The tough times continue in South Florida. The Panthers announced today that defenseman Alex Petrovic is expected to miss eight weeks with an ankle injury. Although no more information has been released pertaining to the exact injury, Petrovic has missed the past week with the ailment. The injury first occurred while the young blue liner blocked a shot in Florida’s win against the division-leading Montreal Canadiens last Tuesday. Petrovic joins star forward Jonathan Huberdeau on the shelf for the Panthers, a team that also missed winger Jussi Jokinen for a long period of time earlier this season and is just now getting center Nick Bjugstad back.
Petrovic had not gotten off to a hot start in 2016-17 prior to his injury last week. In 16 games, the 24-year-old defenseman has just one goal and four assists. However, coming off of a strong campaign last year in which he scored 17 points and was +17 as well, Petrovic has cemented himself as a valued member of Florida’s top four. It has shown thus far in the new season, as his time on ice has increased despite the big free agent additions of Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. Petrovic is a well-rounded defenseman who the Panthers have grown to lean on in the most important of situations. His absence over the next two months will definitely be felt by the team.
With Petrovic out of the lineup, Florida’s depth on the back end will have to step up. Since the initial injury on Tuesday, the Panthers have iced a a defensive unit of Yandle, Demers, young star Aaron Ekblad, rookie Michael Matheson, and newcomers Mark Pysyk and Jakub Kindl. Even with Petrovic out, the top four in Florida is still solid, but the team will need Pysyk to step up and Kindl, who has drawn into the lineup specifically to replace Petrovic, to play up to the potential he showed flashes of in Detroit. Having traded veteran Steven Kampfer recently, expect the return, Dylan McIlrath, to get some play time for Florida if his fellow former first-rounder Kindl struggles. The next man up would be Matheson’s Boston College teammate Ian McCoshen. Collectively, Florida has the depth to handle the Petrovic injury, but tied for fourth in the Atlantic Division is not where many expected this team to be and they would certainly prefer to be at 100% right now to try to get back into the playoff picture.
[RELATED: Florida Panthers Depth Chart via RosterResource]