Without a contract, Kulikov stayed in Russia even after the lockout ended and only returned to North America on Thursday. After missing most of training camp and suffering from a serious case of jet lag, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen decided that Kulikov isn’t ready to play.
“You have to look at a guy, whether he helps you,” Dineen said. “Frankly it’s disappointing he’s not ready to play. There are different ways around it, but he’s not playing tonight.
“He’s a guy who’s had some time and should be ready to go. He signed a contract yesterday, fortunately passed his physical. He’ll play Monday.”
Kulikov was a big part of the Panthers’ defense last season and averaged a career-high 21:51 minutes per game. He had six points and 28 penalty minutes in 22 KHL games during the work stoppage.