Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov took one step closer to returning to the lineup for the Florida Panthers Monday as they joined teammates for a full practice for the first time since suffering unrelated injuries.
Huberdeau has been out since severing an Achilles tendon during Florida’s final exhibition game of the preseason back in October; Barkov has been out with a back injury since before the New Year.
Neither will play in the coming days although their return to team sanctioned workouts is a positive step in their continued rehabilitation.
“It felt really good, just nice to be out there with the team,” said Huberdeau, whom the Panthers hope is on track for a March return. “That’s what I need, skating with the guys and get into game shape a little bit.
“I feel good but I don’t know when I’ll be back. There’s no timeline. I want to come back, but I don’t want to come back at 60 or 70 percent.”
Said Barkov: “I feel better every day and being able to skate with the team, I’m happy to be able to do that. It’s a lot more fun than skating on my own. I hope to be able to play soon.”
Barkov said he had been dealing with a back issue before he left Florida’s game against the Canadiens on Dec. 28.
Although Barkov’s on-ice activity had been slowed in previous weeks, he has ramped up his workouts since last week.
Both he and Huberdeau joined their teammates for last Thursday’s game day skate and took part in full activities on Monday.
“They told me right away that I didn’t need surgery and that’s a good thing,” said Barkov, whom Florida front office sources could return next week following the team’s down time following Friday’s game against Anaheim.
“Hockey is not only skating; you have to battle and shoot the puck. Hopefully in the next couple of days we’ll know more.”
Huberdeau hasn’t publicly commented on his injury since it happened during the Panthers’ preseason game at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
The injury occurred when the skate of New Jersey’s Sergey Kalinin came down on Huberdeau’s ankle. Surgery on the tendon soon followed.
The Panthers said then he would be out as long as four months.
For Huberdeau, who was coming off a career-high 20 goals with 59 points, being hurt after a good offseason of training was devastating.
“It has been a hard time,” he said. “To see the guys out there every day ... This is the first time I had a bad injury during a season. That’s been the hard part. It has been tough mentally and physically; mentally may be the toughest. It’s hard to be positive with an injury like this.”
Although both players look good on the ice, the nature of their injuries lead the Panthers to be cautious.
Huberdeau says his tendon still needs to be strengthened and that can only come with time. Barkov, as well, could use a little more time.
“Every day you try to work and feel better,” Huberdeau said. “The point is to not think about it when you go out there. That’s what I’m working on with the trainers. I’m working really hard to be 100 percent.”
▪ Coach Tom Rowe said James Reimer would start in net for the Panthers on Tuesday not because anything is wrong with Roberto Luongo but because Reimer “is playing well” and “deserved it.”
FACEBOOK VIDEO: Tom Rowe talks about his team coming out of the All-Star break via One Panther Parkway
Reimer stepped in Thursday against the Lightning and made 31 saves in a 2-1 overtime win.
Reimer has won four of his past seven starts and in those games, the Panthers have at least a point in six of them.
▪ Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck both made it back Monday from All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.
Jagr, who didn’t play Sunday but participated in the pregame festivities as a member of the NHL 100 team, practiced on Monday; Trocheck did not.
TUESDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS
▪ When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
▪ TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
▪ Series: Ottawa leads 51-36-3.
▪ Scouting report: The Sens, who have lost two of the past three, sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and are six points ahead of the Panthers with three fewer games played. The two teams split the first two games of the season series.