As Panthers coach Kevin Dineen stood in a Saveology.com Iceplex hallway and discussed injuries to captain Ed Jovanovski and tough guy George Parros, the light above Dineen cut out.
The shift to partial darkness seemed a metaphor for not just the Panthers’ season, but that of Jovanovski.
“Eddie is going to be out indefinitely,” Dineen said. “He’s had a recurring lower-body injury that he’s worked extremely hard to get healthy. He’s got to get healthy, and he’s not there yet. We do not expect him back anytime soon. We’ll get on the eight-day road trip and give you an update when we get back.”
Though Dineen didn’t specify the injury, he did say Jovanovski came into the season with the injury. Jovanovski has had problems with a sore hip in the past.
Jovanovski returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 21 games with a “lower-body injury” then left the game during the second period. He’s 36, in the second year of a four-year deal with a possibly chronic injury. More than one player has decided to end his career under these circumstances.
Asked about that possibility, Dineen said, “It’s a hard comment for me right now. I played against this guy. I’ve been in slashing matches with him. I’ve seen the way he’s played as a teammate last year. I think extremely highly of him, and I think [the team’s eight-day road trip will] give him a chance to get a feel for where he is, where we are right now.”
Injuries have punctured a leadership leak in the Panthers lately. Season-ending injuries struck center Stephen Weiss and winger Kris Versteeg in the past two weeks. Now, Jovanovski might also be done.
Although the three have combined for only 33 games this season and Weiss and Versteeg have combined for only eight points, perhaps their absence has been part of the Panthers’ descent to the NHL’s basement.
“It’s tough not having those guys in the [locker] room,” said second-year defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who partnered with Jovanovski as the Panthers tried to develop a mentor-protégé relationship and now the wearer of an “A.” They’ve played so many games. Weisser’s the center point of this team, and he has been for a very long time. It opens up an opportunity for other guys to step up and fill his position.”
Parros won’t start the road trip with the Panthers after sustaining what’s termed an “upper-body injury” during a first-period fight Saturday against the Islanders. He went for medical testing Monday. He’ll miss at least Tuesday’s game at Carolina and Thursday’s game in Manhattan against the Rangers.
After that, the Panthers complete the New York area hat trick with games against New Jersey (Sunday) and the Islanders (Monday).
The Panthers practiced with seven defensemen and 11 forwards Monday. They returned right wing Jonathan Rheault to San Antonio and called up Eric Selleck, a high-penalty-minute forward who will assume Parros’ role.