By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
|David Booth is set to make his return to the lineup after missing more than three months of the season due to a concussion. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Get your “Boootthhh” cheers ready as star forward David Booth will make his long awaited return to the ice when he suits up in the Panthers huge game against the Islanders Sunday at 4 p.m.
Booth went through another practice at incredible ICE Saturday and afterwards deemed himself ready to play.
"He got through practice and feels good," said head coach Peter DeBoer. "So we're glad to have him back."
"I'm excited it's tomorrow," said Booth. "I've been waiting a long time for this and I'm glad I get some games in before the break. Hopefully that will get me ready for the last push of the season there in March.
"It's going to be fun. I can't put too much pressure on it. I just have to go out there, do what I've done before, and that's just have fun and play as hard as I can play and work as hard as I can. If I stay to my basics and not try to do too much, I think I'll be fine."
For Booth it's been a long, long time off. He's missed the last 45 games after suffering a concussion from a hit by Mike Richards of the Flyers on Oct. 24.
But practicing with the team for the last week-and-a-half has gotten Booth to the point where the best thing for him now is seeing live action.
"All that timing that you lose in conditioning, just the ins and outs of the game," said Booth regarding the missed time. "I finally got a good week, week-and-a-half of practice in and starting to feel better every day. I don't think there's anything else that can get me more ready than playing in some games."
"Obviously with a concussion, you want to make sure and you've got to have a stretch of days where you feel real good with strenuous exercise," said DeBoer. "And we've jumped over all those hurdles and he's ready to go."
Because of all the time away from the game, it's unknown how much time Booth will see tomorrow as he's still regaining his stamina. Booth's time on the ice will be monitored closely by the coaching staff, especially early as he regains his feel for the game again.
"(In) our conversations that I have had with David, it's going to depend on his feel," said DeBoer. "If he gives me the green light, he's a great player, a world class player obviously.
"But for me it's going to be a situation where I'm going to have to make sure that I keep an eye on it and don't over extend him."
But Booth doesn't care on the amount of ice time that he'll get against the Islanders, only that he's out there again playing hockey.
"I want to play as much as I can," said Booth. "It doesn't matter to me. I just want to get a couple of games in and maybe give some other guys some rest that have been going hard."
What really got Booth to this point of return was the support from Panthers GM Randy Sexton and DeBoer. Both were very supportive of the progress he was making.
"It was good to have Pete and Randy (behind me)," said Booth. "They were encouraging me, saying 'hey you know we want you back' and that's good to hear that. It gives you a little more confidence that they want you back so with them saying 'hey we think you're ready', hearing that i guess gave me more confidence at practice that even if I do make a mistake, that's kind of expected. But I'm going to set myself to a little higher standards and try to play like i was playing before."
And now that Booth is set to return, he can reflect on the injury and battling through and overcoming all the obstacles that were put in his way during the three months of recovery.
"The first part of the injury is the hardest because you really don't know," said Booth. "As time goes on and you start to see light at the end of the tunnel. That's been a positive.
"It develops character I think. To understand that life's not going to be easy. Things aren't going to be easy so I've learned a lot from this injury and I'm guess I'm thankful for that."
With the Panthers in the thick of a playoff race, Booth is a welcome addition to the Panthers lineup. And last year's leading goal scorer is ready to help the team.
"I know we're in a tight race right now," said Booth. "So coming back and giving some other guys some rest or whatever but (really just) help the team and get in a playoff spot."