COLUMBUS, Ohio – With all the talk around the NHL regarding concussions and head injuries, David Booth is proof that players can come back from such injuries if they are treated correctly.
Although Booth may be an exception, he has come back strong after missing big chunks of the 2009-10 season after suffering not one, but two major concussions. The biggest one came in November as he was blindsided by Philadelphia's Mike Richards in open ice. Booth made what, to him, was a slow comeback, returning to the ice on Jan. 31.
Turns out, Booth probably rushed things. Booth's season came to a close in March as he was walloped by Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek along the boards.
That concussion, however, allowed Booth to truly take some time off. He spent most of the summer taking it easy and not stressing his brain too much. Booth slowly got back into his intense physical regimen and impressed the Panthers with how good he looked coming into training camp.
Booth, who doesn't like talking about last season, says the time away made him appreciate the game that much more.
“It was my goal to play in all 82 games this year and I'm still fighting to do just that,'' Booth said. “I just get more comfortable in every game I play. It's good to be playing again. Last year was just so messed up. I might as well have missed the whole season. I played in 10 games then practiced for two months. I knew this year would be tough but I demand more of myself than others demand of me.''
After the two concussions, the Panthers were rightfully worried not only for Booth's health and future, but for what he could bring to the ice this season. Coach Pete DeBoer said he was going to take it slow with Booth, but that normally doesn't happen as Booth seems to have one speed.
“We were worried, no doubt,'' DeBoer said. “Guys have been all over the map with how they respond and react the following year. I was warned it could take a year for him to get back to where he was. I think he has shown lately that he's back to where he needs to be. We're so scoring challenged, we need him to score and it's at the sacrifice of his defense. As our scoring improves around him, he'll be able to be a real good two-way player.''
Booth worked his way through the complications and has had another strong season. On Tuesday, he scored Florida's first goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets. It was Booth's 22nd goal this season, the Michigan State product getting his second-most goals in a season. Booth scored 22 during his breakout campaign in 2007-08 before getting a team-high 31 in 2008-09.
“Coming off last season with the concussions, no one knew how long it would take to get back into form,'' DeBoer said. “For him to get 22 goals, less than a year removed from what he went through is quite accomplishment. That said, I think there's a lot more there. He's capable of getting 30-plus and also tightening up his defensive game. He's one of the hardest working guy in the league – on his body, his game. Almost to a fault sometimes.''
And Booth knows what could have been. He has had opportunity to score at least a dozen more times and eclipse the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career. Both DeBoer and pal John Vanbiesbrouck have said Booth can be a consistent 30-goal scorer in the NHL.
“I wish I could have put a lot more in. I've had my chances,'' Booth said. “I'm going to clean things up this summer. I'll be working hard.''
Tuesday's game in Columbus was stopped for a few minutes in the first period after Scott Clemmensen was struck in the mask by a shot.
Time out was called so the Panthers equipment staff could repair the problem. Clemmensen wasn't able to switch to his secondary mask because he broke the plastic neck shield in Tuesday's morning skate.
The repair Tuesday night was to the clip that holds the cage on the mask; the face cage was also dented.
“I have two masks on the physically unable to perform list now,'' Clemmensen lamented. “I have to repair two of them before the next game.''
THURSDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Ottawa leads 38-26-3
The game: Florida is on the verge of being swept in the season series by Ottawa for only the second time in franchise history and first since 2006-07. Of course, that's not a bad thing. The Panthers and Senators are battling for the 28th overall spot in the standings. The bottom three finishers all have a shot at the first overall pick in the 2011 Draft. Ottawa is currently 28th in the league behind Edmonton and Colorado. Florida is two points ahead of the Senators.