Jozef Stumpel returns to the lineup after missing the past seven games with a shoulder injury. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
Forward Jozef Stumpel will return to the lineup tonight against the Sabres after missing the past seven games with a shoulder injury. GM and coach Jacques Martin said defenseman Branislav Mezei, who’s missed the past nine games with a hand injury, is also eligible to return to the lineup.
Stumpel said Tuesday morning he’s excited about returning and helping the Panthers push toward the playoffs.
“Obviously, we need everyone back as soon as possible, but that’s not always possible,” Stumpel said. “I’m just happy to come back. I felt pretty good before the (All-Star) break and I was thinking I could play (last) Thursday. But the decision was made to get a couple more practices and give the shoulder another week before returning.
“Now, hopefully I can help the team win the game tonight and then the next game (Friday against Vancouver).”
Stumpel and Olli Jokinen said the three-day All-Star break came at a good time.
“Everyone got out of hockey a little bit, freshened their mind,” Stumpel said. “We still have 31 games left and every game is important.”
Added Jokinen; “It’s been a positive two days, high-tempo practices, and it’s time now to make the push.”