Dmitry Kulikov was back in the Panthers’ arena on Saturday morning and looked ready to play in Florida’s opener against the Hurricanes.
It appears jet lag was too much for the 22-year-old defenseman to overcome. Kulikov signed a two-year deal with the Panthers on Friday after flying to the New York area from Russia on Thursday.
“I think it’s for the best, for the team and for me personally because I don’t want to get out there and disappoint or not perform the way I’m supposed to,’’ Kulikov said. “It’s just best if I get a couple of practices in and then play a game.
“... I have to adjust to the time difference. Just arriving to the U.S. and playing in a game right away, it’s tough. I’d like to be in the lineup, but unfortunately that’s the way it is right now.’’
Coach Kevin Dineen had planned on using Kulikov as Mike Weaver is out with concussion symptoms after taking a knee to the head during last week’s scrimmage in Coral Springs.
Dineen and Kulikov chatted on the ice after the morning skate where Kulikov apparently told his coach he couldn’t go. Dineen didn’t seem too happy with the news. Kulikov is expected to be back in the lineup Monday at Ottawa.
“You have to look at a guy, whether he helps you,’’ Dineen said. “Frankly it’s disappointing he’s not ready to play. There are different ways around it, but he’s not playing tonight. He’s a guy who’s had some time and should be ready to go. He signed a contract yesterday, fortunately passed his physical. He’ll play Monday.’’
• Michael Caruso and Jonathan Huberdeau made their NHL debuts Saturday as both were in the lineup against the Hurricanes.
Although Huberdeau’s debut was expected — the third overall pick from 2011 plays on Florida’s second line — Caruso was a bit of a surprise. Drafted by the Panthers back in 2006, Caruso was in his fifth season playing for the Panthers’ AHL affiliates.
Caruso flew his father as well as other family members and buddies down from Canada. The time up with the Panthers could be short-lived as Florida will have Kulikov back Monday and Weaver could return at any time. Weaver skated on Saturday for the first time since Wednesday.
“It’s been a long time coming, a lot of hard work and a lot of time thinking about this moment,’’ Caruso said. “I’m just going to try and take it all in. I’m just going to try to take it all in and remember everything.”
• Mike Santorelli went from being on the waiver wire to playing on Florida’s first line Saturday after Kris Versteeg was scratched after sustaining what is believed to be a groin injury Friday. Versteeg started Saturday’s morning skate but left the ice after about 15 minutes.
“I just have to go out there and play up to my assets,’’ Santorelli said.
“I think I’ve played well in camp, been moving my feet. I’m happy how camp went. Last year is gone. It wasn’t the best year, but it happens. It’s how you bounce back that counts.’’