On Tuesday, during the pregame press conference, Interim Head Coach and GM Tom Rowe said that the Panthers were getting healthy bodies back and that some of these young players that if they had a bad game then they would probably find themselves on a flight to Springfield instead of prepping for the next home game or flying with the team on a road trip. Jared McCann, a 20 year old center started off the night centering Nick Bjugstad and ageless legend Jaromir Jagr. McCann did not have a good game. Playing the second lowest amount of time on the ice (10:13); McCann was a -2, had no points and didn’t play well. McCann hasn’t made the best of his opportunities this year. He was acquired in exchange for fan favorite Erik Gudbranson and he hasn’t brought the same intensity as Gudbranson did. McCann is also only 20 years old. He was projected to be in a bottom 6 role at the start of the year but was sent down in November. I doubt he will be called up again this year. This is also an example for other young players, such as Paul Thompson, Greg McKegg and Michael Sgarbossa, basically meaning you better play well or else you will be sent down. Sgarbossa, who has done well up in the bigs had 2 assists and Thompson has been a valubaule defensive forward on the 4th line. McKegg has been one of the best young guys to come up this year. I used to call the Zach Hyman-Greg McKegg swap one of the worst trades I’ve seen, but McKegg has proved me wrong this year. He has 6 points in 29 games this year, which is better than a couple of other guys and is really trying hard. It will be interesting to see who stays up with the impending returns of Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Now What for Jagr?
With McCann being sent down, Jaromir Jagr will once again have a new linemate on Friday. I think that Marchessault-Bjugstad-Jagr will be Friday’s 2nd line behind the normal 2nd line now 1st line status that is Jokinen-Trocheck-Smith. Sceviour gets promoted to play with Sgarbossa and Mackenzie. Thompson will likely skate with McKegg and Thornton, line that probably won’t see much ice time. Barkov is very close to a return will likely be with Jagr and Marchessault on the top line when they return, with Jokinen-Trocheck-Smith as a second line and Bjugstad-Sgarbossa-Sceviour as the third line and a fourth line of McKegg-Mackenzie-Thornton/Thompson. But it will be interesting.
1st Year Panthers lead Cats to victory in a wild 6-5 Cats victory on Tuesday
Michael Matheson had the 1st 2-goal game of his career on Tuesday night. The first was initally credited to Jagr, but video review showed that his shot, instead of deflecting off of Jagr, actually went off a Senators defenseman. His second goal was a slapshot from the point to tie up the game after a faceoff win by Michael Sgarbossa. Jason Demers had an empty-net goal to make it 6-4 but it would turn out to be the game-winner when Brassard scored 22 seconds later. Demers leads Panther defensemen with 9 goals. ESPN projects him to finish with 14 goals which would be 1 goal shy of teammate Aaron Ekblad’s 2nd place franchise finish last year with 15 and 2 short of Jason Garrison who had 16 in 2011-12 and holds the franchise record. Mark Pysyk got his 2nd of the year when he buried a Derek Mackenzie rebound. Jonathan Marchessault had the go ahead goal when Condon misplayed the puck and he stole it and buried it in the empty net. Colton Sceviour who hadn’t scored since his hat trick on October 30th scored his 6th of the year. It took 39 games. He has the monkey off his back (maybe Yandle brings Bjugstad’s monkey’s sibling to Sceviour). After that, you could easily tell Sceviour’s confidence had grown as he just turned it up after that goal. Hopefully, that same energy leads to more goals. It was very nice to see him score. He has been working his butt off on the penalty kill.
Huberdeau and Barkov have their first full contact practice
Top line forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov had their first full-contact practice since their injuries. Huberdeau suffered Achillies Tendon surgery hasn’t appeared in a game yet this regular season. He was injured in a preseason game when he got tangled up with Devils winger Sergey Kanlin and a freak accident occured when Kanlin’s blade chopped down on accident on his achillies tendon. Barkov who had back issues hasn’t played since December 28th. The injury wasn’t caused but a little aggrvated by a Keith Yandle shot to the back. He didn’t have surgery. They praticipated in full contact practice yesterday. The Panthers are targeting a February 9th return for Barkov and an early March return for Huberdeau. I project that Barkov will return on February 9th and that Huberdeau returns on March 7th when the Cats host the New York Rangers.
The Puck Under the Sun’s weekly prediction contest
I am running a weekly prediction contest. It started in January and I have 3 players playing including my dad, my friend from twitter @CruisingRay and I. I will post a standings update every Sunday and tell you guys when the weekly predictions (week is Sun-Sat) are due. If you have been following me on twitter, you will have seen that over the past week and a half, my twitter use has significantly decreased. This is for private reasons and my return to twitter at this point is unknown. If you are doing the contest please post your prediction in the comment box on the weekly prediction post. The winner gets recognition on my site.