SUNRISE, Fla. -- Milan Michalek looked just fine skating on a line with Matt Cullen and Ryan Shannon Monday.
The Senators will make a decision after the morning skate Tuesday on whether the winger, who has been nursing a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup for eight games, will suit up against the Panthers.
While there were whispers Michalek might need season-ending surgery after he suffered the injury when he slammed into a goal post going to the net on March 18 against the Atlanta, he will either play against Florida or Thursday in Tampa.
It sounds like the Senators will have a hard time keeping Michalek, who has 22 goals and 12 assists in 64 games this season, out of the lineup against the Panthers. He was on the ice prior to practice with assistant coach Luke Richardson and then stuck around to take part in the regular workout.
"I've been skating for a few days, probably four or five days, and every day it has been getting better and better," said Michalek, one of the last players off the ice. "I think I'm ready to play."
Coach Cory Clouston said the Senators will be cautious.
"We don't want to rush it. He's made great progress. We want to make a decision that's for the long-term," said Clouston. "We just want to make sure that (Tuesday) after they skate that the swelling, soreness and all that stuff is gone. Then, we'll evaluate."
Though Michalek has played on a line with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson most of the season, it's doubtful he'll return there because of the success Peter Regin has had with that duo.
Michalek said he has been pleased with his progress.
"It has been a lot of hard work," said Michalek. "I'm happy I can come back now. It's my main goal to be back before the playoffs. I wanted to get some games in before the playoffs and that's why I've been skating and everything. It's going to be exciting."
The players had Sunday off and Clouston is hoping the rest will help them be prepared for the final three games of the regular season. Nobody was happy following Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Islanders. "There was an emotional letdown after clinching a playoff spot and the Islanders are a good team and have beaten some good teams," said Clouston. "They're playing hard, they're playing loose. If you take them at all lightly, that's what happens." Alfredsson didn't like the way the Senators reacted after getting down with three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period. "I had a tough time after that game. I thought we started pretty good, but once we got behind, we didn't right the ship. That was not good," said Alfredsson. "Once we got some adversity, we didn't handle it well. We've just got to make sure we get back to that effort."