Nick Bjugstad plays a pretty key role in Florida — he scored a team-high 24 goals two years ago, and 15 last season — so it’s fair to suggest his slow start is a big reason for the Panthers’ slow start.
Now, it’s time to shake things up.
Bjugstad, who normally plays center, will be moved to the wing to play alongside Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen on the Panthers’ second line, in the hopes of getting his game on track. The former first-round pick has just one goal and two points in 16 games this year, missing extensive time with a broken wrist.
“I want to give [Bjugstad] some top-six minutes to get him going,” head coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “We talked about him getting off the schneid a little bit.
“He’s got one but we need more out of him.”
Bjugstad’s utilization is an interesting look into Rowe’s coaching strategy — specifically, how it differs from his predecessor, Gerard Gallant. Rowe leans far more heavily on his top six. Per the Sun-Sentinel, Trocheck’s TOI has jumped from 17:46 last season to 21:20 this year and, conversely, Bjugstad is way down — averaging just 13:22 — because he’s largely been serving as a bottom-two center.
The Panthers head into tonight’s game against the Leafs on 36 points, sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division. So it’s clear they need a spark, and it’s clear they’re hoping Bjugstad’s promotion will do the trick.