2010 first round pick Erik Gudbranson's chances to make the Panthers look slim

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erikgudbranson.jpgA lot of the hype around Florida Panthers first round pick Erik Gudbranson was that he was a big player and the kind of guy that could step into the NHL right away in his first season. With being drafted by the Panthers, playing right away seemed like a definite possibility for the young defenseman with the sky-high potential.

Like all big ideas, however, sometimes it’s better to not get any in the first place. After the Panthers signed defenseman Mike Weaver yesterday, this pushed the Panthers total of NHL-experienced blue liners (with one-way contracts) to eight. The Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Steve Gorten mused that this might not work out so well for Gudbranson’s chances of making it to the NHL right away.

That seems to signal the Panthers plan on returning Gudbranson to juniors either before the end of training camp or before he plays his 10th regular season game, which would start the clock on Gudbranson’s entry-level deal yet to be signed.

Here’s what [Panthers assistant GM Mike] Santos had to say about that:

“I wouldn’t say Gudbranson can’t make the team, but he has to make the team. We’re not going to give anything to  him. If he comes in and he’s better than any of those guys in front of him, then he’ll be on the team.  But there’s nothing wrong with an 18-year-old continuing to develop in juniors. It’s nice to have this depth, so you don’t put that pressure on an 18-year-old where he has to come in and step in.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong about having a guy develop in the minors and if you’ve got the ability to allow him to do that, that’s the route a team likely should take. There’s no need to rush a guy to the pros if you don’t have to and with what the Panthers are rolling with right now with the eight defensemen they’ve got squared away on one-way deals (Bryan McCabe, Mike Weaver, Clay Wilson, Dennis Wideman, Dmitry Kulikov, Bryan Allen, Jason Garrison, and Nathan Paetsch) they’ve got plenty of depth to be had there.

Training camp will find out if Gudbranson is a better player than some of these guys that can help the Panthers win more games as well. Of those eight, the players destined to start for the Panthers are McCabe, Wideman, Kulikov, and Allen. The last two spots on the starting blue line are up for grabs. Whether or not Gudbranson can shine enough in camp to make the Panthers decision that much more difficult remains to be seen, but if anyone can you’d imagine that a top three draft pick can do it.

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

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via Iowa Wild
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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)