Hurricanes coach concerned about culture of losing in Carolina

RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes directs the team in the ice during an NHL game against the New York Islanders on November 19, 2017 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mar 14

When we talk about a “culture of losing” developing around an NHL franchise, it’s often focused on a team that has chosen to go the tear-down rebuild route and aim for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

The Edmonton Oilers, owners of four of the past eight first-overall picks, have found it tough sledding to get out, and stay out, of a cycle of losing that led to a decade-long playoff drought. They finally reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, and even got to Round 2, but have moved back towards their regular basement spot in 2017-18.

The Buffalo Sabres, who famously and openly tanked the 2014-15 season to try and land Connor McDavid, are well on their way to a seventh straight season out of the playoffs. At the start of last season, their rebuild was being compared to the one in Toronto, which today couldn’t look further from the truth. Tanking guarantees nothing and, in fact, invites a losing culture to settle in for a long time.

Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis were traded by Buffalo to Minnesota last summer, and later discussed the difference in approach and expectation after moving from the rebuilding team to one that had the Stanley Cup in mind.

“You know, Buffalo has been in kind of a rebuild process, and everyone knows they’ve had quite a few losses over the last few seasons, and that’s tough on everybody,” Foligno told the Pioneer Press last November. “Everyone that plays competitive sports wants to win. It’s definitely nice to be here, where losing is not an option.”

Added Foligno: “It’s been challenging for us. You have to develop better habits, and that takes a while to learn. That was the biggest difference. It’s been great to be in this winning culture, where losing is not acceptable and a lot is expected out of us.”

The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t a full-on tanker the way Edmonton and Buffalo have been in recent years, though they have missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and are well on their way to a ninth. Over that time, they’ve never finished with fewer than 30 wins in a full 82-game season and the lowest they’ve finished in the standings is fifth-last. Carolina has never found luck in the lottery balls, so haven’t picked earlier than fifth overall at the draft. In the past two drafts, in fact, the Hurricanes have picked outside of the top 10.

NHL GMs reportedly like the idea of expanding the number of playoff teams
CBS Sports
Mar 14

The NHL is in the process of expanding to 32 teams, and if some of the league’s general managers have their way, the NHL will also, at some point, be in the process of expanding its playoff field beyond 16 teams.

That’s according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, who surveyed GMs this week and found that there is, in fact, a sense that “it makes more sense than ever to increase the pool of teams who get in.”

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, of course, aren’t exactly spot-free as they stand. Since the NHL’s realignment in 2014, there have been annual debates over the league’s four-division/two-conference format, namely involving the guarantee of three playoff teams from each division — a system that can hurt contenders that just so happen to play in superior divisions.

And select NHL executives, as told to LeBrun, view an expansion of the playoffs as an opportunity not only to satisfy some of the disadvantaged teams but to accompany the league’s expansion as a whole.

Sharks Sign Forward Maxim Letunov
Mar 14

San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed center Maxim Letunov to a standard, entry-level contract.

“Max is a talented scorer and playmaker who has utilized his high-end speed and creativity to produce at every level that he has played,” said Wilson. “His tremendous hockey sense has allowed him to develop into a strong special teams asset at both ends of the ice. He has worked hard to improve his physical strength and has shown us that he is ready to translate his game to the professional ranks.”

Letunov, 22, registered 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) and 12 penalty minutes in 36 games with the University of Connecticut. He was tied for the team lead in goals (T-15th in Hockey East), and led the team in assists (T-22nd in Hockey East) and points (T-15th in Hockey East) in his third full season.

Time to start treating Giroux like all-time Flyer he is
NBC Sports Philadelphia
Mar 14

Claude Giroux was told he was too old. You know the rest.

Monday night, it was a scene, and a script, all too familiar.

The scene saw Giroux scoring his 205th career goal, but the script had heartbreak in the ending.

The Flyers lost their sixth game in their last seven. This time, 3-2 to Vegas. Last week, playoffs seemed almost certain. Now? Still probable but who knows.

Despite the losses, the Flyers remain in third place of the Metropolitan Division but are just two points ahead of Columbus.

One week, the Flyers are up and the next, they’re down. It’s hard to nail down exactly who they are, but through it all, there’s been one constant and it’s flown under the radar.

Giroux, who turned 30 in January, is having a career year and not only deserves to be in the Hart Trophy conversation but should also be a serious contender for the league’s MVP award.

After potting his 25th goal, Giroux is three markers shy of tying his career high.

With 12 games left, he’s on pace to set new career bests in goals, assists and points. He secured his 82nd point Monday, meaning at the worst, he’ll finish at a point per game. Considering his recent pace, it’s unfathomable to believe that’s possible.

Giroux’s goal extended his point streak to seven games and he has points in 15 of his last 17. It was also his second straight game with a goal. Since Feb. 8, Giroux’s 24 points are second most in the NHL behind Evgeni Malkin’s 25.

MacKinnon will play Sunday after missing 8 games with injury
Feb 17

The wait is over. MacK is back.

Nathan MacKinnon will return to the Colorado Avalanche’s lineup for Sunday’s game versus the Edmonton Oilers after being out for nearly three weeks.

Head coach Jared Bednar confirmed after Saturday’s practice at Family Sports Center that the Colorado center will suit up for the Sunday matinee. MacKinnon missed eight full contests with an upper-body injury.

“He’s good to go,” Bednar said. “Full practice today, everything went well, had some body contact again, so he’s in tomorrow.

“You get your best player back, it’s positive. There is no question about it.”

MacKinnon got hurt in the second period of the team’s outing at the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 30 after he collided with Alexander Edler near the end boards. The timetable for his return was set for two-to-four weeks, and this Tuesday would have marked three weeks since the injury.

NHL journeyman Smyth dead at 51
Feb 17

Nicknamed “Birddog,” former NHL defenceman Greg Smyth has died at the age of 51.

A native of Oakville, Ont., Smyth had been previously diagnosed with cancer.

Taken in the second round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft out of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights by the Philadelphia Flyers, Smyth appeared in 228 career games over 10 NHL seasons with the Flyers, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.

He also spent three seasons with the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, St. John’s Maple Leafs, where he became a cult icon. Smyth met his wife in Newfoundland and settled there after his playing days.

Tributes poured in for Smyth from his former teams and teammates.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to serve as team’s CEO
Ottawa Sun
Feb 17

What is it they say … If you want something done right, do it yourself?

Apparently, Eugene Melnyk has decided to take that approach in running his Ottawa Senators.

Rather than hiring a replacement for recently departed president and chief executive officer Tom Anselmi, the Senators owner will leave his cozy nest in Barbados, set up an office in the nation’s capital and assume the CEO duties of his own team, a well-placed source inside the organization says.

Melnyk is scheduled to roll up his sleeves and settle into the position next week.

“That,” someone close to the Senators said, “is going to be interesting.”

It was almost 13 months ago that Melnyk, exasperated with sagging ticket sales, bumped highly-respected Senators co-founder Cyril Leeder from his role of team president/CEO in favour of Anselmi, formerly a top executive with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.

Landeskog says Avalanche good enough to make playoffs
Feb 17

Captain Gabriel Landeskog believes the Colorado Avalanche are good enough to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs without any additions prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

The Avalanche (31-22-4, 66 points) are two points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference after a 6-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, and six points behind the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division.

“I think for us, first and foremost, we’re focused on winning hockey games,” Landeskog said Friday. “The trade deadline is what it is. We’re a team that’s pushing to get in and we’re just on the outside looking in right now and we’re focused on winning games. I believe with the team we have, we’re good enough to make the playoffs. We haven’t been favored by too many people to make the playoffs, but as long as the guys in here believe, I think we can do it.”

Landeskog said he doesn’t think general manager Joe Sakic will jeopardize that situation for anything short-term before the deadline (3 p.m. ET on Feb. 26).

“This is the first time in a long time that this organization has had some really young exciting players in the lineup … there’s a bunch of them in the lineup now and some coming up,” Landeskog said. “The last draft, we got Cale Makar (No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft), a real exciting player, and I believe we’re in a good spot moving forward, that we have a group that can do some damage moving forward.

“I don’t really expect anything to happen. I’m sure if it does, it’ll be more minor. I think we’re in a pretty good spot. We have two really good defensemen coming up, Makar and Conor Timmins (No. 32 pick in 2017). We’ll see what happens, but I think we have a good enough team now to make the playoffs.”

In a three-team trade, Colorado sent center Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5. The Senators traded center Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators, and goalie Andrew Hammond, prospect center Shane Bowers, a first-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to the Avalanche. Colorado also acquired defenseman Samuel Girard and forward Ladislav Kamenev and a second-round pick in 2018 from Nashville.

There will never be another Jaromir Jagr
Feb 1

Reality has settled in: Jaromir Jagr isn’t going on an NHL farewell tour. After a failed run with the Calgary Flames that ended with him on waivers, everybody’s favorite mullet-sporting veteran has returned to his native Czech Republic. It has everyone wondering if Grandfather Time finally caught up with the record-setting 45-year-old. It also has us wondering if we’ll ever get to see him again stateside.

If this really is the end, will we ever see another player like him? Heck, is it even possible for there to be another Jagr? Given the combination of his accomplishments, longevity and personality, it seems very unlikely.

We have to take look at some of his biggest achievements and wonder if duplicating his myth-like successes is even possible. For example: Will there ever be another triple gold winner from a European country? Jagr gained membership status in that club in 2005 when he won the Ice Hockey World Championship with the Czech Republic after already claiming Olympic gold in the 1998 Olympics and hoisting back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and ’92. The feat has been reached in recent years by Canadian players, including Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry — and there are plenty of Canadians who are just one championship away from entering this coveted group. But no other player from Europe is in this club, and we may never see another player from outside Canada or the U.S. enter the mix.

The closest is Evgeni Malkin, who only needs an Olympic gold to join this exclusive group, but he would need the NHL to actually participate in the 2022 Winter Games for a realistic chance of that happening. With his swagger on the ice, the 31-year-old Russian may look like the next generation’s Jagr, and the fact he’s donned the black and yellow of the Penguins just like Jagr makes the comparison intriguing.

Of course, a big part of Jagr’s intrigue is how much he thrived in his golden years, and there’s no telling if Malkin will have the staying power of Jagr. And while his game is flashy and impressive much in the way Jagr’s was, Malkin has a long way to go to put up the sustained numbers Jagr did. Then there is the fact that, as favorably as their games may stack up, there are few comparisons on their paths. Jagr is more decorated with awards and, after a long 11-year stint in Pittsburgh, became an NHL vagabond, moving from city to city. He was considered an overpriced, aging bust during his two-plus seasons with the Washington Capitals, and his time as a New York Ranger saw a revival that quickly turned into diminishing returns.

From there, he took a hiatus from the NHL, returning to his native country, only to come back to the league with the Philadelphia Flyers as mentor to Philly’s captain Claude Giroux and a highly productive veteran presence. He’s had stops in Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida and Calgary since, earning an All-Star nod as recently as the 2015-16 season with the Panthers, and played all 82 games just one year ago.

It’s hard to believe Malkin, who has spent all his 12 NHL years in a Penguins sweater, would follow such a career arc from here on out — in fact, it’s hard to believe anyone will.

Henrik Lundqvist still angry about losing out on another Olympic moment
New York Daily News
Feb 1

Henrik Lundqvist was one of the most outspoken players last April when the NHL announced it would not send its players to this year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, voicing his displeasure about the “missed opportunity” to showcase hockey’s best players on a global stage, an experience NHL players have relished since the league first took a break for the 1998 Games.

His interest in this year’s men’s Olympic hockey tournament might’ve waned if not for the inclusion of his twin brother, Joel, on Sweden’s Olympic roster for the first time.

“At least one Lundqvist will be going, so that’s nice,” said Henrik, who represented Sweden in each of the last three Winter Olympics.

So Lundqvist will watch games and highlights when he’s not busy preparing or playing in goal for the Rangers, who return to action Thursday against Toronto at the Garden, just as he tries to keep up with how Joel is doing with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League.

Lundqvist, who returned to practice Wednesday after being given an extra day off following All-Star weekend in Tampa, will be completely invested in trying to help the Blueshirts claw back into playoff position, but the sting from the league’s decision to keep its players from going to South Korea still lingers. Lundqvist has gushed about the experiences of playing in Turin, Vancouver and Sochi. The feeling of winning a gold medal at the 2006 Games is something he’ll always cherish. He wasn’t expecting his 2014 experience to be his last.

“I’ve been there three times, and every time you go it’s an experience for life,” Lundqvist said. “I remember all three destinations I’ve been to, what it meant and the whole experience. It feels like they’ve taken that away from you. It’s not a good feeling, but we’ve been dealing with it, so you move on.”

Ryan McDonagh, who at the 2014 Sochi Olympics represented Team USA for its fourth-place finish, said without hesitation that he will watch the Olympics when possible. He’s played with some American players who are heading to Pyeongchang, including former Ranger and Bellmore, L.I. native Matt Gilroy. McDonagh’s also looking forward to watching Canadian defenseman Cody Goloubef, who was McDonagh’s college roommate at University of Wisconsin.

Coyotes Unlikely To Make Major Move By The Trade Deadline
Pro Hockey Rumors
Feb 1

With Arizona sitting dead last in the standings league-wide, it would be reasonable to think that GM John Chayka may be looking to shake things up. However, he told Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports that this isn’t likely to be the case:

“I’ve had numerous discussions on a lot of different players. If there’s a chance to make our team better I’ll do it, but in the past there was a lot of need for guys to get a fresh start or to infuse youth. There were some underlying changes we were trying to make. I don’t think that’s the case any longer.

“I think the core players are in place and they need some time and some experience surrounded by the right players. We’ve got some pieces in place that we like. Now, we’re just seeing if there are some things we can tweak to try and improve.  There is nothing underlying that I think needs a significant change.”

While the Coyotes may inevitably need more than tweaks, Chayka may also prefer to wait until the offseason to make his more significant changes.

Lightning Acquire Eddie Pasquale from Oilers
Hockey Fights
Feb 1

The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired goaltender Edward Pasquale from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for future considerations, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Pasquale, 27, has appeared in 16 games with the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League this season, compiling a record of 6-5-4 to go along with a 2.60 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. He leads the Condors for goals-against average and save percentage.

Bruins have some pleasant problems ahead of them

Boston Herald
Jan 20

The Bruins got a day off in Montreal yesterday, and to say the players earned it would be the understatement of the year.

The B’s will face the Canadiens tonight at what likely will be an unusually subdued Bell Centre. The locals will be watching two teams headed in opposite directions: The Canadiens looking as though they’ve more or less given up on the season, and the visitors cruising through the NHL like men against boys.

The numbers are fairly remarkable, especially for a Bruins team that, because of injuries and inexperience, was 6-7-4 through the first 17 games.

The B’s 5-2 win Thursday in New York against the Islanders pushed their streak of earning at least one point to 15 games (11-0-4). They are 14-1-4 in the last 19 outings; 20-3-4 over the past 27.

With the outcome against the Islanders all but assured after two periods, and because his team was playing the tail end of a back-to-back, coach Bruce Cassidy spread ice time around pretty evenly. Up front, Sean Kuraly, for instance, played only 23 seconds fewer than Patrice Bergeron, who used his 15:39 very well — registering his second hat trick in less than two weeks.

“Well, you hope it helps us in the long run,” said Cassidy of spreading the responsibility around. “For the moment, it’s good for the group to know that, ‘Hey, the coach trusts me to play against (Islanders star John) Tavares or whoever.’ I’m not going to be looking for matchups from start to finish. We’ve talked about that. We want certain ones (matchups), and we’re certainly going to be leaning toward certain ones. But we’re not going to be married to them. I think that’s as important as the actual minutes. But it does save wear and tear, and hopefully we’re fresher for it (tonight).”

Cassidy and Co. may soon have a difficult decision to make on ice time. Presumably defenseman Kevan Miller, out two games with illness, will be available before long. Adam McQuaid took Miller’s spot in the lineup after waiting a while since recovering from a broken leg and played quite well in the back-to-backs, so it’s hard to see him coming right back out.

Rookie Matt Grzelcyk has been a big plus, too, on the back line. So if Miller goes in, who comes out?

Maybe the obvious candidate is Brandon Carlo, who this season has struggled at times, been better lately but committed a costly turnover to hand the Islanders their first goal. The B’s brass doesn’t want to do anything to hurt Carlo’s state of mind, so it’s a tough call.

Senators would listen to offers for Karlsson
Jan 19

The Ottawa Senators are not ruling out potential trade offers for defenseman Erik Karlsson, general manager Pierre Dorion said Thursday.

Asked if he would consider offers “at this moment” for Karlsson, who can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, Dorion said, “Our first priority with Erik is to sign him. He’s a special player, but Wayne Gretzky got traded, so, if a team offers you an offer you can’t turn down, you listen. But our first priority is to sign Erik Karlsson and [for] Erik Karlsson to be a Senator for life.”

After having surgery June 14 to repair torn tendons in his left foot, Karlsson missed the first five games of this season. He has 30 points (three goals, 27 points) in 37 games and a minus-16 rating.

Karlsson, a 27-year-old two-time Norris Trophy winner, said Nov. 30 he wants to be paid as one of the top players in the game.

“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,” Karlsson, the Senators captain, said. “That’s the business part of it. That’s the way every player has been treated ever since this league has started, and I think the players have been a little bit on the other side of things when it comes to negotiations. I think it’s time to realize that when we go to the table, it’s business on both parts, not just [owners].”

Ottawa (15-18-9) entered Thursday 12 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Dorion said he believes the Senators can make the playoffs in part because they have five games in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the second wild card.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Out Five To Six Weeks

April 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) scores a goal against Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Hockey Rumors
Jan 19

It wasn’t expected to be a long-term issue, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will now be out for five to six weeks according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug (and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who tweeted about three seconds later), who passes along news from Todd McLellan. Nugent-Hopkins has cracked ribs, and will need more than a month to recover.

If news of Kevin Shattenkirk’s knee surgery may push a potential playoff -bound New York Rangers team away from buying at the deadline, you can bet Nugent-Hopkins’ news solidifies the Edmonton Oilers’ position as a seller. Though the Oilers are currently enjoying a two-game win streak including toppling the mighty Vegas Golden Knights, the team remains ten points out of a playoff spot with several teams in between.

Even with the struggles of the team, Nugent-Hopkins is having one of the best individual seasons of his career.

Rangers lose Kevin Shattenkirk indefinitely to torn meniscus
New York Post
Jan 19

The Rangers’ depleted defense corps got more bad news Friday.

Marquee free agent addition Kevin Shattenkirk will have surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, the club announced. He is out indefinitely.

The 28-year-old defenseman has been playing through the tear all season, according to The Post’s Larry Brooks.

“It’s tough,” Shattenkirk told reporters. “I think thinking about this year, you want everything to go perfectly. I think I’ve been trying to battle through this for a lot of reasons and when it came down to it … you have to think about yourself.”

Preds extend D Yannick Weber on two-year deal
Jan 9

The Nashville Predators have signed defenceman Yannick Weber to a two-year, $1.35 million contract extension.

Weber, 29, owns a goal and two assists in 25 games with the Predators this season, averaging 12:11 of ice time per game.

Under the terms of the deal, Weber will make $650,000 next season and $700,000 in 2019-20.

Don’t count out a healthy Ducks team in second half
Pro Hockey Talk
Jan 9

After coming within two games of reaching the Stanley Cup Final a year ago the Anaheim Ducks find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture through the first half of the 2017-18 season.

They are still well within striking distance of a playoff spot, but it is still probably not where they expected to find themselves at this point after such a successful performance a year ago.

The biggest issue is the fact the Ducks have been hit with a pretty devastating run of injuries that has decimated their core for much of the season. Their overall record and underlying analytics leave a ton to be desired at this point and makes it seem like this is, at best, a mediocre hockey team. But we don’t really know how good this Ducks team is — or how good it can be — because we really haven’t seen it as it was meant to be constructed.

The man-games lost numbers through the first half are truly staggering.

They spent most of the first half playing without their top-two centers (Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler) with Getzlaf missing 24 games and Kesler missing, to this point, all but six games.
On the wings Corey Perry has missed 11 games while Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell have each missed five.
On the blue line Hampus Lindholm has missed 13 games and Cam Fowler has missed 12.
That is 107 man games lost to injury for a group of players that counts for more than $40 million against the salary cap this season.

The core of Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Silverberg, Fowler and Lindholm has been together for just one games this season (their most recent game), and even on that night Kesler was limited to just eight minutes before leaving with yet another injury.

The point being made by these curious Rangers benchings

New York Post
Jan 9

There is very little reason to lose composure over the fact that coach Alain Vigneault decided second-year winger Pavel Buchnevich was the correct player to sit in the final game before the five-day bye week, a 2-1 loss to the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights out here on Sunday night.

But it is curious that Vigneault, a coach who predicates his philosophy on the speed and skill in all four lines, would sit his third-highest scorer, even if Buchnevich had been suspect in his 200-foot game over the past week — if not longer. The 22-year-old Russian is surely one of the most talented players on the roster, with 11 goals and 26 points through the first 41 games of the season.

But Vigneault needs more from him when they return from the break with Saturday afternoon’s Garden match against the Islanders, just as he needs a more competitive nature from almost everyone not named Henrik Lundqvist. So there is no reason to freak out over Vigneault’s non-answer concerning why he scratched Buchnevich for the first time this season.

“I just felt that for tonight, it was the right thing to do,” he said in explanation, as before the game he didn’t know if Mats Zuccarello was going to play, having missed Saturday’s desultory 2-1 shootout win against the league-worst Coyotes in Arizona with an illness. But Zuccarello was able to go, and when Vigneault was pushed on why Buchnevich was the odd man out, he again sidestepped bashing his talented young winger.

“Just analyzing our different lines,” he said, “and I wasn’t sure if Zuccey was going to play, so I just felt for tonight, it was the right thing to do.”

The question going forward is who will come out when Buchnevich goes back in. Despite Vinni Lettieri being sent back to AHL Hartford on Monday, it’s hard to see the rookie being an easy mark, with his blistering one-timer with seven seconds left in regulation on Sunday destined for the top corner and a tie game before it hit the butt end of Marc-Andre Fleury’s goal stick. Even Paul Carey has been one of the most engaged (and productive) wingers on the team since he started playing regularly in mid-November.

Luongo could return to Panthers in February

Jan 8

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who has not played since Dec. 4 because of a lower-body injury, likely won’t return until February.

Luongo, who was injured during a 5-4 shootout loss against the New York Islanders on Dec. 4, is 6-6-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in 15 games.

“I would probably guess that we’re not going to see him play, because of the [five-day schedule break) in January, I would say to be completely honest, probably the beginning of February,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said Monday. “But that could change any day and we’re sort of taking it day by day.”

Boughner said Luongo, 38, whose 459 wins and 74 shutouts rank first among active goalies, would not be rushed back until he’s fully healthy.