With eight games left in the season, it appears the Florida Panthers will be limping through the finish line. The second half injury bug has bitten hard, and has refused to let go.
During the Olympics it took their brightest star in Alexsander Barkov, as well as Tomas Kopecky. Neither are due back any time this season. Most recently it has taken their best player and franchise goaltender – Roberto Luongo.
Luongo was victim to a collision in the net that saw former Panther Radek Dvorak crash into the 34-year old goaltender, earning himself a game misconduct in the process. All though it originally appeared that the Panthers’ goalie was okay, in between periods he was pulled in favor for Dan Ellis.
Ellis is now in line to start against the Montreal Canadiens and Scott Clemmensen was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage to be Ellis’ backup. Though originally thought to be precautionary when they pulled him in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes, you have to wonder now what the case may be with Luongo.
It also poses an interesting question, with the team having the third fewest points in the NHL – should they shut down the soon to be 35-year old (April 4 is his birthday) for the rest of the season with nothing but pride and roster spots for next year on the line?
The Panthers will have a lot of roster spots up for grabs going into next season, but one that is not is the goaltender position – as long as Luongo healthy and able, he will be the guy – for however many years that will be.
But the more rest that can be given, better yet – the least amount of a workload given to him when he isn’t 100% can prolong a career that is closer to the end than the beginning. Any extra rest would only be beneficial, and there is plenty to be had in the last few games of the season.
What should the Panthers do? Would you like to see them shelf Luongo for the remainder of the season or do you think they should just play him?