The Florida Panthers were widely expected to challenge the Tampa Bay Lightning for supremacy in the Atlantic Division but through 12 games this season they boast a 5 – 6 – 1 record and have dropped five of their last seven decisions. Injuries to several key players have obviously played a part in the team’s slow start but help may not be far off as a couple of players are nearing a return. As Tom Gulitti of NHL.com writes, the Panthers just need to hold it together and stay afloat for a while longer until those reinforcements arrive.
Jaromir Jagr is the latest to join the ranks of the wounded, sitting out the final two periods of Saturday’s 4 – 2 loss to Washington due to groin soreness. According to Florida bench boss Gerard Gallant, the injury to Jagr isn’t considered serious and the ageless wonder is listed as day-to-day.
Florida has been without the services of Nick Bjugstad (broken hand) and Jonathan Huberdeau (Achilles) all season while veteran winger Jussi Jokinen has been out since October 20th with a lower-body-injury. Gallant indicated Bjugstad and Jokinen may be able to return this week. While it might be understandable to do so, the coach won’t use the plethora of injuries as an excuse for his team’s early season woes.
“You can’t make excuses for injuries because everybody has them. But obviously with the depth of our hockey team it’s really testing us right now. The guys are working hard and competing. Sometimes you make mistakes. When you play against a great team like Washington, they’ll take advantage of your mistakes and we just made too many.”
While the absences have likely contributed to Florida’s recent slump, they have also allowed for two unheralded offseason additions to see more ice time and impress the organization. Jonathan Marchessault has potted six goals and has 12 points in 12 games while Colton Sceviour has five goals and eight points. While neither player is likely to maintain that scoring pace throughout the campaign, their early-season contributions have certainly been welcome and also represent hope for a balanced scoring attack upon the return of Florida’s top-six forwards.
While unlikely to change the team’s fortunes, the Panthers did place defenseman Steven Kampfer on waivers, according to Elliotte Friedman. To take his spot, presumably, the team has recalled fellow blue liner Jakub Kindl from Springfield of the AHL, as George Richards of the Miami Herald reported on Twitter. Kampfer appeared in just one game for Florida, going scoreless and taking two minor penalties in 16:48 of ice time. Kindl has recorded three points in nine minor league games this season. If Kampfer goes unclaimed, he will likely head to Springfield with Kindl assuming the role of seventh defenseman.