A return is in sight for Nick Bjugstad who has missed 12 games since being sent home following what was then a mysterious upper-body injury sustained during practice on November 30th.
We found out that Bjugstad was experiencing migraines and that the Panthers were unable to figure out what was causing them, so the 23-year-old center was sidelined “indefinitely.” Earlier this week, it was announced that Bjugstad has begun skating, and over the past few days, he worked with Panthers assistant head coach John Madden prior to the team’s morning skates.
Yesterday, Cats on the Prowl learned that Bjugstad’s return to the lineup is (barring any setbacks) pegged for either December 29th against the Canadiens or January 2nd against the Rangers. When he returns, he’ll have not played a game in a month. Fortunately, Vincent Trocheck has stepped in up his absence, and his line, which includes Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen, have clicked providing the Panthers with some much needed offense.
What is unclear, however, is where Bjugstad will slot in upon his return and what will happen to Corban Knight who has performed very well in his 5 games since being called up. Knight has a goal and 2 assists while winning 32 of 48 total faceoffs taken.
The idea of moving Bjugstad to the wing has been thrown around as it would remove some of the defensive burden from him and allow him to potentially open up more offensively. However, the Panthers seem set on being big and strong up the middle. The hope is that the Vincent Trocheck line remains intact especially since he’s been better at center than the wing, and one of Connor Brickley, Logan Shaw, or Corban Knight will have to return to the AHL to make room for Bjugstad who’s currently on the injured reserve.
The Panthers face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, December 27th at the BB&T Center in their first game after the holiday break.