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Panthers expect Huberdeau to skate Thursday

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau is expected to be on the ice when the Florida Panthers hold their first training camp practice Thursday.

He should be joined by all of his teammates, except for captain Ed Jovanovski.

That was the rundown provided Wednesday by general manager Dale Tallon, whose team struggled through an injury-ravaged 2012-13 season. Huberdeau had hip surgery following the season, while Jovanovski (hip) was one of 10 players who underwent procedures during the season.

Along with Huberdeau, others expected to make their return Thursday include forward Kris Versteeg, who played only 10 games last season and underwent knee surgery in March, and forward Sean Bergenheim, who missed all of last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery.

"Touch wood, everything is fine," Tallon said. "Everybody is on pace to start the season. I'm excited about it. Jovo [Jovanovski], we don't know for sure if he's going to be ready for the season, but he'll be ready soon. Overall, everybody should be ready for the start of the season.

"There will be guys working in and being cautious and making sure they're ready for the opening game and not ready for the first week of camp."

While Huberdeau will skate Thursday, Tallon indicated that the left wing will not be involved in contact right away.

Huberdeau resumed skating about three weeks ago.

"I'm feeling really good on the ice," Huberdeau said. "I can do everything. I guess we'll just take it slowly. It doesn't need to be rushed.

"We're going to see how the process goes with my hip, but I'm feeling good and I don't think I'm going to need some rest. I got some rest all summer long and with my rehab I didn't do much at the beginning. I just took that time to relax and now I'm ready to go."

Huberdeau said he gained about 10 pounds of muscle over the summer and now weighs 190 pounds.

As for his comeback from the surgery, Huberdeau smiled when he was asked whether he had lost any speed.

"I don't think so," Huberdeau said. "We'll see. Hopefully not."

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