Nick Bjugstad said the migraines he had been suffering from had become so intense he just couldn’t handle it anymore.
So on Nov. 30, during a Panthers practice in St. Louis, Bjugstad came off the ice and went straight to the team’s medical trainers.
After almost a month of tests and time off the ice, Bjugstad said he’s about ready to rejoin the team.
“These guys being able to win so many games really relieved the stress on me trying to come back,” Bjugstad said after participating in another full practice on Thursday morning.
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“It’s tough not playing; it’s what I love to do. I want to get back out there and [am] excited to get back. I don’t know a timetable of when I’m coming back, but I’m close. Things have gotten a lot better over the past month.”
And the Panthers, despite winning 13 of their past 16, mostly without him, can’t wait to have him back.
Bjugstad was Florida’s leading goal scorer last season with 24 and despite missing the past month is tied for sixth on the team with seven goals.
“He’s a great player, and with the style we’re playing you love to add an asset,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “He’s a guy who can score 25-30 goals. We need him on the offensive side of the play.”
Said coach Gerard Gallant: “Obviously, when Nick is available, he’s going to be in our lineup. He had another great day, no restrictions. That’s a good sign. We’re not going to rush him. When he’s ready, he’s ready.”
Bjugstad is still suffering from the migraines, although he and his medical team appear to have the problem under better control.
Although many speculated Bjugstad was out because of a concussion, he and the team have denied that, and Bjugstad said the migraines came on without some sort of hit to his head.
That, he said, made the reasons why he was and is suffering so mysterious.
“The unknown of the injury was it wasn’t one specific hit, it wasn’t one thing I can point out,” Bjugstad said. “That makes it bizarre and frustrating. Usually with an injury you have a timetable and can look at the hit or whatever it was. We have no idea where they came from.”
The Panthers expect Bjugstad to practice again Friday morning, and it will be up to him when he rejoins the lineup. Florida hosts the Rangers on Saturday night before Bjugstad’s hometown Minnesota Wild close out the Panthers’ six-game homestand on Sunday.
“We’re not going to rush it,” Bjugstad said. “If I play against Minnesota, it’s just how it lines up. We will see. I still have to talk to the trainers and the doctors. They’re happy with the improvement.”
▪ General manager Dale Tallon is in the final year of his current contract with the Panthers, but it appears that will soon change.
According to a source within the organization, Tallon and the team agreed in principal to a three-year contract extension on Thursday night.
Tallon, 65, came to the Panthers in 2010 after he built the Chicago Blackhawks into an eventual Stanley Cup champion.
Since joining the Panthers, Tallon has completely remade the roster, with only defenseman Dmitry Kulikov being part of the organization when Tallon came on board.
▪ After years of traveling with his family to South Florida from his native Montreal to see the Canadiens play the Panthers, Huberdeau played in his third holiday game between the teams on Tuesday. For the first time, Huberdeau was able to razz some of his family members after the Panthers beat the Canadiens 3-1.
“It’s always fun playing Montreal at home with so many friends and family up in the stands,” said Huberdeau, whose younger sister Josiane sang the Canadian national anthem prior to face off. “It’s a cool moment but more fun when we win because I still have friends rooting for the Canadiens. I got to chirp them a little bit.”
▪ The Panthers will hold an open practice at 11 a.m. Friday at the IceDen in Coral Springs.