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Florida Panthers forward David Booth returns to the ice in Michigan

TORONTO - The Florida Panthers finally have some reason for cautious optimism about David Booth.

The injured forward is skating this week at Michigan State University, where he spent four seasons before making the jump to the NHL. Booth hasn't played since suffering a concussion Oct. 24 after a vicious open-ice hit by Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards.

The early word on his workouts has been good.

"We haven't had any setbacks," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday morning. "The good thing is he's skating 30-40, 45, 50 minutes. With pre-game skates (on the road), we don't have the luxury of that type of ice time. This was the alternative to doing that rather than leaving him at home.

"(We're) continuing to ramp up his workouts so I think it's a step in the right direction."

Booth scored 31 goals for the Panthers a year ago and was expected to be a big part of the team's offence again. Even still, Florida is still in the playoff race, sitting four points out of eighth place heading into Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs.

The Panthers know they'll need to be patient with Booth, who started skating over a month ago before having to stop after experiencing a reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms.

The 25-year-old Detroit native requested the visit to MSU while the Panthers are on a three-game road trip through Canada this week.

"He works with a skating coach there in the summer that he's very comfortable with," said DeBoer. "He brought it to our attention. I liked the idea so this is what we went with."

Booth sat out his 34th straight game on Tuesday. The concussion likely cost him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for Vancouver.



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