The Florida Panthers made it through the majority of the pre-season without any major knocks, but the past week hasn’t been kind to the Cats.
During Tuesday’s pre-season game, Nick Bjugstad suffered a broken hand that will force him out of the lineup for four weeks, but the Panthers’ injury situation didn’t get any better in Saturday’s pre-season game against the New Jersey Devils. In Florida’s final exhibition game, Jonathan Huberdeau suffered a frightening leg injury and he could be out for a while.
While fighting for a puck behind the Devils net in the first period Saturday, Huberdeau got tangled up with Devils winger Sergei Kalinin, and during the puck battle Kalinin’s skate came down on what appeared to be the heel or ankle of Huberdeau. Almost immediately after Kalinin’s skate came in contact with Huberdeau, the 23-year-old came up lame and Huberdeau had to be helped off the ice.
No immediate update was available on Huberdeau, but it appears there’s concern about possible tendon damage. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Huberdeau is awaiting an MRI, and there’s concern the Panthers winger could have suffered tendon damage.
“It doesn’t look good right now, but until we get the MRI, we don’t know a whole lot,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told the Miami Herald's George Richards. “He got cut pretty bad with the skate. We’ll see what happens. We’re obviously hoping for the best. Will it be two weeks? Two months? We don’t have a timeframe. The MRI will tell us a lot. You have to move on. He’s a real good player. But we’ll make no excuses. Injuries are part of every team.”
If the Panthers are without Huberdeau for any length of time, it could be one of the most costly losses for the club, especially considering he’s coming off of a 20-goal, near 60-point campaign and projects to be one of Florida’s top scorers this coming season.
Huberdeau, who signed a six-year, $35.4-million extension in the off-season, was projected to be the first line left winger for the Panthers this season, and if sidelined for any extended length of time it will throw a serious wrench in things for Florida. Jussi Jokinen and Jared McCann could no doubt slide up the lineup, but neither has the pure scoring potential of Huberdeau.
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