Matthew Tkachuk camp

LAS VEGAS -- Matthew Tkachuk will be a full participant when the Florida Panthers begin training camp Sept. 21.

The forward said at the NHL North American Player Media Tour on Tuesday during an interview for a future episode of the "NHL @TheRink" podcast that he is healthy more than three months after sustaining a fractured sternum in the first period of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights on June 8.

"I am feeling great," Tkachuk said. "It's been a very short summer, the way I want it to be every year going forward. The worst timing for the injury, obviously, Stanley Cup Final, but in a weird way I had time after where I wasn't missing X amount of months of game action, so I had the summer to get ready. I definitely improved on some things. The injury allowed me to work on some parts of fitness and conditioning and that is in the best form right now possible, and I just improved on some strength, which was my goal."

Tkachuk returned in the third period of Game 3 and scored the tying goal with 2:13 remaining. The Panthers won 3-2 in overtime.

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He said he was given permission by team doctors to play through the pain in Game 4. He skated 16:40 and had four shots on goal in a 3-2 loss that put Florida down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. Tkachuk did not play Game 5, which Vegas won 9-3 to win the Stanley Cup.

"I think I realized I was in the most pain when we won that Game 3," Tkachuk said. "I missed a big portion of it, came back and we won it in overtime. After the game, I'm walking around and normally you have the high spirits after a win, especially in the playoffs. It doesn't matter what you're going through, you're on top of the world. And I was pumped, but I still knew that half of my body felt like it was [in pain]. I knew something wasn't right.

“I didn't know what it was at the time. We did all my tests the next day, then I came back and basically with doctor's orders was given the opportunity to do everything I could to play just one game. [I] did it. I would have done it all over again if I had the chance."

Tkachuk said he wasn't worried about long-term effects of the break in his sternum, knowing that would heal, but there were some internal issues that that led to some scary moments.

"I'll try to keep it short, but there's all the blood vessels and stuff and that was the scary part at the time and that was the most concerning part in my health at the time," Tkachuk said. "But right now, it's good."

He was able to play Game 4 despite not even being able to get out of bed without assistance from his brother, Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk.

"I'm not going to lie, that was the craziest thing I've ever kind of been a part of," Brady said Tuesday, also for a future episode of the "NHL @TheRink" podcast. "I just flew in for the game because I wanted to see a Stanley Cup Final game and he came back from the rink in the morning and just looked awful. He was like, 'I’ve got to go take a nap.' And then he calls me at 3:30 and I'm downstairs. He says, 'Can you come up here?' We were just mucking it up and then he's like, 'Alright, I need you to help me up.' I'm like, 'You're joking.' He's like, 'No, I legit can't get up. I just sneezed and I thought I died.'

“He was going through some serious pain and just to see him be able to find a way to just play in that game and have the mindset of treating this as my last game, do whatever it takes, try to get a win and put ourselves in a better position going into Game 5, I was so proud of him. The way he played, trying to work around it, not many people can do, especially at the pain level he was at."

Tkachuk finished last season tied for sixth in the NHL with 109 points (40 goals, 69 assists) in 79 games. He led the Panthers and was tied for third in the NHL in playoff scoring with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 20 games.

Florida is not expected to have defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour on the ice for the start of training camp; each has been rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. Tkachuk said they may not be back until around Christmas.

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