By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|Forward Cory Stillman who missed the Panthers last 10 games after suffering a concussion November 2nd against Atlanta is close to returning to the lineup. (Getty Images)
Help is on the way for the Panthers.
When they left South Florida for an 8-day, four-game road trip Sunday through Canada, David Booth, Cory Stillman, Nathan Horton, Richard Zednik and Cory Murphy were all on board the charter.
Although they’ve done well despite a rash of injuries – they’ve earned 10 out of a possible 14 points in their last seven games - the Panthers will get a boost from any of the injured players.
Booth, who injured his shoulder Nov. 30 in New York, said Saturday evening he thinks he’s “close” to coming back. Zednik, who’s missed six games with an elbow injury, said, “Hopefully, it won’t be much longer,” before he returns. Horton, who suffered a cut above his ankle Nov. 26, has been skating. Murphy (shoulder) has not played since Oct. 24
While the five injured players were on the plane, Rostislav Olesz was not. Olesz, who was scratched from Saturday’s game with a groin injury, remained in South Florida.
Meanwhile, the Panthers announced Kenndal McArdle and Janis Sprukts had been returned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.
For Stillman, things are looking a little more promising after he took part in the Panthers’ pregame practice Saturday morning before the Bruins’ game.
“I’m excited to be back out there,” said the veteran, who’s played only two games since suffering a concussion Nov. 2 in Atlanta. “It’s coming slowly. (During the pregame) I got to jump in… but that doesn’t mean I’m playing the next game or game after that.
After suffering a concussion in Atlanta, Stillman returned to play consecutive games Nov. 12 against the Lightning and nov. 14 against the Red Wings, but symptoms of the concussion set him back.
“If there are any setbacks, it’s right back to where you started,” he said. “No skating. Sit down. Any time I have a setback I have to go right back. That’s why it’s been slow. Every day we add one more thing. Some days it looks like big jumps, other days it stays the same.
“I’m hoping I’m over the concussion part, I’ve had no real symptoms. Now it’s back to conditioning.”
Stillman, who had five goals and four assists in 13 games and was a plus-3, said he felt like he was back in training camp after Saturday’s pregame skate. But he also said it was great to be back on the ice with the rest of the team.
“It’s nice to be in a routine and nice to be back on the ice with the players,” he said. “You can skate as much as you want with two, three guys – you’re still around the guys – but it’s a completely different atmosphere when you can get on the ice and laugh and joke and feel part of an organization and a good team.”
Stillman said he had done individial skating before Saturday. “But when you have to pass the puck and think and move and be in situations, then it’s even harder on your body,” he added.