The Florida Panthers will be shorthanded to start the regular season.
That’s the word out of Sunrise on Monday as head coach Kevin Dineen confirmed defenseman Erik Gudbranson (shoulder) and forward Marcel Goc (ankle) would miss the Panthers’ first three games of the season.
Florida opens with a home game against Carolina on Jan. 19, followed by road dates in Ottawa and Montreal on the 21st and 22nd.
According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, Florida GM Dale Tallon has suspended both Gudbranson and Goc from the team until they’re medically cleared for action.
This is bad news for the Panthers, given their roster was already thin.
Forward Sean Bergenheim injured his groin while playing for HIFK Helsinki during the lockout and still needs medical clearance.
RFA defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is without an NHL contract — he’s still playing with KHL Lokomotiv — though Tallon did say assistant GM Mike Santos is working on his deal.
All told, Florida could be without four regulars to start the season, including two of its top defensemen from a year ago.
“You’re missing two top players for us last year,” Dineen told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Am I comfortable with it? No. I’d love to have nine quality defensemen.
“You have that and I’m a better coach with those two guys.”