Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Brandon Pirri still working his way back following concussion

Brandon Pirri of the Florida Panthers celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a third-period goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 25 in Glendale, Arizona.
Brandon Pirri of the Florida Panthers celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a third-period goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 25 in Glendale, Arizona. Getty Images

Brandon Pirri admits he was in a hurry to come back after his first concussion a few years ago and returned way too soon.

So when he was concussed after taking an elbow to the head on Oct. 30, Pirri listened to what team doctors had to say and made sure he was 100 percent ready upon his return.

“You don’t want to rush things. Especially when you hear about other guys when they get their second one,” Pirri said before Monday’s game.

“You can just delay the whole process. I tried to stay in shape so I’m not hesitant. When I rushed it before, I was pretty bad when I came back. That’s not going to help me or the team. Plus the team was winning, so there was no rush.”

Pirri ended up missing 10 games after being struck by Arizona’s Keith Yandle.

On Tuesday, he says he felt good after returning to the lineup.

“I had to get my legs involved. It was kind of like playing the first game of the year again,” said Pirri, who had three goals in the three games before getting knocked out.

“It’s tough to prepare for. You can ride the bike for 10 miles, and it’s not going to do anything. I got the first one out of the way. I have to respond better, be a step faster and be an opportunistic player.”

Pirri started Monday’s game centering Jussi Jokinen and Jimmy Hayes, but things changed as Florida fell behind against the visiting Wild.

In the third period, coach Gerard Gallant moved Pirri onto the right side of center Nick Bjugstad.

On Tuesday, Pirri remained at right wing with Jonathan Huberdeau on the left.

Although Gallant wouldn’t commit to it, expect that trio to be Florida’s top line when the Panthers play host to Carolina on Wednesday night.

“We’re all offensive guys, so as long as we take care of the defense, everything will take care of itself,’’ said Pirri, who said he doesn’t mind moving over to wing although he’s a natural center.

“We have to gel, but we all think the same. We just have to find the consistency in all three zones, and we have enough talent where that can happen.”

Pirri was a healthy scratch for Florida’s first four games, initially jumping into the lineup when Dave Bolland injured his groin Oct. 17 at Buffalo.

Although Bolland has yet to return, moving Pirri over to wing — even if it is temporary — gives Gallant some flexibility with the lineup.

“Pirri is a good player and has scored some goals. We’re just throwing different things out there,’’ Gallant said. “He’ll probably see some time there, and we’ll see how it goes. He can score, can shoot and was playing real well. He has confidence in his game and knows he can play.”

Said Pirri: “When you’re playing, you don’t think about it. There’s not that much of an adjustment.”

▪ The Panthers had a few players missing from Tuesday’s practice at BB&T Center.

Winger Scottie Upshall was walking around the arena in a walking boot after apparently injuring an ankle after being driven into the boards during Monday’s game.

Upshall was playing in his first game since missing two with an unrelated injury sustained at Los Angeles last Tuesday night.

“He felt OK after the game but [Tuesday] morning was pretty sore,” Gallant said.

Also missing from Tuesday’s practice was center Derek MacKenzie, who was feeling ill. If MacKenzie is well enough to play, Gallant could scratch Tomas Fleischmann or Vincent Trocheck as he did Monday.

Trocheck, who centered Jokinen and Hayes on Tuesday, said he wasn’t surprised to be on the bench after being told Gallant wasn’t happy with his play Saturday in Nashville.

“I didn’t think I played well in Nashville, and Gerard told me the same,” Trocheck said.

“It’s understandable. But it’s not fun. I want to be in the lineup. If I’m back there [Wednesday], I’m going to work twice as hard. You have to take advantage and not take anything for granted here.”

▪ Roberto Luongo took a maintenance day Tuesday and didn’t practice.

Wednesday: Hurricanes at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560/ESPN 1210 (Spanish)

The series: Carolina leads 54-41-11

Of note: After winning five of six in 2011-12 and splitting the season series in 2013, the Panthers were handled by Carolina last season. The Hurricanes won all three meetings by a combined 11-3.

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