After a relatively healthy 2017-18, the Florida Panthers are opening their much hyped 2018-19 campaign with several injuries. After a great second half which ultimately saw the Panthers fall a point short and tie a record for most points without making the playoffs, the Panthers had a good offseason. The Panthers finally solidified their top 6 by adding Mike Hoffman who was traded from Ottawa to San Jose and then flipped a few hours later to the Panthers by the Sharks. Hoffman was coming out of a harsh situation which saw his fiance be accused of cyberbullying former Senators captain Erik Karlsson’s wife. The expectations for the Panthers this year are sky high but the preseason hasn’t been kind.
Last year the Panthers defense was impeccably healthy. This year the preseason has seen several injuries to the back end. It all started when Aaron Ekblad who has a history of concussions was yanked from the third preseason game after being sucker punched by Domi. Ekblad passed concussion protocol tests but later suffered a minor lower body injury. Ekblad is supposed to be fine. Mackenzie Weegar didn’t have the best camp and has been dealing with a shoulder issue. Last night, the Panthers lost two more blueliners. Keith Yandle suffered an upper body injury but he is expected to play on Saturday night as well as Ekblad and Weegar. However the big blow is Bogdan Kiselevich. Kiselevich, the former KHL defensive standout had a very solid camp and suffered a fractured jaw last night after taking a puck to the face. He had to get 40 stitches. He is expected to be out a few weeks.
With Kiselevich out the Panthers defense on opening night will likely see Yandle, Ekblad, Matheson and Pysyk in the top 4. The final pair should be a battle between Ian McCoshen, Jacob MacDonald, Mackenzie Weegar and Alex Petrovic. My guess is the spots go to Petrovic and Weegar and McCoshen will get sent down.
OPENING NIGHT LINEUP PREDICTION
Scratched: MacDonald, Haley, Vatrano
Injured: McGinn (Back, Indefinite); Kiselevich (Jaw, Week by Week)