Panthers center Nick Bjugstad traveled with the team to Nashville on Monday and there's a good chance he'll make his season debut Tuesday against the Predators. Bjugstad practiced Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion Sept. 8 in the final game of a rookie tournament. Coach Kevin Dineen said he liked what he saw from the 21-year-old who played 11 games as a rookie last season after making his debut in April. "He had a solid practice today" Dineen said after the workout at Saveology.com Iceplex. He added of Bjugstad who was activated off injured reserve Sunday "Our lineup is slowly starting to find a little chemistry to it. Also you inject some enthusiasm. ... that makes Nick a legitimate option for [Tuesday] night." While Panthers management considered sending Bjugstad to AHL San Antonio prior to his return the team's flat performance in Sunday's 3-0 home loss to the Kings and immediate need for a big strong presence like the 6-foot-6 215-pound Bjugstad influenced their decision not to do so. Bjugstad said Monday he was excited to practice again. "I feel in shape and ready to go mentally so we'll see what happens" he said of Tuesday's game. "It's been about a week and a half maybe two weeks where I've said 'All right I'm easing my way into it.' Now I'm fully 100 percent recovered and just ready to get back on the ice." Bjugstad said it was "tough sitting out training camp" and being forced to watch made him "appreciate the game more and more." Bjugstad's return would give the Panthers five centers. Shawn Matthias Marcel Goc Aleksander Barkov and Scott Gomez are also available at that spot. Matthias would likely move to wing where he skated on a line with Goc on Monday. Bjugstad was grouped with Krys Barch Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall. Thomas practices Goalie Tim Thomas (groin) participated in the full practice Monday his first with the team in a week and afterward Dineen noted "I haven't gotten the report on him today but I can tell he was fine out there." Still Thomas didn't travel to Nashville along with defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) and right wing Steven Pinizzotto (hip). "We thought it was important that we brought our whole group on the long road trip but this one we're looking at as a business trip" Dineen said. Dineen said he will decide after Wednesday's practice whether Thomas will start Thursday at home against his former team Boston.
Bjugstad poised to make season debut Tuesday
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Oct 15