The Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings seemed to be in a fighting mood on Monday night, dropping the gloves three times in the first two periods of their game in the Motor City.
Things started early in the first period when Red Wings tough-guy Luke Witkowski, playing in his first game back since serving a 10-game suspension, dropped the gloves with Micheal Haley of the Panthers.
Have a look…
The two would square off once again in the second period.
Not long after the Witkowski-Haley rematch, Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Red Wings forward Luke Glendenning took part in a rather vicious fight that left Glendenning bloodied on his way to the penalty box.
Given Ekblad’s history of concussions the Panthers can’t exactly be thrilled to see him taking part in a fight like that.
Ekblad is not much of a fighter, with Monday’s fight being just the third of his NHL career. It is, oddly enough, his second fight of the season with the first one also coming against the Red Wings.
While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.
Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.
Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.
And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.
Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.
Zolniercyzk – called Harry Z by anyone interested in brevity or typo avoidance – last suited up for the Nashville Predators. Harry Z played in 24 regular-season games and 11 playoff contests, averaging less than nine minutes of ice time per contest.
(As you can see, he had enough time for Matt Cullen to put him in a headlock during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, so there’s that.)
Panthers’ best hope for improvement in 2017: Better health for top players
Whether or not the Florida Panthers made the right moves this offseason is certainly up for some level of debate.
They lost Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen and Jonathan Marchessault while bringing in Radim Vrbata, Micheal Haley and Evgeni Dadonov. On paper, that may not be a great trade off. Dadonov is a pretty big question mark, Haley isn’t going to provide any offense, and while Vrbata is still a very productive player he’s probably not a clear improvement over what Jagr or Marchessault provided this past season.
But what should make the Panthers better this season is just getting some better luck on the injury front.
It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to put all of the Panthers’ struggles in 2016-17 on injuries, but it certainly played a major role. Just consider that Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad combined to miss 114 man-games due to injury. That is three top-nine forwards and a top-pairing defenseman all missing close to a quarter of the season (or more). Sometimes at the same time. That is going to put a dent in any team’s potential for success.
Barkov is probably the Panthers’ best all-around player at this point and along with being a strong defensive forward, arguably one of the best in the league, he has scored at a 71-point pace per 82 games over the past two seasons. Losing him for a quarter of the season was a crushing blow.
The same is true for Huberdeau who was limited to just 31 games. When he was healthy and in the lineup he was on pace for what would have been his best offensive season ever while posting dominant possession numbers. Like Barkov, he was also on pace for close to 70 points over 82 games before the injury.
Bjugstad’s season seemed to be a lost season in general, but he has still shown the ability to be a 35-40 point middle-six player.
We don’t know yet if the Panthers’ roster moves make them a better team (an early guess might be no) but just simply getting more games out of the core players that were already in place would go a long way toward getting the team back closer to what it was in 2015-16 when it won the Atlantic Division and seemed to be a team on the rise.
Sharks add ‘grit and physicality’ by signing Bollig
Today, the Sharks hope they’ve replaced that toughness by inking forward Brandon Bollig to a one-year contract.
“Bollig is a competitive player who will add a tough edge to the Sharks,” said San Jose GM Doug Wilson. “He brings with him a lot of playoff experience and a Stanley Cup Championship. His grit and physicality will be a great addition to our team.”
It’s reportedly a two-way deal for Bollig. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate in Stockton, scoring 11 goals in 60 games with 136 PIM.
Bollig won a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.