Welcome to the Dwork On Sports blog. This is a place where I’ll cover all things related to South Florida sports, with a steady combination of facts and opinions while ultimately keeping a close eye on anything and everything related to our local teams.
The injury bug has made its way around the Florida Panthers roster this season, but unlike in years past the team isn’t suffering with key players out of the lineup.
It’s quite the opposite actually.
The Panthers won their fourth consecutive game on Sunday to move within three points of Atlantic Division-leading Montreal.
It’s amazing how much things can change in the span of a month.
After losing at home to the Los Angeles Kings on November 23rd, Florida held just a 8-9-4 record and was on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Less than 30 days later the Panthers have reeled off wins in 10 of their last 13 games and enjoy an impressive mark of 18-12-4.
What’s even more impressive is that the wins have kept coming despite key players missing extended time.
Centers Nick Bjugstad and Derek MacKenzie have been out for the past few weeks, as well as defensemen Alex Petrovic and Steven Kampfer.
Another center who was moved to wing, Dave Bolland, has been playing so poor that he’s was made a healthy scratch for several games before getting sent down to the AHL’s Portland Pirates for a ‘conditioning assignment’.
Bolland’s struggles are even more painful when considering that he is Florida’s highest paid forward after signing a 5-year, $27.5 million deal prior to last season.
None of those injuries have had a negative impact on the Panthers goal of climbing the Eastern Conference standings.
With AHL call-ups Quinton Howden, Logan Shaw, Corban Knight, Connor Brickley, Rocco Grimaldi and Dylan Olsen playing regularly, Florida hasn’t skipped a beat.
Following the Panthers game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center, the Cats will likely head into the holiday break in a position they have coveted for years; a playoff position.
Whether it was general manager Dale Tallon, head coach Gerard Gallant or any number of the team’s veteran leaders, the message prior to the season was how important it was to win games before the calendar flipped to the new year.
It appears that the message was received loud and clear as the Panthers haven’t been this high in the standings in late-December since their division championship season of 2011-12.
With wins in eight of their last ten road games, Florida now needs to figure out how to replicate that success on home ice.
They get a great opportunity to do so at the end of this month as the Panthers don’t play on the road again until January 5th.
Florida kicked off the six-game homestand with a win on Sunday and could really gain some momentum with a win over Ottawa on Tuesday, a divisional opponent who currently sits just one point back of the Panthers in the standings.
On Monday the Panthers announced that they activated defenseman Alex Petrovic (foot/ankle) off Injured Reserve. He could play as soon as Tuesday night after being out since late November.
Florida is also expected to get center Derek MacKenzie (knee) back in the lineup against the Senators. He was injured during the Panthers win over the Washington Capitals on December 10th.
The team also announced that it has sent Rocco Grimaldi and Dylan Olsen to the AHL’s Portland Pirates, likely moves to make room for the return of the aforementioned injured players.
Dave Bolland has also been brought back up to the Panthers after being sent to Portland for conditioning. He played in two games for the Pirates, registering one assist, one shot on goal and a minus-1 rating. Bolland is still nursing an injury and isn’t expected back in the Panthers lineup until at least after the holiday break.
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