A quick update on the walking wounded that is the Florida Panthers.
Nick Bjugstad will return Thursday night from a groin injury that has had him sidelined for the last few weeks. He will be centering the fourth line and likely will get some time on the power play in front of the net.
The anticipated return of Alex Petrovic has now arrived after being out for over two months with a broken ankle. Petro took a big step forward in his game last season, including the playoffs. The talented defenseman brings enough offense and a lot of grit to a blue line that needs some toughness.
Petrovic has only played 128 NHL games. He should only improve from here as an extremely valuable part of the defensive core of this team for years to come. His injury occurred during game 16 of the season so if healthy he should be fresh for the rest of the season.
Jonathan Huberdeau was seen skating at practice today doing individual drills. He looked very good but he still has a noticeable limp out of his skates. Although Panther Nation is hoping for an early recovery he is still slated to return early March...at the earliest.
Good news was reported by Miami Herald's George Richards today on Sasha Barkov, who has been battling a back injury. The fact that the team finally revealed the part of the body that was injured is a good sign because for weeks you would have had a better chance of breaking into Ft. Knox than getting specifics as to what was bothering Florida's best player.
The team feared surgery might be the only way to fix the issue, which would have been season-ending. But he has been responding well to physical therapy and working with Marco Sturm.
As of today surgery is said to be ruled out, but he is still at least a few weeks away.
Between Huberdeau and Barkov I have always felt Huberdeau was in more danger of being shut down, especially if the Panthers plummet in the standings. Since many teams the Panthers are chasing are also floundering, the push to finally get the team management envisioned last summer on the ice is still paramount.
While it might be too late by the time everyone is healthy, all in all it was a good news day for the Panthers. Lord knows a day like this is a refreshing change, assuming it will translate positively on the ice.