It was another step in the right direction for injured Cats forward Ville Peltonen, who has been sidelined the past 20 games since breaking his foot on Dec. 12th.
Peltonen went through his first full practice today with his teammates at Incredible Ice. Though he was tired after the 50-minute workout, he made it through all of the drills.
“It’s different,” said Peltonen about being able to go through the full practice. “It’s a hard practice for them, but it’s pretty long for me.
“I feel like I’ve been away from practice for two months like I have been.”
“It’s encouraging to see,” said Panthers GM and head coach Jacques Martin. “It means that he’s getting closer so that’s a good sign. When you look at what he brings to the club, he can play on the power play, he can penalty kill and he’s a tremendous veteran that brings good leadership, good enthusiasm. It’s nice to see him back at practice.”
Peltonen suffered a minor setback last week when he pushed his workouts too hard. After deciding to try and “listen to his foot more,” he says the pain is now tolerable. After a few more practices to get back to game speed, he could play when called upon.
“As long as nothing happens and it doesn’t get worse or whatever, I think it’s pretty much up to them when they feel like I can help the team,” said Peltonen. “I’m pretty much ready to go when they want.”
Panthers captain Olli Jokinen was the only player missing from practice as he is still battling flu-like symptoms.
Jokinen tried to fight through the flu in last night’s game against the Sabres, but was limited to six shifts in the first period.
“There’s nothing you can do,” said Martin. “He was vomiting before the game. He tried it and, after the first period, he seemed to be totally depleted. He didn’t have any energy.”
Martin said the team will keep a close eye on the team’s captain, and hopefully Jokinen will be able to play tomorrow night against Vancouver.
Tomorrow’s matchup is all about the story line. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo returns to South Florida for the first time since being traded to Vancouver in 2006. Luongo spent five of his eight years with the Cats and, for the present Cats, it will be great to see their former teammate in some capacity.
“I miss the guy, he’s a good guy,” said Panthers forward Stephen Weiss
, who was Luongo’s teammate from 2001-06. “I loved playing with him. Obviously I hope he does really well, but not tomorrow.
“I want to score on him. I want to beat him. Hopefully (it’s) a little bit extra motivation for the guys that played with him, to try and score on him for sure.”
Besides the big Luongo coming back to South Florida to face his old mates storyline, it’s a pretty special night for one Panther.
After being drafted by the Canucks with the fourth overall selection in the 1998 draft and spending the first five years of his career with Vancouver, defenseman Bryan Allen gets to suit up against his former team for just the second time since coming to Florida in the 2006 trade that sent Luongo to Vancouver.
“I think it’s definitely exciting,” Allen said. “Probably not as much as last time since it was in Vancouver, but it’s still a little bit more meaningful than some other games because I’ve played for them before.”