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Joni Pitkanen returns from his concussion tonight

Mar 21, 2012, 1:05 PM EDT

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Joni Pitkanen AP

Joni Pitkanen‘s long battle back from a concussion is at an end.

The Carolina Hurricanes activated Pitkanen from injured reserve and will have him back in the lineup tonight against the Florida Panthers. Pitkanen missed 44 games with a concussion and has been out since early December. As Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller tells Chip Alexander of the News & Observer, he’s more than happy to have him back.

“He’s ready to go,” Muller said after the morning skate. “I talked to him this morning and he feels good mentally, physically. He’s excited and it will be fun to get him back.”

As we’ve seen with concussion recovery all over the league, it makes everyone a little nervous to see them play that first game back but Muller says there won’t be any limits on his minutes. With the Hurricanes on the absolute fringes of the playoff picture, rounding out their defense with perhaps their best player makes for a nice boost. With rookie Justin Faulk doing a lot of the heavy lifting of late, Pitkanen’s return is a big lift for them.

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