Panthers lose Bjugstad (broken hand) for four weeks

AP
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Florida will be missing a key piece of the lineup when it begins regular season play next Thursday.

Nick Bjugstad, the rangy center that led the team in goals two years ago, suffered a broken hand in an exhibition game against Dallas that will sideline him for a month, per the Miami Herald.

Bjugstad, 23, was a big part of Florida’s success last season. He had 15 goals and 34 points in 67 games — averaging more than 15 minutes per night — and was one of the team’s top faceoff men.

His biggest problem has been staying healthy.

Combined, the Minnesota native has missed 25 games to various ailments over the last two years, and was knocked out Florida’s opening-round playoff loss to the Isles with an upper-body injury. He’s also dealt with back issues, and underwent season-ending surgery to correct the problem near the finish of the ’14-15 campaign.

When healthy, though, Bjugstad is a vital contributor. His absence should be softened by the fact Florida has good depth down the middle — expect the likes of Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie to pick up additional responsibilities over the next month.