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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Jonathan Huberdeau

Panthers forward discusses Achilles injury, playing with Jagr

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs each Tuesday throughout the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the most recent news.

The latest edition features Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau:

 

[RELATED: Five Questions with Milan Lucic | Brayden Schenn leads 3 Stars of the Week]

 

A year ago, Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau was rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon. Now he's on pace for a career season, meeting the high expectations set when he was selected No. 3 in the 2011 NHL Draft and won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 2013, scoring 31 points in 48 games.

Huberdeau had career highs in goals (20) and points (59) and tied his career high in assists (39) in 2015-16. But on Oct. 8, 2016, in the Panthers' final preseason game, he collided with New Jersey Devils center Sergey Kalinin behind the New Jersey net. Kalinin's right skate blade came down on the back of Huberdeau's left ankle.

Video: FLA@NYR: Huberdeau roofs loose puck over Pavelec

Huberdeau missed four months, but scored in his first game back, against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 3, and finished with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 31 games.

The 24-year-old leads the Panthers in scoring with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 30 games this season and is on pace for 86 points (24 goals, 62 assists).

Since his injury, he has 58 points (19 goals, 39 assists) in 61 games.

"Hubie's game's in a good spot," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "Sometimes I wish he'd shoot more, and we talk about that a lot. He's pretty unselfish and looks to dish a lot, hence the assists. But he's a guy we count on every night for offense."

Here are Five Questions with … Jonathan Huberdeau:

 

How did you handle the Achilles tendon injury physically and mentally?

"Sometimes you get surgery in the summer, but you're not really around the guys. Nobody's playing, so you don't miss it as much. But when you get hurt in the season, you have to go to the rink, the guys are playing, everybody's having fun, and you have to rehab. I think you work on mental toughness too. For a month, you don't move your leg. You're in a small cast, in a boot. Your muscles on one leg get smaller and weaker. In the morning, I would do, like, three hours of rehab. After that, if we had a game, I would come back at night during the game and get some rehab again. It was twice a day. When everybody was on the road, we tried to mix it up. You're the only one at the rink, so I think you want to try to have fun. A couple beach workouts."

 

How did you come back so strong, starting with the first game?

"It was weird, because when I came back, I knew I was going to have a good game. It's like when you're a kid and you're so excited to play. When you get away from the game for so long, you're so excited to come back. I didn't know how rusty I would be not playing, but I was confident enough, and it happened that game, I scored a goal. Of course, my legs were a little dead after the first period. I was like, 'Holy [cow], I've got to get going.' But I knew it was not going to be like that all season. I knew the left leg wasn't as strong as the right leg, and I worked on that all summer long. I think it's back to normal, and this year I've felt good."

Video: ANA@FLA: Huberdeau scores in season debut

 

What lasting lessons did your former linemate Jaromir Jagr leave in Florida when he signed with the Calgary Flames at age 45?

"A legend like him could have been, 'I'm just doing my thing, and don't really care.' But he cares about the game, cares about his teammates. Personally, I had the chance to play with him, so it was pretty fun time. I think his work ethic was the thing that I learned the most. Every day he would come in and want to work hard. He would skate himself after practice and stuff. I think that just shows why he's still in the NHL at his age can still be a good player out there. Of course at his age, injuries are going to come. But I think he still has it."

Video: CAR@FLA: Jagr buries Huberdeau's nice feed for PPG

 

You played for coach Gerard Gallant with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Panthers, and with forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in Florida. Why are they off to such a good start with the Vegas Golden Knights, who host the Panthers on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM; FS-F, NHL.TV)?

"[Gallant is] a good player's coach. I mean, he played the game, so he knows what it takes. He knows what the guys are going through and stuff. I think he lets you play too. You can make some mistakes, but he won't sit you and stuff. He's going to let you play and find a way to get a better shift after. All the guys like him. Everybody was saying, 'Aw, Vegas.' But they're pretty good players. I think they keep things simple. I'm glad they're having a good season. Marchessault, he's a good friend. Smitty, we played together. Just nice for them, but of course when we play against them, we want to win."

 

What does Boughner want from you?

"I really like him. I think he wants us to work hard. Our training camp was really good. I thought it was more intense this year. He wants us to play the system, but we have creativity up front. So we've just got to put it together a little bit, and I think it should be fine."

Video: DAL@FLA: Huberdeau nets Trocheck's dish for PPG

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