Panthers’ Kulikov suffers lower-body injury blocking a shot

The Florida Panthers announced that defenseman Dmitry Kulikov won’t return to Thursday’s preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning because of a lower-body injury.

It appears that the blueliner suffered the injury while blocking a shot, the Miami Herald’s George Richards reports.

Teams are obviously very quick to sideline players who suffer bumps and bruises in exhibition contests, so missing the remainder of tonight’s game isn’t much of an indication regarding potential long-term ramifications for the 23-year-old.

Update: The early word is pretty optimistic.

The Panthers signed Kulikov to a three-year, $13 million contract ($4.33 million cap hit) in July.

While he set career-highs in goals (eight) and games played (81) last season, he’s had 26 and 28-point seasons and the Panthers likely hope that he takes another step or two forward offensively. His possession stats are pretty solid and he’s carried a solid workload (a little under 22 minutes per game in 2013-14), so Kulikov has shown signs of living up to his first-round potential.

The Panthers are a dark horse candidate for a nice run in 2014-15 in many peoples’ minds, so Florida must hope that this is only a minor setback for an up-and-coming defenseman.

Scroll Down For: