Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers will start season without Nick Bjugstad

The Florida Panthers will start their season without center Nick Bjugstad.
The Florida Panthers will start their season without center Nick Bjugstad. AP

The Florida Panthers will be without center Nick Bjugstad when the season begins after he broke a bone in his hand during Tuesday's exhibition game in Dallas.

Bjugstad left Tuesday's game early in the first period after making contact with the goal cage, coach Gerard Gallant said.

"He jammed his hand,'' Gallant said following Thursday's practice at BB&T Center. "It's nothing serious, but it's a fracture. He's out for four weeks.''

Bjugstad, who didn't play in Florida's season-ending playoff loss to the Islanders after going hard into the boards during overtime of Game 5, was projected as Florida's third-line center.

With Bjugstad out for what appears to be at least a month, at least one hard roster decision was taken out of the mix.

"It's an opportunity for someone," Gallant said.

Florida's roster, minus Bjugstad, stands at 26 after the Panthers made cuts on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Panthers are expected to make three more cuts before next Thursday's season opener against the New Jersey Devils.

For players such as Denis Malgin, Shane Harper, Paul Thompson and Greg McKegg, being around Thursday at least improves their prospects of sticking around for opening night.

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"The goal is to stay with the team as long as possible,'' said Thompson, who came to the Panthers in the Marc Savard salary cap dump to the Devils this summer and has played well in camp.

"I'm pretty happy to be with the team today, but there's a lot of work left to do. There are still spots to be earned.''

Said the 19-year-old Malgin: "It's nice that I'm here with a week left. We'll see what happens. I will work hard and do everything I can. We'll see.''

-- The Panthers made a number of moves over the past few days including putting veterans Reto Berra, Logan Shaw and Jakub Kindl on waivers so they can be sent to Florida's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Florida also sent Connor Brickley, Kyle Rau, Dryden Hunt and MacKenzie Weegar to Springfield.

"You know your depth players," Gallant said. "We needed six or seven guys to come up from our farm club last year and they became real important players for us."

The Panthers released defenseman Adam Pardy from his training camp tryout as well.

-- The Panthers are expected to fly north on Friday for their preseason finale which will be against the Devils on Saturday at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

If the team is unable to leave on Friday for some reason, the secondary plan is to travel early Saturday.

"I would like to play, but right now, there are more important things to worry about," Roberto Luongo said. "We want to make sure we get through this nice and safe and we'll worry about that later on. Whatever happens, I'll be good to go."

-- Florida announced it officially canceled Thursday's preseason game with the Lightning after saying Wednesday it was simply postponed.