SUNRISE, Fla., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Superstar right wing Pavel Bure, expected to miss at least a month with a broken left hand suffered in a game at Dallas less than two weeks ago, has returned for the Florida Panthers.
Bure, who led the NHL in goals in each of the past two seasons, fractured the hand when he was slashed in Florida's 3-2 loss to the Stars on January 9, but was playing in Monday afternoon's game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Bure was given clearance by doctors to return after participating in practice on Sunday and was wearing a protective orthroplast coating, which creates a hard but moveable shell around the hand.
It was believed Bure would be out four-to-six weeks, but instead missed just five games. Without Bure, the Panthers lost four of the five games.
"I don't think it can get rehurt anymore," Bure told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It's just a hand. It's not like a knee or when I have a concussion."
Bure had played in 169 consecutive games before missing seven this season with a concussion, suffered November 19 on a face-first hit to the glass from Toronto's Darcy Tucker. The Panthers went 2-5 in his concussion-related absence and fired coach Duane Sutter, replacing him with Mike Keenan.
Bureis expected to give his country a chance at a medal at the Salt Lake City Games. The Russian team opens play February 15 against a qualifier.
Despite playing in just 36 games, Bure leads the Panthers in scoring with 13 goals and 18 assists. He also has a minus-12 rating for Florida, which has the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 15-27-3-3.
Bure scored 58 goals in the 1999-2000 season and 59 in 2000-01.