Florida Panthers

Jussi Jokinen could return Thursday for Panthers against Leafs

Florida Panthers left wing Jussi Jokinen (36) knocks over practice pucks as he heads on the ice during warmups before a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, March 12, 2016 in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida Panthers left wing Jussi Jokinen (36) knocks over practice pucks as he heads on the ice during warmups before a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, March 12, 2016 in Sunrise, Fla. AP

Just as the Panthers started to get some key players back from injuries, more began to fall.

On Monday, the Panthers said center Derek MacKenzie would miss at least a week or two after fracturing his foot blocking a shot in Saturday’s shootout win over the Flyers.

In Monday’s loss to the Islanders, defenseman Erik Gudbranson and winger Jussi Jokinen were injured in similar fashion. Both missed Tuesday’s win over the host Canadiens.

Coach Gerard Gallant said although Gudbranson is probably out for a week or so, Jokinen could return Thursday in Toronto.

“Jokinen is questionable,” Gallant said, “he just needs to meet with the doctors. He doesn’t look too bad. Gudbranson will be out for sure, we think his injury is similar to MacKenzie. We’ll know more when we get home.”

Although Gallant likes seeing the passion of his players to go down on the ice to block shots, seeing them in the trainer’s room and not in the lineup is not optimal.

With Gudbranson out, Steven Kampfer returned Tuesday and played well, prompting Florida to send Dylan Olsen back to its AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine, after recalling him on an emergency basis.

Center Gregg McKegg, also called up Tuesday, will remain and likely continue to fill in for MacKenzie.

“He’s here and is playing there and looks real good,” Gallant said.

One player Florida did get back from the injury list Tuesday was winger Teddy Purcell, who missed four games with a groin injury.

Purcell played in two games after coming to the Panthers in a Feb. 27 trade with Edmonton before getting injured in the first period of Florida’s 5-1 loss at Arizona on March 5.

“I thought he was real good, I liked his game in Montreal a lot,” Gallant said. “He made some plays. For his first game back, we were real happy with him.”

▪ Captain Willie Mitchell, out since Jan. 18, remained behind in South Florida to skate on his own but is close to returning. Mitchell is expected to be with the team on its next road trip, which starts Monday in New York against the Rangers.

“He will be back soon and is close to being ready,” Gallant said. “That’s a good thing. He’s pushing hard, wants to come back. It will be great to have him back.”

▪ Nick Bjugstad has a goal in consecutive games for the first time this season after he scored in the second period on Monday and Tuesday.

Bjugstad led the Panthers with 24 goals last season, but has only 12 this season. Florida hopes Bjugstad, who missed a month with migraines, is heating up just at the right time.

“Nick went through some struggles, lost his confidence a bit,” Gallant said of Bjugstad, who has four points in his past five games.

“Every time Nick makes a mistake, he gets down on himself. Every player on our team makes mistakes, every player in the league makes mistakes. But Nick takes them to heart too much. But he’s been real good the past few weeks and now has some goals. When he’s confident, he’s really good. We need him right now. We’re strong down the middle and he’s a huge part of that.”

▪ Roberto Luongo will be back in net for the Panthers after Al Montoya made 27 saves in Florida’s 4-1 win at Montreal on Tuesday.

Luongo was bombarded with shots in the third period of the Islanders’ 3-2 win on Monday in which New York scored three goals in the final 7:10 to come back and win.

“Our plan hasn’t changed here,” Gallant said. “Montoya is doing a great job, exactly what we have asked of him. But Luongo is our starter.”

▪ Jokinen’s 10-game point streak came to an end against the Islanders.

Jokinen had scored 12 points off two goals in that 10 games and it was the longest points streak for the Panthers since Olli Jokinen (no relation) had 16 points in 10 games for Florida in 2005-06.

Thursday: Panthers at Maple Leafs

When, where: 7:30 p.m.; Air Canada Centre, Toronto.

TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM (560), WMEN (640).

Series: Toronto leads 34-31-7.

Scouting report: The Panthers are facing Toronto for just the second time this season and have won seven of their past nine against the Leafs. The two teams see each other three times in the final weeks of the season.

  Comments