Last Saturday, Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov was unable to play against the Dallas Stars due to an injury. The Panthers (who were on a three game skid) promoted Nick Bjugstad to the top line. The Panthers used their improvised top line of Bjugstad, Jaromir Jagr, and Jonathan Huberdeau to excellent effect on Saturday, as the Cats went out to achieve an impressive 6-2 win over the Stars.
While the Panthers are happy to get back on a winning track, it looks like the Cats will be without one of their more potent offensive weapons in the near future. Barkov’s hand does have a broken bone in it. The expected recovery time is anywhere between two weeks and two months.
While it’s still early in the season, that kind of injury could upset the Cat’s apple cart. They’re a young team, and losing one of their top forwards could discombobulate them.
“It sucks for sure,” said Jonathan Huberdeau on losing Barkov. “It’s part of hockey. He blocked a shot; he paid the price for the team and it happens that [he] broke something.”
“Everybody has to step up. Bjugstad is going to be on our line so it’s going to be huge to still have possession of the puck and control the puck in our zone.”
Huberdeau called it correctly. After an early Dallas goal, the Panthers got back to fundamentals, and began to control the puck. This lead to all three members of the improvised top line had a multi-point game. Jagr and Bjugstad each had a goal in the game and Huberdeau had two assists. The line combined had nine shots on net in the win.
“We had a little talk this morning as a team, just the way we were playing was unacceptable,’’ Bjugstad said on Saturday morning. “The main point we wanted to change was work harder and we did that tonight. Obviously, they’re such a skilled team. Top guys in the NHL and I thought we outworked them for the most part.’’
It looks like Gerard Gallant will be keeping this line together for the duration of Barkov’s absence. Huberdeau and Bjugstad are fast and dependable young players. Jarmoir Jagr still plays with the skill set he had twenty-five years ago. It’s a good line that should continue to produce in Sunrise.
“I really like to play with Barkov,” said the future Hall of Famer to the media after the game. “Everybody knows that. Injury happens. It’s pretty good to know I can play with Bjugstad. It’s not easy to play with me, trust me. He’s a big guy, he can skate. He makes a lot of good plays.’’
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