CORAL SPRINGS – The Panthers surge in the standings should get an additional boost this week with the return of forwards Nathan Horton and David Booth.
Booth, who leads the teams with 12 goals has been out of the lineup with a shoulder injury since Dec. 2. Horton, tied for second in goals with six, has been out of the lineup since Nov. 28 with a laceration and heel injury.
Together, the two bring the Panthers speed, size and skill. And that will be a welcome addition when the Panthers play Thursday at Southeast Division-rival Carolina and Sunday at BankAtlantic Center against the Colorado Avalanche.
Coach Peter DeBoer, who watched his team win three of four games last week in Canada, had most of his players back on the ice Tuesday at Incredible Ice. The exceptions were Stephen Weiss
(upper body), Rostislav Olesz (groin) and Keith Ballard (family reasons). Weiss could be back on the ice Wednesday.
"He's just sore," said DeBoer of Weiss. "Hopefully it's one of those things that loosen's up and he'll be on the ice tomorrow."
Horton, who has 13 points including a game-winning goal and two power play goals, said he’s looking forward to playing.
“It looks like everyone is working hard together and that’s the biggest thing as a team,” he said. “It’s really not one guy. Obviously, some guys have stepped up, but it’s a team game and everyone is buying into what the coach is saying and we’re working together. I think you win more games when you play as a team.”
Horton, who practiced with the team Tuesday for the first time other than pregame skates, said he hopes to help the team continue its climb up the standings.
“Hopefully, I can come in and do the same thing,” he said. “I’m not going to try and do too much. I’m going to try and get it deep, same as the team has been doing lately. I want to play my game and work hard. Obviously, I feel I have more to give.”
|Forward David Booth (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) |
Booth said not playing was more of a precaution so his shoulder wouldn’t get “inflamed or get out of hand.”
“So we took a break,” he said. “But it’s all healed up and ready to go. It’s been tough because you want to be out there. But the team’s played well and that gives you the itch to play again and I’m definitely excited about getting back.”
Richard Zednik, out since Nov. 26 with an arm injury, and Cory Murphy, out since Oct. 24 with a shoulder injury, also participated in the Panthers’ practice.
The Panthers, 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, will leave Wednesday afternoon to prepare for Thursday’s game in Carolina. The Panthers are 7-3 in their last 10 road games. Tomas Vokoun will start Thursday in Carolina.
"I think Tomas deserves to play after the way he played in Calgary," said DeBoer. "I think we have the luxury now that we have two guys that I feel comfortable throwing in any game. Craig's played a lot of hockey lately and Tomas is ready to go."
The Hurricanes are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games and are 1-1-3 since Paul Maurice took over head coaching duties from Peter Laviolette. The Hurricanes play host Tuesday evening to Montreal.