SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The injury woes continued for the Florida Panthers Tuesday when the team announced that Stephen Weiss will have season-ending wrist surgery next week.
“Not good news,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said Tuesday.
The Panthers started the season with a lot of hope after a division crown last year, but the lockout-shortened season has been a nightmare. The team has lost games and players at a near record clip.
Tallon updated the status of several injured players, including goaltender Jose Theodore who is expected to miss up to six weeks with a leg injury. Then Tallon broke the news about Weiss.
Weiss will be a free agent after this season which means his 11-years in Florida could be over. Weiss struggled through injuries this season and had just one goal and three assists in 17 games.
“We saw a different player in the past,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “It obviously affected his game. It’s a loss for us.”
The Panthers entered play Tuesday with the second-fewest points in the NHL standings, not at all what the reigning Southeast Division champions were hoping for entering the season. Through the season’s first 22 games, the Panthers had been outscored by 27 goals, by far the worst goal-differential in the league.
Still, both Tallon and Dineen refused to give up on the season.
“You can’t worry about the uncontrollables,” Dineen said. “Until guys are back, we’ll move forward. … The players we have here understand what our situation is now. I think they’re the right guys to find that step to get us in the right direction.”
And as the Panthers try to take that step, a young goaltender will be the go-to guy. With Theodore out, Tallon said the Panthers will use Jacob Markstrom in the No. 1 role in the net.
Markstrom, who entered Tuesday with eight career starts in the Panthers’ goal, has long been considered Florida’s goalie of the future. Apparently, the future has arrived.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the young man,” Tallon said. “We were hoping to hold off a little bit, but let’s go, let’s see if he can do it. And I believe he can.”
Also hurting for Florida these days, besides Theodore and Weiss: Defensemen Dmitry Kulikov (upper-body) and Mike Weaver (lower-body) are expected to miss 3-4 weeks; Scottie Upshall and Ed Jovanovski could be out for up to 10 more days each, and forward Kris Versteeg may return to the lineup as early as Friday.
In addition to all those woes, Florida still does not have a final decision on the Alex Kovalev situation. Kovalev has been away from the team for several days, with the team saying he is weighing his options.
“It’s ongoing discussions,” Tallon said. “We’ll have some finality to it, hopefully this week.”
The Panthers entered Tuesday with just two wins in their last 12 games — and in this lockout-shortened 48-game season, a slump like that will be particularly tough to overcome.
The injuries only add to the challenge.
“But that’s part of hockey, part of this condensed season,” Tallon said. “Everybody goes through it and it’s an opportunity for others to show their worth. … We’ll find a way to get through this. It’s all you can do.
“We still have a chance. Kevin and his staff are going to find a way, the players are going to find a way and I’m going to find a way to compete for a playoff spot. Regardless of what the situation is, we’ve got to deal with it.”
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