Playoff-hungry Panthers lose leading scorer Bjugstad (lower body)

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Florida center and leading scorer Nick Bjugstad will miss tonight’s crucial tilt against in-state rival Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury, the Panthers announced.

Bjugstad, who has 24 goals and 43 points this season, has been dealing with ailment for a while, per head coach Gerard Gallant, and was only able to play 11:27 in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout win over Boston.

With Bjugstad out, it looks as though Vincent Trocheck will draw into the Florida lineup for the first time since Mar. 19, when he played 13:29 in a 3-1 win over Detroit.

The Panthers really need a win tonight to keep their playoff hopes alive. They go into Tuesday’s action five points back of Ottawa for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and are four back of ninth-place Boston. Florida has been good of late, however, winning five of its last seven, and is 1-0-1 against the Lightning this season.