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David Booth Practices: Team USA Still a Possibility? ... Steven Reinprecht should play vs. Canadiens

Booth

David Booth is making good progress from a concussion suffered in October and could possibly return to the Panthers lineup before the Olympic break.

Booth, out since getting wiped out in an open-ice hit by Philadelphia captain Mike Richards on Oct. 24, went through his first full-scale practice with the Panthers on Monday since the hit. “There’s no place in the game for that,’’  Booth said of the hit.

Booth worked on the third line with Gregory Campbell and Kamil Kreps and said he felt good afterward.

“It was pretty cool being in practice again doing some drills,’’ Booth said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done that so it was pretty special. It’s been tough doing all these skates and doing nothing but getting in shape. That’s tough. But the fun’s coming. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’’

Coach Pete DeBoer and the Panthers are being very cautious with Booth and DeBoer warned against rushing Booth. When asked when he would like to see Booth play again, DeBoer grinned. “Tomorrow,’’ he said. “Yesterday.’’

If Booth could get through a week of practices without any setbacks, it’s possible he could be back for the final few games before the Panthers take a two week break for the Olympics. Florida’s final game before the break is Feb. 13. After Tuesday’s game against Montreal, the Panthers have eight games left before the break.

“He’s doing more every day and getting closer,’’ said DeBoer. “I don’t have a time line on it exactly but we’re taking more steps and he’s taking some battle and contact. We’ll see how he deals with that.’’

If Booth were to return early and look good in doing so, it’s possible he could be a late addition to the U.S. Olympic team. Booth was left off the opening Olympic roster because of the injury, but he said he spoke to Team USA general manager Brian Burke this past weekend and there is a possibility Booth could be on the final roster when it’s set just before the Olympics.

For that to happen, not only would Booth have to prove he’s ready to play at such a level, but another forward on the roster would have to be hurt. Burke is also the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in town last weekend to play the Panthers.

“I hope to get a chance but don’t want anyone to get hurt or anything like that,’’ said Booth. “You never know what can happen. It’s unfortunate I got hurt but that’s how the plans go and there’s nothing I can do about it. If it happens, so be it. If I not, I’m fine with it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s no greater honor than playing for your country.’’

(*) DeBoer said center Steven Reinprecht missed practice Monday because he was getting his injured foot looked at. Reinprecht was struck by a puck shot by teammate Dennis Seidenberg in the third period of Saturday’s game and didn’t return.

“He took a shot off the foot,’’ said DeBoer. “He was walking around alright today. Hopefully it’s confirmed it’s negative and he’ll play.’’

(*) Defenseman Jason Garrison apparently strained his intercostal muscle in Sunday’s AHL game in Rochester, N.Y., after he broke his stick while taking a shot. The Panthers say the injury is not serious.

TUESDAY: CANADIENS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WAXY-790

The series: Montreal leads 29-28-6

The game: Montreal has won both meeting between the two this season and five of the past six. The Canadiens got a 2-0 victory in the previous meeting earlier this month in Montreal. The Panthers will roll out goalie Tomas Vokoun who has shutout wins in each of his past two home starts. Montreal is expected to counter with Jaroslav Halak.

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