SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – It was no secret that the Florida Panthers wanted to get their season off to a strong start.
The Panthers’ goal is to make the playoffs for just the second time since the year 2000, and so far they’re on the right track.
Florida has picked up points in five of their eight games and currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. The top three teams in each division automatically make the playoffs.
One of the reasons that the Panthers have done well so far is the play of their top line which features 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr, 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov.
Jagr leads the team with 10 points in eight games and his linemates have a lot to do with that.
Barkov has started the season playing the best hockey of his young career and appears poised for a breakout season, but that will have to be put on hold for a few weeks.
In last Thursday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Barkov broke a bone in his right hand while blocking a shot.
The Panthers were concerned that he would need surgery and miss several months, but the team received good news on Monday.
An MRI determined that the injury wasn’t as serious as initially feared. Barkov is expected to be sidelined two to four weeks, or until he has the strength to grip a stick.
Through seven games on the Panthers top line, Barkov has collected six points (three goals and three assists), 19 shots on goal for a 15.8 percent shooting percentage, a game winning goal and +2 plus/minus rating.
Fellow young center Nick Bjugstad, 23, took Barkov’s place on the top line between Jagr and Huberdeau during Saturday’s 6-2 win at Dallas.
The trio combined for six points (two goals and four assists), a +4 rating and nine shots on goal.
Florida begins a three game homestand on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche at the BB&T Center.
The Panthers face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, October 27th at 7:30 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.
Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)