With Anthony Duclair nearing a return from a torn Achilles sustained in June, the Florida Panthers have been ramping up his workload.
While the Panthers did not take him on the road with during their recent stretch of playing nine of 11 away from home, they found the perfect training partner for him in the meantime: Patric Hornqvist.
Hornqvist has been lauded for his work ethic and leadership ability over the years.
Now, Florida has given him a chance to expand on that role while he is working his way back from a second concussion suffered in early December.
”There has been a big change in his program last week so instead of being careful, he can go out and push himself,” Maurice said of Duclair last week.
”One of the advantages of him being injured while Patric Hornqvist is out is that’s who he is training with. He said he thinks he is going to come back in the best shape of his career just based on working with Patric.”
After working with Hornqvist for a week while the Panthers were away, Duclair is becoming a stronger skater by the day.
Early returns of his work with the two-time Stanley Cup Champion seem pretty good.
”Patric makes a huge impact because you have to keep up with him in those workouts,” Maurice said.
”Does it get Duclair back any faster? I don’t know. It’s all about this thing healing but once he comes back he should be at a higher level because you have to work faster to stay with Patric.”
The Panthers have not had to worry about Duclair’s work ethic by any means — he has been pushing hard to return from this injury since he sustained it and he has been one of the team’s hardest workers since his arrival in 2021.
Having Hornqvist on the ice with him, however, can provide an extra shove.
”He is not a guy that we worry about not pushing himself in this damn thing,” Maurice said.
”He has been rehabbing this thing for so long. He is dying ot get out of the gym and away from the strength and conditioning guys and just go play some hockey.”
Maurice says that Duclair will likely return to the lineup after the All-Star break in early February.
He wants Duclair to get into some practice and shed the yellow, non-contact jersey before he makes a return to play, which could pinpoint his return a week or two after the break.
Hornqvist’s return will likely be much further down the road due to long-term issues with concussions.
His concussion sustained on Dec. 3 in Seattle was his second in the span of weeks after he suffered one exactly a month earlier on a high-hit from Luke Kunin of the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 3.
But in the meantime, Hornqvist is still making himself a valuable asset for the team.
And he is also proving he could excel in a coaching role someday.
”It’s like having really fit coach,” Maurice said. ”There’s a piece to fit in there between your performance guys that are incredibly well educated in terms of all things fitness and then you’ve got a player who is really wired into that.
”Going back to his Pittsburgh days, he could sit and talk to the strength guys and could speak their language.
“And then you’ve got a kid who says ‘yeah, I’m working hard’ and he’s like ‘yeah, just keep up with the 36-year-old and see how well you do’.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: PPG Arena, Pittsburgh
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Penguins lead 1-0): Pittsburgh 4, Panthers 2 (Dec. 15)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Penguins lead 55-35-7, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Friday vs. Los Angeles Kings, 7 p.m.