Panthers slowly returning to full health as the All-Star break ends

The Florida Panthers return from the All-Star Break. Instead of 4 long-term injured players they have 2 now. Center Nick Bjugstad and Defenseman Alex Petrovic returned to the lineup on Thursday in the 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Monday afternoon the Panthers held a closed practice at the BB&T Center. Injured top line forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov both skated in non-contact jerseys. Barkov is likely to return against the Kings on February 9th after the bye week. Huberdeau is still a month away. The Panthers are currently 4 points out of 3d in their division. Not to sound unconfident, but with the Cats only playing 5 games in the next 16 days it is a great opportunity for Boston; Toronto and Ottawa (the Ontario teams have already had their  bye weeks) to put some space in between those teams and the Cats. Barkov is a key player for the Panthers. Bjugstad played well on Thursday. If Bjugy can ride that momentum and start turning those chances into goals then he could prove to be a big help. If Sceviour and Smith can get scoring and Marchessault/Jokinen get hot as well as McCann/Sgarbossa fighting for their big league lives; not to mention Ekblad getting going and defenders like Pysyk and Matheson to start scoring we can make a big playoff push. Last year, Detroit finished in 3rd and they had 93 points which was tied with Philadelphia who occupied the 2nd wildcard. I think 95 points this year is the magic number. We have 52 points. If we can go 20-9-3 the rest of the way which is 2 wins every 3 games (besides from several losing streaks this year we are normally doing that) then that will be a boost. When Barkov gets back, we will be so much better. Now it’s time for some stats. Here are the 2 injured/2 players who just came back from injury’s team records when they are/aren’t in the lineup.

Name                             In the Lineup                        Out of the Lineup              PPCTDiff

Barkov                           15-15-7  (37 pts; .500)          6-5-3  (15 pts; .536)          -.036

Bjugstad                         8-6-7 (23 pts; .548)            11-10-3 (25 pts; .521)         +.027

Petrovic                          9-7-1 (19 pts; .528)             12-8-9 (33 pts; .569)           -.041

Huberdeau                     N/A                                           21-19-10 (52 PTS; .520)          N/A

Hopefully, this team lights it up.