Fresh off their best road trip of the young season, the Florida Panthers got more good news on Monday: Nick Bjugstad is back and ready to play.
Florida, which won three out of four road games in a span of six days with wins in Montreal, Ottawa and New York, will have one of its top players back when the Panthers host the Flyers on Tuesday night.
Bjugstad has been out since fracturing a bone in his hand during the final week of the preseason.
On Monday, Bjugstad was cleared by team doctors to begin playing, and he’ll be in the lineup Tuesday.
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“It has been tough watching because I spent a long summer training,” Bjugstad said last week before joining his teammates for the four-game trip.
“We have the team. I’m ready to jump in and be a part of it.”
Bjugstad is joining a Florida team which has won four of its past five after going 3-1-0 on the road.
The Panthers won back-to-back games in Ottawa and New York; the 3-2 shootout win on Sunday over the Rangers was Florida’s first at Madison Square Garden in over three years.
“That was a big boost to our hockey team,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “The Rangers are a great team, and I thought we held the fort in the first period then played a real good game.”
After handing the Canadiens their first home loss of the season — the Habs had been 10-0 at Bell Center — Florida got blown out in Toronto 6-1.
After a long flight to Ottawa because of fog, the Panthers struggled defensively yet got opportunistic goals and a terrific performance from goalie Roberto Luongo in a 4-1 win Saturday night over the Senators.
Florida followed that with a rare win in the Big Apple, as James Reimer stopped 33 shots while Vincent Trocheck and Sasha Barkov scored in the shootout for the 3-2 win.
“It feels great, especially getting a win that was huge,” said defenseman Keith Yandle, who scored his first goal as a member of the Panthers on Sunday against his former teammates.
“It’s certainly great to get a win, especially against the old team. [On the road] our goalie stole us a couple of games. When you get the goaltending we have, when you can score a couple of goals, that’s big for us.”
The trip was by far Florida’s best of the season to date, although it was only the second extended road run of the year.
The Panthers left South Florida with just one road win (at Detroit on Oct. 30) and doubled that with their fourth overtime victory of the season over Carey Price and the Canadiens.
In its previous northern road trip, the Panthers went 1-3, winning in Detroit only after losing in Pittsburgh, Toronto and Buffalo.
So, reversing that on this trip — save for another loss to the hot-at-home Maple Leafs — bodes well for the Panthers as they head home for a few days.
Florida doesn’t have its traditional long Thanksgiving homestand, as its plays host to Philadelphia on Tuesday and the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
“This was a huge road trip for us,” Gallant said. “Now we have to go home and take advantage of home ice. To win three of four against those teams was real good for us.”
Tuesday: Flyers at Panthers
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
Series: Philadelphia leads 48-34-7.
Scouting report: This is the first of three meetings this season, with Florida taking two of three in each of the past two seasons — with three consecutive wins on home ice. … Philadelphia is coming off a 3-0 home loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday and has dropped five of its past seven. … The Panthers have won four of five and have won two consecutive games for just the third time this season.