Versteeg’s goal: be ready for Panthers’ season opener

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A week of positive news for the Florida Panthers continued on Thursday, as it appears that key winger Kris Versteeg’s knee rehab could be ahead of schedule.

The 27-year-old required season-ending knee surgery in March, and following that procedure, he estimated that he might be ready to play again in November. That recovery process has apparently gone better than expected, however, as he told the Miami Herald that he’s shooting to play in the Panthers season opener on Oct. 3.

“It’s a long process but my goal is to be ready for the start of the season,” Versteeg said. “I guess we’ll see how training camp goes. I don’t want to go into a regular season game without knowing what training camp is like. I think I’ll be there for most of it. That’s my goal.”

Versteeg skated with teammates on Thursday, so if nothing else, things are moving in the right direction.

After a breakout debut with the Panthers where he scored 23 goals and 54 points in 71 games in 2011-12, Versteeg was limited to 10 games in 2013 (collecting four points).

The Panthers haven’t made big renovations despite a lousy 2013 season, so getting a healthy Versteeg would be a significant boost.


Jonathan Huberdeau beefs up over the summer

Sean Bergenheim and Ed Jovanovski could return to the mix, too

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

Jarret Stoll, Mats Zuccarello
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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.

This post will be updated if there’s video of that staggering sequence.

Welcome back, Babs: Red Wings chase Bernier

Mike Babcock
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Mike Babcock admitted that there might be a painful transformation as he tries to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His old friends made that abundantly, painfully clear on Friday.

As of this writing, the Detroit Red Wings are up 4-0 on the Buds. Justin Abdelkader just completed a hat trick with James Reimer in net, so the subplot isn’t just about Jonathan Bernier having another tough start.

The big story might just be Detroit’s varied new line of Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin (who scored his first career goal) and Henrik Zetterberg. At the moment, they’ve combined for seven points.

This post will be updated if Detroit’s tribute video to Babcock surfaces.

Really, though, this beating has been about as ugly as this blanket so far.

Here’s video of Abdelkader’s hat trick: