When the Florida Panthers open their season Thursday night against the visiting Devils, they're going to have a different look than expected.
With Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad hurt, the Panthers have had to do some shuffling.
Jonathan Marchessault, signed as a free agent to strengthen Florida's bottom six, will start the year instead on the top line alongside Jaromir Jagr and Sasha Barkov.
"It's a big loss for our team and for our line especially,'' Barkov said of the loss of Huberdeau to a possible Achilles tendon injury.
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"We're used to playing together, we had the confidence this would be our year. Then that happened, and we don't know how long he will be out. We hope he's back pretty soon. We have Marchessault with us right now. His name is also Jonathan. He'll help us, he's a good player.''
Denis Malgin, a 19-year-old who was thought to be a bubble player at best to make the roster back in July, has been terrific in camp and will not only be on the team, but will center Florida's third line.
"It''s unfortunate for us to lose two players like that,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's part of our game, you have to move on and someone else gets the opportunity. ... That's part of the deal; show us what you can do. Hopefully things will work out."
The injuries to two of Florida's top young players had coaches scrambling but with the season upon them, there isn't time to sulk.
The Panthers have one more full practice before opening night on Thursday, and they hope their new additions are ready for prime time.
"There's nothing else you can do," Barkov said. "We just need to move forward, play our game. I think another Jonny will be a good player there."
Marchessault, 25, came to the Panthers from Tampa Bay where he scored seven goals in 45 games for the rival Lightning last season.
His move up to the top line is not only a vote of confidence, but a real promotion.
With Huberdeau out at least three months after being hurt Saturday, Marchessault is getting a great opportunity alongside Barkov and Jagr.
Marchessault came to the Panthers for a chance at real playing time and, well, he's going to get that and more.
"It's unfortunate for our team to get two really good players injured but I think it will be a good test for our team to see if we can battle back from adversity,'' Marchessault said.
"[Jagr and Barkov] are obviously two great players, we've seen what they have done in the past. It'll be fun to play with two guys like that.''
Said Jagr: "It's a big loss for our team, a big loss for our line. [Gallant] tried to keep the lines together and we've played together since I've been here. The chemistry was there and Huberdeau was looking so good this training camp. So it's sad. But we have to battle through it."
Although Florida scouts knew Malgin could play based on scouting reports from the Swiss A-League, he took advantage of being in South Florida with an outstanding run at the Panthers development and rookie camps this summer.
By the time training camp opened, Malgin was on a roll and continued his strong play with the big-leaguers.
It quickly became evident he was going to stick around when the season opened.
When Bjugstad suffered a hand fracture last week, the Panthers quickly slid the 5-9 center into that spot.
"In the beginning of the summer, I didn't expect to be here in this position right now,'' Malgin said. "I'm very excited, going to keep doing what I do. I'm really feeling more comfortable with these guys. It's nice here.''
▪ With Derek MacKenzie named captain -- Aaron Ekblad and Jussi Jokinen are the alternates -- Jagr was asked if he had any interest in an official on-ice leadership role.
"I had it 20 years ago,'' Jagr said. "I was captain in Pittsburgh, captain in New York. Next life, next life. Give it to the older guys. I've been born again. I'm not that old."
▪ Shane Harper apparently made the final roster and could make his NHL debut soon after Florida put Paul Thompson on waivers with the intention to send him to the AHL.
The Panthers also sent rookie defenseman Ian McCoshen to their AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.