SUNRISE, Fla. -- After dealing with a rash of injuries among their forwards and then at the goalie position, the Florida Panthers are now hurting on defense.
A week after veteran Ed Jovanovski was sidelined with a broken hand, Dmitry Kulikov underwent knee surgery on Monday to address a meniscus injury.
Coach Kevin Dineen revealed the news after the Panthers' optional morning skate Tuesday morning and said Kulikov would be out 6-8 weeks.
"That's obviously a big loss for us," Dineen said. "I wish his knee felt as good as his attitude. He's such an enthusiastic young man and he's been such a big part of what we've done this year. It's a tough loss for us, but we've got some resiliency and we'll need that right now without him in the lineup."
Kulikov was at the BankAtlantic Center Tuesday morning walking on crutches and wearing a wrap around his knee.
The defenseman told NHL.com the injury was one he's been playing with for about five years.
"I wasn't planning on this, obviously, but it happens," Kulikov said. "As long as it didn't bother me, I didn't want to do the surgery. I was hoping I could wait until the end of the season and then have it done, but unfortunately it happened, it got worse. So I had the surgery. Now I'm going to try to get back as fast as possible and we'll go from there."
Kulikov said he aggravated his knee injury when he checked the Jets' Jim Slater behind the Florida net in the first period of Saturday night's 4-3 shootout victory at Winnipeg.
The Panthers' 2009 first-round pick finished the game and ended up getting 22:07 of ice time.
"I think I just twisted it or hit it against the boards," Kulikov said. "That aggravated it, made it worse. I was able to finish the game. I was getting worse and worse throughout the game. Afterwards, on the plane, it was getting worse and worse. The next day I couldn't even get downstairs at my house. I had to get it done."
In 46 games this season, Kulikov has 4 goals and 20 assists to rank fifth on the team with 24 points -- two shy of his career high of 26, which he accomplished in 72 games last season.
Kulikov also is third on the team in average ice time behind fellow defensemen Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison.
With Kulikov out, the Panthers will need even bigger contributions from their other two former first-round picks on defense, Erik Gudbranson (2011) and Keaton Ellerby (2007).
"It (stinks) that Kuli's out," Gudbranson said. "He's such a big part of our defensive corps. He's probably one of the better defensemen we've had all year. It's tough to see him out and for the period that he's out.
"That makes us step up. We know that everybody has to step up. I'm excited about the opportunity. It was unfortunate for him, but I've got to step up. Everyone does."