|Forward Jack Skille celebrates his third-period goal to put the Panthers up 4-2 against the Senators on Mar. 4th (Getty Images). |
The Panthers have gone through their share of injuries this season.
The injury report, in fact, has been vast as 21 different players have missed a combined 291 man-games heading into Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers (INJURY REPORT
With that, Kevin Dineen hasn't always had the luxury of playing guys based off of merit. But in the last 20 games of the season or so, he has as Panthers have or are returning from various injuries. While forwards Kris Versteeg
and Scottie Upshall
and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov
are still out for at least this week, Dineen does have the chance to play his forwards based off of their production as well as due to health.
"We have 14 healthy forwards right now so I have options every night," said Dineen following practice at Saveology.com Iceplex on Tuesday. "I wouldn't say that it's always play based but I think I'm looking for the healthiest guys right now."
Dineen feels having extra bodies will help the Panthers immensely down the stretch. Both Marco Sturm
and John Madden
have been the forwards on the outside looking in but they've been held out do to the play of other forwards.
"Guys are fighting for those spots right now. Whether it's Krys Barch or Jack Skille
(they) are doing what they can to stay in the lineup," said Dineen.
And once Versteeg, Upshall and Kulikov return to the lineup, it will present even more players looking to get playing time. That's something that the head coach has to enjoy as he tries to keep the Panthers on top of the Southeast Division.
"It's the only way you can stay now in the lineup," said Dineen. "They can count. it's very easy to figure out bodies are options for us to use. It's a good situation for a coach."VERSTEEG OUTLOOK
Speaking of the Panthers leading scorer, Dineen said that Versteeg is being considered on a short-term rolling basis in terms of his lower body injury.
"It's a little beyond day-to-day but certainly not considered a long term injury," said Dineen. "We don't expect him for the next couple of games and we'll re-evaluate at that time. We're kind of in that stage right now where we're looking at three and four day increments."