CORAL SPRINGS — With the Florida Panthers rolling the way they were going into the All-Star break, there was no reason to rush anyone back from injury.
Patric Hornqvist said that was not an option for him, anyway.
Even though Hornqvist had been skating with his teammates before the team broke away for their extended February break, he said the undisclosed upper-body injury sustained Jan. 18 in Calgary would not have allowed him to return.
”There was no way I could have played before the break,” Hornqvist said.
Now? He seems ready and raring to go.
”I feel great,” Hornqvist said after participating in Florida’s second full workout on Saturday morning at the IceDen.
“Obviously that was not the way I wanted to finish going into the break with being hurt and all that. The break came at a good time for me and the team as well. We were playing really well, then we got this 10 days and now we’re back at it.
“You could tell (Saturday) that guys were excited to be back and we had a good scrimmage. We have been working hard. The fun part is in front of us and we need to have a good stretch.”
Hornqvist, who left in the second period of that game in Calgary and did not return, has been missed.
In the four games going into Calgary, Hornqvist had three goals and five points.
The Panthers — and his fourth-line mates Ryan Lomberg and Eetu Luostarinen — are happy to have him back.
“You notice (when he’s not there) on the bench,” coach Andrew Brunette said. “I’m not there in the locker room, but you miss his intensity at certain times. For instance, Seattle, when things were a little quieter and he is always a guy who finds a way to find that extra gear for our group, find that extra intensity. His competitive fire is contagious for our group.’’
Added Lomberg: “Luostie and I are very lucky to be able to play with a guy like that. You have to be going when you play with him because he is so intense and it is contagious. When you are with him, you have to be full of energy and have to be going. He is a fun guy to be around.”
In December, when the Panthers were a little beat up, Brunette said he relied on that fourth line of Hornqvist, Luostarinen and Hornqvist to sort of carry Florida through some rough patches.
They expect more of that intensity to return come Wednesday night in Carolina.
”We play well with each other, play well against the other team’s top lines,” Hornqvist said. “It doesn’t matter who we are out there against. It’s a good mix of players that is for sure.”
A NUMBERS GAME
The Panthers are as healthy as they have been since training camp with the expectation that only Markus Nutivaara will remain out upon the team’s return.
Nutivaara was hurt on the eve of the opener, tried coming back and needed surgery. He could be back for the postseason but it is not likely he comes back before then.
With that in mind, general manager Bill Zito is going to have to make some moves before Wednesday.
As it stands right now, the Panthers have five players on IR including Hornqvist, Nutivaara, Noel Acciari, Olli Juolevi and Maxim Mamin.
Four of those players are practicing and should be ready to go.
Florida could decide to keep a player (Juolevi or Acciari?) on IR and activate three which means at least one move has to be made.
In this scenario, the Panthers would have to make a trade, place a player on waivers or send a waivers-exempt player to AHL Charlotte.
Florida only has three players who could go to the minors without being subjugated to waivers: Anton Lundell, Mamin and Owen Tippett.
With Lundell not going anywhere and Tippett currently lining up on the top-6, Mamin could be the odd-man out — at least for now.
Mamin, per CapFriendly.com, can only play in seven more NHL games before he would have to go through waivers so the Panthers may try and take advantage of that while they still can.
Florida could also simply keep Acciari, Mamin and/or/ in addition to Juolevi on IR until they decide it needs to activate them to place into the lineup.
“It is a luxury, but there is going to have to be some selflessness from for a lot of the guys,” Brunette said. “It’s going to be tough to get them all in, but I think they realize where we are at. It’s never fun but they are very mindful of that.
“I don’t know where it’s going to go, but you saw today that everyone was working so hard and competing. They are pulling their end. Where it goes, we’ll find out later.”