SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg
did not enjoy watching his Florida Panthers
on television when they faced Washington on Wednesday night. He even admitted to screaming at the TV at times.
"It's tough watching, it's way more nerve-racking watching a game from your house," Versteeg said. "You're sitting there and you're on your hands. I don't really ever get nervous when I play, but when it's out of your control it's a lot tougher."
Versteeg won't have that problem Friday night against Winnipeg as he returns to the lineup after missing the Panthers' 4-2 victory over the Capitals because of the flu.
The Panthers' leading scorer with 43 points, Versteeg didn't take part in practices Monday and Tuesday when the Panthers returned from the break but got back on the ice Thursday.
"I'm slowly getting there," Versteeg said. "Hopefully, I'll get some more energy back every day by day now. Yesterday hopefully I got over that hump. Today, you start getting energy back and start feeling good again."
Versteeg is expected to take his place again on the top line with Stephen Weiss
and Tomas Fleischmann
after Tomas Kopecky
replaced him against Washington.
Even though he's not ready to say he feels 100 percent physically, Versteeg expects to give nothing less than an all-out effort.
"It doesn't matter if it's an injury or whatever, I always expect myself to go out there and play hard no matter how I feel," he said. "You do what you can to get ready for the game."
Versteeg spent a day in Chicago after the Panthers began their All-Star break following a game against Philadelphia on Jan. 24 and started feeling sick over the weekend.
It made for a forgettable All-Star break.
"Saturday I think is when it really hit me," Versteeg said. "Didn't really get to do much over the All-Star break besides laying in bed. I got to visit a buddy (in Chicago) on Wednesday, but that was about it. Didn't get out too much. You want to get away and you want to do some stuff, but I got some quality time with my bed.
"It was really unfortunate. But, you know, I guess it was a lot of soul-searching in five days."
At least Versteeg wasn't alone, as his younger brother Bryce was visiting from Canada. Bryce, who's 21, also got sick.
said his temperature went "well over 100" and he couldn't sleep for "about five nights."
You'll have to forgive the Jets if they wished Versteeg had stayed sick just a little bit longer.
After beating Florida 4-3 in a shootout on Oct. 31, Winnipeg has dropped the teams' last two meetings and watched Versteeg collect 5 goals and 2 assists in those games.
Versteeg recorded his first career hat trick at Winnipeg on Nov. 10, his empty-net goal clinching a 5-2 victory. Then on Jan. 21, Versteeg had 2 goals and an assist as the Panthers beat the Jets 4-3 in Winnipeg.
Before that game, Versteeg had gone nine games without a goal, his longest drought of the season.
"We gave him some offense that he didn't have to earn too much of," Jets coach Claude Noel
said. "I shouldn't say that, he's a good player for them. He's the one guy that's really kind of hurt us.
"You've got to give him full marks and full credit. He's a guy that's got skill and speed, and he's got that long stick and he can make plays. He's a guy we've got to be aware of."