The Panthers announced on Thursday that they have assigned forward Denis Malgin to their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. Following that announcement, head coach Tom Rowe held a conference call with the media to discuss Wednesday night’s loss to the Oilers as well as the team’s injury picture.
Malgin will make his AHL debut on Friday with the Thunderbirds at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers – wearing number 43 – after registering 4 goals and 4 assists in 39 games with the Panthers this season. A pre-season, long-term injury to Nick Bjugstad combined with a stellar showing at the Panthers’ rookie tournament in September thrusted Malgin into the 3rd-line center position to start the season.
Seven of Malgin’s 8 points came in a span of 9 games from October 30th through November 17th, including goals in back-to-back games twice, a 4-game point streak, and a 3-game point streak. His solid play was well-documented, and the Panthers opted to keep him with the NHL club up until today because of his ability to think the game and make plays in all 3 zones better than most .
The 20-year old hit a wall and hadn’t recorded a point in the 22 games since while being either scratched or placed on the 4th line with a variety of admittedly low quality linemates in Shawn Thornton, Paul Thompson, Derek MacKenzie, and others.
With Thompson, Greg McKegg, and Michael Sgarbossa – who has played in 11 games since Aleksander Barkov went down with an injury in December – playing well enough in bottom-6 roles, the Panthers can afford to send Malgin to an offensively inconsistent and somewhat handicapped Springfield Thunderbirds team.
“We really wanted to get him some playing time,” said Rowe on Thursday . “He wasn’t gonna be getting into the lineup any time soon and it wasn’t gonna do him any good for his development sitting here and not playing enough so we moved him down. He’ll be joining the team [in Springfield] for the games this weekend.”
Malgin had been scratched 8 times in the Panthers’ last 19 games.
In Springfield, he’ll get top-6 minutes and power play time with the goal being to remain focused on his long-term development rather than force him into the bottom of an NHL lineup where he’ll struggle to produce and get less than 10 minutes a night.
To start, he’s expected to center a line with rookie forward Jayce Hawryluk and Chase Balisy, the former of which he played with in the aforementioned rookie tournament during the pre-season.
“McKegg was excellent,” said Rowe of his performance in Wednesday night’s loss. “What I like about him is he can be used in a lot of different situations. We can move him up when we’re trying to protect a lead, give someone a breather.”
“Sgarbossa, for me, has been excellent ever since we called him up. He’s done a really good job for us, he’s gone right into a 3rd-line role almost from the beginning, obviously [got] his first NHL goal, and the way he won the face-offs was terrific.”
Sgarbossa was 77 percent in the face-off circle on Wednesday and logged the second-high ice-time total of his career and this season at 16:19.
Rowe also commented on the status of the Panthers’ injured players, including Jonathan Huberdeau who he says is still due back “in the early part of March,” while there’s no timeline on Barkov who he says is suffering from an upper-body injury.
“We don’t anticipate anyone being back real soon, well ‘real soon’ being in the next couple of days,” said Rowe. “Petrovic is on target to possibly play right before the All-Star Break or right after. Bjugstad will probably be the next closest after him, maybe around the same timeframe so obviously that would be a big help to us.”
Petrovic has missed the last 31 games after suffering a broken ankle on November 15th against the Montreal Canadiens, while Nick Bjugstad has been out for the last 7 games with a lower-body injury suffered on January 6th against Nashville.
The Panthers also recalled goaltender Reto Berra on Thursday. James Reimer left the team after Wednesday’s game to meet his pregnant wife in South Florida as she’s expected to give birth soon. Tom Rowe said Berra isn’t expected to get any starts when he’s with the team through the end of the road trip, and that the recall was made for him to back up Roberto Luongo.
In 20 AHL games this season with the Thunderbirds, Berra is 9-8-2 with a 0.918 save percentage and 2.24 goals-against average. The Thunderbirds recalled goaltender Sam Brittain to back up Mike McKenna.
Forward Seth Griffith was placed on waivers on Thursday as well after registering 5 assists in 21 games with the Panthers this season. He was claimed off waivers by the team from Toronto on November 12th and made his way up to the top line with Barkov and Jagr before suffering a concussion on January 4th against the Winnipeg Jets.
The 24-year old returned to the lineup on the 13th before being a healthy scratch in the Panthers’ last 3 games. If not claimed by another team prior to 12 PM on Friday, he’ll be assigned to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds.
Griffith could serve as a good pick-up for a team in search of a depth player with offensive skills considering he is just below a point-per-game in 3 AHL seasons while still being fairly young.
The Panthers will travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks for the 3rd game of a 4-game road trip which concludes on Monday against Arizona.