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Panthers' Versteeg now aiming for start of season

Thursday, 09.05.2013 / 8:51 PM NHL.com

Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said Thursday he has moved up his timeline in returning from knee surgery and is aiming to play opening night.

"It's a long process but my goal is to be ready for the start of the season," Versteeg told the Miami Herald. "I guess we'll see how training camp goes. I don't want to go into a regular-season game without knowing what training camp is like. I think I'll be there for most of it. That's my goal."

The Panthers start training camp next week and open the regular season Oct. 3 at home against the Dallas Stars.

Versteeg had surgery after he injured the ACL in his right knee March 12 during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had said he expected to return in November.

"That was about three weeks after surgery," Versteeg said. "I had no idea on timelines or what exactly the progression of the ligament is. That was an annoying time for me mentally because you put in so much work and don't see anything happening.

"Then around months four and five, you see it all coming together. The past three months have been very positive for me. That's why I think things have changed."

Versteeg had two goals and two assists in 10 games last season after a career-high 54 points (23 goals) in 71 games in 2011-12.

The Sun-Sentinel reported Versteeg skated Thursday with teammates at Saveology.com IcePlex. He "was sporting a heavy brace on his right knee."

Defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who is returning from hip surgery, also skated. Earlier Thursday, general manager Dale Tallon said forward Jonathan Huberdeau would be ready for training camp after offseason hip surgery.

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