Forward Sean Bergenheim stood outside the Panthers locker room, talking to the media Friday morning about his most likely return to the lineup Friday night against the Sabres when asked about finally seeing his first action in a long time.
Walking by, fellow forward Tomas Kopecky shouted out "two years" as the answer to that question and while it hasn't exactly been that long since Bergenheim last played (April 26, 2012), the forward did admit that there will most likely be some butterflies.
"I'm not nervous right now but I'm sure I'll get some butterflies before the game here tonight," said Bergenheim. "Kind of just feeling really good and ready. That's what the feeling I have right now."
Bergenheim last skated for the Panthers in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, leading the way for the Cats with six points (3-3-6) in the seven games. That followed up his first regular season in a Panthers uniform where he posted a career-high 17 goals.
After going through multiple surgeries while missing the entire season, Bergenheim has missed the game the most.
"I'm really happy to be back. For sure I've missed this," said Bergenheim. "It's been a while but to be honest I don't feel it's been that long. Like when I look at how many months it's been since I played, I don't feel that on the ice."
Going through multiple surgeries, Bergenheim said that he was off the ice for about nine months, the most since he started skating at the age of three and while other Panthers have played around 15 games already (including pre-season), he wants to catch up as soon as possible.
"I take it one game at a time. I think tonight is one game and I'm going to build on that," said Bergenheim. "I'm sure there's going to be ton of stuff I can do better then Sunday game's come and I'll play better than what I did today and then the next game and so forth. I just want to build on every game and catch these guys. Hopefully I feel that I have been playing the whole time as soon as I can. I just want to get my game to that level as soon as I can."
All Bergenheim is looking forward to do from the get go is bring his normal game.
"In the end, the mindset, the battling and the energy and all that I'm sure I can provide," said Bergenheim. "Then it's the position and shots and all the quick plays you need to make. I'm sure I'm going to need to get adjusted really quick on that."
Bergenheim skated on a line with Scott Gomez and Jesse Winchester at Friday's morning skate and when asked about it following the session, head coach Kevin Dineen said that he won't be worked in slowly.
"There's no such thing as working anybody in slowly," said Dineen. "This is the NHL and you better be prepared or it's not going to work out for you."
And that's because Dineen likes to roll four lines when he can so Bergenheim should see plenty of shifts when he returns.
"We like to think of ourselves as a four line team that we have to roll our whole group and when we do that and we do it effectively and we have everyone running it makes a difference," said Dineen. "Over the course of games we shortened things up at different spots.
"Four lines going and going hard makes for a pretty effective team."