Panthers defensemen Mike Weaver and Dmitry Kulikov are expected to make their season debut Monday in Ottawa, Coach Kevin Dineen said after the team's optional practice Sunday.
Both sat out Saturday's opener: Weaver because of what the team has categorized as concussion symptoms from a collision during Wednesday's scrimmage; Kulikov due to a severe case of jet lag after flying from Russia to New York on Thursday, and then to Florida on Friday.
Dineen described Weaver as "very optimistic" about playing Monday and added of Kulikov, "He's had seven months to prepare for his first game, so I sure hope he's finally ready to go."
Weaver, arguably the Panthers' best penalty killer, said he's "excited to jump back in there" and continue the success the unit had Saturday (9-for-9). He also insisted "I really didn't have any [concussion] symptoms at all," and that sitting out was "just protocol." Meanwhile, Kulikov said jet lag is not an issue anymore.
"You only need a couple of days to get over it," he said. "It's been a long time since I've played in an NHL game, so I'm excited to help the team."
Dineen said he and assistant coach Gord Murphy would discuss pairing combinations on the flight to Ottawa, noting the return of Weaver and Kulikov "will affect a lot of things." They're expected to replace Michael Caruso and Tyson Strachan in the lineup.
Versteeg not ready
RW Kris Versteeg, who missed the opener due to a groin injury and didn't skate Sunday, is "very questionable" to play vs. either Ottawa or Montreal on Tuesday. Dineen said it was unsure he'd even travel for the two-game trip. D Erik Gudbranson (shoulder) skated Sunday, but will remain out for at least another week, Dineen said, and C Marcel Goc (ankle) faces the same time frame.
With Goc out, the second line of Peter Mueller centering Alex Kovalev and Jonathan Huberdeau is assured to stay intact another four games. And "if they get off to a good start, I don't see things changing," Dineen noted. Against Carolina on Saturday, Huberdeau, in his NHL debut, and Kovalev each tallied a goal and two assists, and Mueller contributed an assist.
"In all honesty, he looked like a kid in a candy store when he saw he was playing with the skilled guys he was," Dineen said. "That enthusiasm showed in his play [Saturday]."
Weaver, Kulikov expected to make season debut Monday
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Jan 21