Matthew Tkachuk was in Las Vegas on Wednesday for a media junket and the star forward of the Florida Panthers reiterated to NHL.com that he is completely healthy and ready for the start of training camp.
Although the Panthers will be missing a couple of players when camp starts — Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, most notably — due to injuries sustained during Florida’s deep playoff run, Tkachuk will not be one of them.
“I am feeling great,’’ Tkachuk said in an interview for a future episode of the NHL @The Rink podcast.
“It’s been a very short summer, the way I want it to be every year going forward. The worst timing for the injury, obviously, Stanley Cup Final, but in a weird way I had time after where I wasn’t missing X amount of months of game action, so I had the summer to get ready.
“I definitely improved on some things. The injury allowed me to work on some parts of fitness and conditioning and that is in the best form right now possible, and I just improved on some strength, which was my goal.’’
Brady Tkachuk, Matthew’s younger brother, is captain of the Ottawa Senators. After initially saying he was not going to attend any Florida playoff games due to the new-found rivalry between the Panthers and Sens, he eventually relented and was on hand.
He was also staying at Matthew’s place in Fort Lauderdale following Tkachuk’s injury which happened in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against Vegas.
Matthew Tkachuk took a big hit at center ice from Vegas forward Keegan Kolesar and hit the ice. He stayed in the game for the subsequent power play but eventually left when summoned to the room by the league concussion spotter.
Tkachuk returned to finish the game — one Florida won 3-2 in overtime thanks in part to Tkachuk’s game-tying goal in the third — but was in serious pain upon arriving home.
“After the game, I’m walking around and normally you have the high spirits after a win, especially in the playoffs,’’ he said. “ It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, you’re on top of the world. And I was pumped, but I still knew that half of my body felt like it was [in pain]. I knew something wasn’t right.”
Prior to Game 4 in Sunrise, Matthew Tkachuk could not get out of bed following his pregame nap and needed Brady’s help in getting up and dressed before heading to the arena.
“I’m not going to lie, that was the craziest thing I’ve ever kind of been a part of,’’ Brady told NHL.com. “I just flew in for the game because I wanted to see a Stanley Cup Final game and he came back from the rink in the morning and just looked awful. He was like, ‘I’ve got to go take a nap.’
“And then he calls me at 3:30 and I’m downstairs. He says, ‘Can you come up here?’ We were just mucking it up and then he’s like, ‘Alright, I need you to help me up.’ I’m like, ‘You’re joking.’ He’s like, ‘No, I legit can’t get up. I just sneezed and I thought I died.’
“He was going through some serious pain and just to see him be able to find a way to just play in that game … I was so proud of him. The way he played, trying to work around it, not many people can do, especially at the pain level he was at.”
Last week, Matthew told the Cam & Strick podcast that Florida equipment manager Teddy Richards was the one who tied his skates for Game 4 because he could not do it.
Tkachuk was limited in his playing time in Game 4 and ended up not being able to travel to Vegas for Game 5.
He said after the series that he expected to be healed up enough for the start of training camp despite the short offseason and, well, here we are.
The Panthers are expected to be on the ice for their first practice of the 2023-24 season next Thursday at the IceDen in Coral Springs.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Now: Free agency is open
- Friday-Sept. 18: Rookie Showcase (vs. Carolina, Tampa Bay and Nashville), Estero
- Sept. 21: Training Camp, Sunrise/Coral Springs
- Sept. 25: Preseason starts; Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)