Following Monday’s practice in Coral Springs, the Panthers departed on a quick business trip — as coach Kevin Dineen called it — to the country music capital of the world without its opening-night goaltender.
Although Tim Thomas practiced for the first time since sustaining a groin injury last Tuesday against the Flyers, he did not travel with the team to Nashville.
Thomas felt a twinge when he awkwardly moved across the crease in the 2-1 loss in Philadelphia. A long shot from Sean Couturier forced Thomas to make a similar move, and the groin bothered him again.
Dineen said Thomas, who spent eight years with Boston, is questionable for Thursday’s matchup against the Bruins at BB&T Center.
“Timmy — I haven’t gotten the report on him — but he was fine out there in practice,” Dineen said. “His first skate with the group in a week. He looked fine. I’m sure that’s the report on him — that he’s making good progress. Another skate on Wednesday and I’ll make a decision on what we’ll do against his old team on Thursday.”
One player returning for Tuesday night’s game against the Predators is center Nick Bjugstad, who was taken off the injured reserve list Sunday after sustaining a concussion in a prospects game on Sept. 8.
Bjugstad practiced with the Panthers for the first time Monday and is eligible to play.
“I liked his practice,” Dineen said. “It’s only practice, but he had a really solid skate [Sunday] and a good solid practice [Monday]. Our lineup is slowly starting to find a little bit of chemistry to it, but I think you also inject some enthusiasm.
“Take a Matt Gilroy — came into our lineup and I think he’s played solid the last few games and he’s given us an extra boost. That makes Nick a legitimate option for [Tuesday night].”
The 6-6 center has been easing his way back onto the ice for the past two weeks and said he is 100 percent fully recovered.
“I’ve gotten to sit and watch the game for a while, and it got me excited to watch these guys play and win some games,” Bjugstad said. “Just ready to get on the ice. I worked all summer for training camp to be ready for that. You never know what’s going to happen. I had to sit out and watch the game, and I appreciate the game a little more.”
According to Dineen, left winger Sean Bergenheim (hip/abdominal) left Monday morning for Toronto.
When Bergenheim reported to camp injured in January, Florida claimed he was injured during the lockout when he played in two games with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. His medical team stated that his injury was a preexisting condition and was sustained while with the Panthers.
“His schedule has changed,” Dineen said. “He has now gone to Toronto to work out by himself with a therapist there that he feels gives him a chance to come back to full health. He’s going to be there for the next five days, and then we’ll evaluate him from there.”
Sunday’s game against the Kings began a stretch in which the Panthers will host the last three Stanley Cup champions. Los Angeles won the title in 2012.
After its game in Nashville, Florida returns to play the Bruins (2011) on Thursday, the Wild on Saturday and the Blackhawks (2013) on Oct. 22.
“All the games we’ve had at home have been against tough teams,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “It’s great to play against those teams because you have to bring your level up. It’s no different than any other team in the league, but you hear former Stanley Cup champs and you really understand what kind of game it’s going to be.
“You really got to step up — and as I said — move your feet, create good plays, be on top of them, take time and space away from them and challenge them as much as we possibly can.”Ed Jovanovski Steven Pinizzotto