CALGARY -- After missing 16 games with a broken hand, Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman will make his return to the lineup Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Despite missing over a month of action, nerves aren't settling into the veteran of over 600 NHL games.
"Butterflies? No," he said. "You definitely have to get your head back around getting prepared for a game. When you're not playing there's different preparation the morning of. I'm just trying to focus on getting ready for [Friday]."
Wideman sustained the injury blocking a shot late in the Flames’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 27. He's not sure what to expect in terms of workload after his lengthy layoff.
"I have no idea what the plan is there," said Wideman, who is averaging 26:14 of ice time this season. "I think for me it's going to be just trying to get the first couple shifts pretty short, try to get my legs under me, try to get my wind and get used to the speed again. The worst thing that can happen is getting caught out there for a long [shift] early on."
Conditioning shouldn't be an issue for Wideman, though.
He's been cleared for action for almost a week, and as coach Bob Hartley pointed out, has been very active during his stint on IR.
"We wanted to give him a few days’ work on conditioning," Hartley said. "As we know, game conditioning is always different than just working out on the bike or skating after practice. [Wideman] is good to go, and the good part is it was a hand injury. His legs were moving at all times. He's good to go."
Flames captain and fellow defenseman Mark Giordano, who missed 18 games earlier this season with a broken ankle, knows what it's like to return after missing a large chunk of action.
He doesn't think Wideman will have any problem jumping right back into it.
"He's worked hard off the ice," Giordano said. "I think he'll be fine. He'll want to get those first few shifts out of the way for timing. He's played a long time so I'm sure he'll be OK."
While Wideman will return, Lightning defenseman Sami Salo's status is more doubtful. Salo sustained an upper-body injury against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 23 and has not played since.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said Salo was close to returning but he may wait until Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers to work him back into the lineup.
"He's going to play in Alberta," Cooper said. "We just don't know which city. He'll probably take warmups [Friday], then we'll make a decision from there."
Here are the projected lineups for the Flames and Lightning:
Mike Cammalleri - Sean Monahan - David Jones
Jiri Hudler - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron - Matt Stajan - Brian McGrattan
TJ Galiardi - Joe Colborne - Lance Bouma
TJ Brodie - Mark Giordano
Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman
Chris Butler - Shane O'Brien
Scratched: Derek Smith, Lance Bouma (illness)
Injured: Curtis Glencross (high ankle sprain), Kris Russell (MCL sprain), Blair Jones (meniscal tear)
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell
J.T. Brown - Nate Thompson - Nikita Kucherov
Ryan Malone - Richard Panik
Matthew Carle - Radko Gudas
Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Eric Brewer - Mark Barberio
Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Tom Pyatt
Injured: Keith Aulie (upper body), Brian Lee (knee), Sami Salo (upper body), Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia)