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Countdown 21: Bounce Back Year For Higgins?

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers 2010-11 season is quickly approaching and with that, is taking a look at the top ten questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 16th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top ten on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

Forward Chris Higgins takes a shot in a pre-season game against the Boston Bruins in Rochester, NY (David Sturm)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at forward Chris Higgins in our Top 10 Players To Watch this season.

It's a tale of two careers for new Panthers forward Chris Higgins.

The first three seasons, the 27-year old collected 23, 22 and 27 goals while playing for the Montreal Canadiens. But then the injury bug hit (averaged 74.3 games over the first three seasons) and Higgins had 20 goals over the last two seasons while playing averaging 62 games over those two seasons. It didn't help that he played for three different teams in Montreal, the NY Rangers and Calgary over that span.

Last season, Higgins struggled mightily, recording just eight goals and 17 points while playing for the Rangers and Flames.

"It's very frustrating because I wasn't playing very well," said Higgins about suffering a foot injury while in Calgary. "Then you go down with an injury. You get even more down because there's nothing you can do to change how you've been playing before the injury."

But this is a different year for Higgins. Signed to a one-year deal by general manager Dale Tallon on July 2nd, he's back in shape and he hopes being in shape leads to a big year for him.

"I feel good. I got back into good shape coming into this year," said Higgins. "(I'm in) a different mindset certainly. A new team so I'm looking forward to it. All positives right now.

"It is an important year for me as far as the offensive end goes. I'm just trying to take it game-by-game and get off on the right foot is the most important thing."

Higgins loves to play in front of the net and is willing to do the work to get the dirty goal.

"I definitely think it's a strength of my game is along the boards and getting the puck to some skilled guys," said Higgins. "I'm fortunate to play with some skilled guys with my role on the line was to get them the puck as often as possible.

"Sometimes that means doing the little things, the grunt work, but that's fine with me as long as I have a job."

And doing those little things will hopefully mean big things for the Panthers this season.

3 - Higgins had three straight 20-goal seasons to start his NHL career.

4 -
Florida will be Higgin's fourth team since the 2008-09 season (Montreal, NY Rangers, Calgary).

8 - Displaying great speed an a defensive prowess, Higgins has eight short-handed goals in his career.

8 - Higgins sits just eight goals away from 100 for his NHL career to start the season.

27 - Recorded a career-high 27 goals during the 2007-08 season.

52 - Finished with a career-high 52 points during the 2007-08 season as well.
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