a preexisting condition and was sustained while with the Panthers.

Bergenheim filed a medical grievance with the league after being suspended by the Panthers without pay.

He won the grievance, meaning the Panthers had to pay him his entire $2.75 million salary for the 2012-13 season. Players who weren’t injured and played in 2013 were paid a pro-rated salary because of the lockout.

Bergenheim said he spent the 2013 season in South Florida but stayed away from the team. On Monday, he was back getting treatment, saying he wanted to put the past behind him as well as get back into shape.

“It’s already behind me. I’m back at the rink and can’t wait to play,” said Bergenheim, who scored 17 goals with six assists for the Panthers in 2011-12.

“What happened is in the past. I’m not thinking about it. It was tough, but it’s behind me. I’m getting healthy and that’s the most important thing. To play healthy this year will feel good for sure.”

Florida also could limit the likes of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (shoulder) and center Drew Shore (wrist) early in camp. Both had surgery when the season ended and have been working in South Florida.

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