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Snow Night in Chicago: Your Panthers/Blackhawks Friday Nightbook (NOW! With Pictures!) ... Cats Getting Healthy But Likely Stuck in Chicago

IMG_0614CHICAGO – For the past few weeks, a handful of Panthers have gone through the monotony of rehabilitation with the goal of getting back into the lineup their sole motivation. 

Friday night, all three made it back.

The Panthers got a much-needed boost of depth to their forward lines as Scottie Upshall, Jack Skille and Sean Bergenheim all got back on the ice for Friday's late game against the host Blackhawks at United Center. 

To make room for that trio, Michal Repik was sent back to the minors on Friday. Mike Santorelli and IMG_0603Matt Bradley, who got his face busted up courtesy of a Colorado stick on Wednesday, were the healthy scratches.

For the injured three, getting back in couldn't come soon enough.

“I'm really excited to get back out there and it's going to be a great opportunity to get the speed back,'' said Upshall, who suffered a sports hernia/hip injury way back on Nov. 10. “This is a big game for all of us.''

IMG_0606Bergenheim is believed to have been playing with a minor groin injury before really hurting it Dec. 18 against Carolina. Bergenheim didn't skate for a few weeks but came on of late.

Coach Kevin Dineen had a heart-to-heart with him on the ice following the morning skate on Friday. Bergenheim must have convinced his coach he was ready to go.

“I had something earlier on and hopefully it's all in the past now,'' Bergenheim said. “It's been a long time to wait. Those rehab exercises are getting annoying. Watching the team play is the hardest. It's IMG_0607tough watching your friends battle each night. I think I bring something to the team. The past few weeks haven't gone as we had hoped, so now we can get back to that groove we had.''

Skille injured his shoulder Dec. 16 and there was some thought he may need to have surgery on it. But Skille credited the Panthers medical staff for strengthening it enough that he didn't need to go under the knife. 

Instead of missing a sizable chunk of the season, Skille was back in just over a month.

“When we come back, hopefully we add something and help out,'' he said. “I reacted really well but it was really scary at first. We have a great training staff here and they are committed to helping injured IMG_0616players come back in due time. They did a great job with me.''

DELAY OF GAME 

The Blackhawks pushed back the start of Friday's game 30 minutes because of the huge snow storm that hit the Chicago area and delayed the Panthers arrival. 

According to Santorelli and Bradley, the Panthers bus IMG_0589didn't get to the arena until 6:40 local time. The game was scheduled to start at 7:30. Instead, the puck didn't drop until 8:08 CST.

The Panthers were scheduled to fly to Winnipeg following Friday's game, although they are now expected to stay overnight in Chicago and fly north early Saturday morning because of the heavy snow.

IMG_0597() Dineen said he isn't “a message guy,'' by benching Santorelli, but with so many healthy players back, someone had to sit. Santorelli, who scored 20 goals in 82 games for the Panthers last season, missed the start of this campaign with a shoulder injury and has yet to catch fire.

Santorelli has five goals in 37 games – and just one over his past 17 games. 

“One thing we have not had this year is depth,'' IMG_0609Dineen said. “This is the first time our core group has been able to go out and play.''

() Former Panthers winger Michael Frolik – who came to Chicago for Skille – has struggled lately and came into Friday's game with no goals in his past 16 games. Frolik has been relegated to Chicago's fourth line.

“It’s not easy when they’re not going in,” Frolik said. “I try to work hard in practice and do some extra stuff. Hopefully, it’s going to turn.'' 

IMG_0612() There will be a watch party for Saturday's 8:30 game at Winnipeg as it not being televised locally. The party, which will include the dedication of a 'Panthers Patio,' will be at the Duffy's at 4800 West Hillsboro Boulevard in Coconut Creek. 

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