The Florida Panthers have been in a bit of a slump of late, going a mere 4-4-2 over their previous 10 games. I don't like calling it a "slump", considering they have still won six of those ten games and they still sit in first place in the Southeast Division with 47 points (and in third place in the entire Eastern Conference, for that matter). But at the same time, they have only averaged one point per game during their recent mini-quasi-kinda-slump, and that sort of a pace over the remainder of the season would only net them a total of 90 points -- good, but not quite enough to make the playoffs.
So like all playoff teams, the Panthers are going through a stretch where they're not playing their best. Some fans may use this as an excuse to decry to Panthers as an early season mirage -- "See! I knew they were just getting lucky!" -- but the Panthers have a justifiable reason why they have been slipping recently: injuries.
Every team has their share of injuries -- especially in such a physical sport as hockey -- and the Panthers have certainly gotten hit hard in recent weeks. Center Marcel Goc has been out for over a month with a concussion; Mikael Samuelsson (tailbone) has been out since December 20th, after finally playing his first game with the Cats in early December; and Sean Bergenheim has been out for the past few weeks with a groin injury. Then there's Jack Skille (shoulder), Scottie Upshall (hip), and Marco Sturm (concussion), all of whom are still out and have missed a considerable amount of time with their injuries.
With all these injuries to their forwards, the Panthers are scraping the bottom of their depth charts to put together three lines. And now they have another injury to contend with: starting goalie Jose Theodore. In the Cats' last game, two players (one Montreal Canadien, one Panthers) collided with Theodore, injuring his knee and forcing him to leave the game. The Panthers are waiting for the swelling to go down in his knee before determining the severity of the injury (i.e. if surgery will be needed), but Theodore is expected to miss at least two games.
While serving as the Panthers' primary goalie, Jose Theodore had been having his best season in some time. His .918 save percentage and 2.43 GAA are both his best rates of the past seven seasons, and he currently ranks 17th in the NHL in save percentage. The Panthers will have to trust Scott Clemmensen (.908 career Sv%) to replace him, but they could be in trouble if Theodore has to miss an extended period of time.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom is being recalled from the AHL, and is expected to serve as Clemmensen's backup while Theodore is injured. While serving as the primary goalie for the San Antonio Rampage this season, Markstrom has posted a .909 Sv% and 2.75 GAA. He's 22 years old and is one of the Panthers' top prospects.
Krys Barch Update
Also during Saturday's game against the Montreal Canadiens, Krys Barch was ejected from the game for allegedly directing "racially charged language" at Montreal's P.K. Subban. Barch claims that he did jaw at Subban, but he did not use any racial slurs or say anything with a "racial undertone".
It's difficult to draw conclusions, since it's still unclear exactly what Barch said, but it's possible that this incident could result in a suspension or fine. Barch is going to meet with NHL Vice President Colin Campbell today to discuss the incident, and it's expected that the matter will get resolved one way or the other.
Hopefully this turns out to all be a large misunderstanding. The Panthers could definitely use all the men they can get right now, but more importantly, it'd be nice to hear that Barch isn't the sort of person that tosses around slurs, even by mistake.