The injury bug that is swarming around the NHL has been particularly unkind to the Florida Panthers, biting them hard and robbing their lineup of many key players, including the team’s captain and starting goaltender.
Kris Versteeg is out with an upper-body injury, Dmitry Kulikov also has an upper-body injury, Michael Caruso is rehabbing a broken arm, Mike Weaver has a lower-body injury, captain Ed Jovanovski has missed a large chunk of the season with a knee injury, Stephen Weiss needs wrist surgery and Jose Theodore just went down with a lower-body injury in a game that I actually think was cursed for both teams’ starting goaltenders since Cam Ward sprained his MCL in that match too.
Weaver, Weiss and Kulikov are out for the rest of the season, according to Panthers president Michael Yormark, who confirmed the news to former Rant writer Rob McMahon. Now it’s entirely possible that Jovanovski and Theodore could miss the rest of the season too due to their injuries and, in Theodore’s case, the fact that he got hurt around the halfway point of Florida’s season anyway.
Whereas the Panthers took the Southeast Division crown last season, they may not be able to repeat that feat with so much of their lineup missing and the patches filled in by call-ups from San Antonio. The Panthers have a -27 goal differential–which actually isn’t that much worse than the -24 they won the division with last year–but their current 6-11-5 record has them in the Southeast’s basement, looking up at how well the Carolina Hurricanes are doing.
The injury bug has also been cruel to goaltenders throughout the Southeast Division. First, it bit Theodore. Then, it got Ward. Now, Mathieu Garon of the Tampa Bay Lightning is hurt too.
Now, the Panthers have time to turn it around, find some cohesion despite all the locker room absences and start to improve their record. They can try to give that a start tonight when they welcome the Winnipeg Jets. Last time the Jets came to town, the Panthers won by a 6-3 score, so anything’s possible, right?