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BY CLARK SPENCER
Posted on Wed, Dec. 06, 2006


Panthers forward Todd Bertuzzi has received medical clearance to resume light skating, perhaps as soon as today.

But it could be awhile before he is allowed to suit up in a game.

Coach Jacques Martin confirmed Bertuzzi's progress report.

Bertuzzi played in the Panthers' first seven games before undergoing back surgery in early November.

He is cleared only to skate for ''balance and body awareness'' and is not yet ready to practice with the team.

NIEUWENDYK EXAMINED

Center Joe Nieuwendyk was examined by a back specialist in Cleveland last week, but the Panthers have set no timetable for his return.

''It's probably too early to say,'' Martin said. ``We'll wait and see how he feels this week and, hopefully, there's some improvement.''

Martin said Nieuwendyk, 40, who has played in only 15 of the Panthers' 29 games, continues to experience back spasms.

CHANGE IN THE GAME

Old habits are hard to break, which Martin said could explain why players remain reluctant to mix it up near the net. Martin, in a search for scoring, has encouraged the Panthers to play closer to the goal on offense.

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