SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers had no bigger fan during the past few weeks than Ryan Lomberg.
As much as the Panthers appreciated the support from their injured forward, they would much rather have him out on the ice with them.
It appears that will happen sooner than later.
“The building was electric and it was kind of cool to be able to watch it from that perspective,’’ Lomberg said, “but I would much rather experience it from ice level. But being able to take a step back and see how great our fans are was a pretty cool perspective.”
Lomberg has been out since Game 5 against the Boston Bruins due to what is believed to be an injured hand which required surgery.
Coach Paul Maurice said during the Toronto series that Lomberg got hurt in Game 1 against the Bruins but continued to play through it until doctors worried the injury was only going to get worse.
Lomberg ended up missing the final three games against the Bruins and the entirety of the Toronto series.
While he started doing full hockey-related activities on the ice last week and traveled with the team, he was not cleared for contact until Monday meaning he got to shed the team’s yellow jersey.
“He is good for full combat right now,’’ Maurice said. “We will make that decision coming into the game. He is an option this series.”
Lomberg, for one, cannot wait to get back on the ice.
“It was nice being out there and be allowed to bang around a little bit,’’ he said. “The guys went full out on me instead of taking it easy. Whenever I get the chance to get back in, I have to be ready to go.”
With Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett not skating Monday for maintenance reasons, Lomberg was on a practice line with Nick Cousins and Givani Smith.
In Lomberg’s absence, Eetu Luostarinen has moved to his place on the third line with Zac Dalpe taking his spot in the lineup.
“I tell people this all the time: It was tough watching but the boys made it easy on me,” Lomberg said Monday afternoon. “After being around them all year, I can appreciate watching how hard they have been playing and how well they have been playing together as a team. The boys made it easy on me being out. Seeing them struggle or lose would have made it really tough on me.’’
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1)
- When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
- Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: Thursday at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 2:Saturday at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Monday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Wednesday, May 24 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Friday, May 26 at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Sunday, May 28 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Tuesday, May 30 at Carolina, 8 (TNT). *If Necessary
- Season Series: (Carolina won 2-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov.9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30); Carolina 6, Florida 4 (April 13)
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
- How They Got Here — Carolina: d. New York Islanders in 6; d. New Jersey Devils in 5. Florida: d. Boston Bruins in 7; d. Toronto Maple Leafs in 5.