From The Press Box


From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

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Big Man Making Big Strides

After missing the start of the regular season, Nick Bjugstad is starting to make an impact for the Panthers

Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 2:30 PM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Big Man Making Big Strides

Just as he did last season, Nick Bjugstad scored his first goal of the 2013-14 campaign against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That happened Sunday when Bjugstad began a two-goal third-period rally by tipping Scottie Upshall’s backhand from the high slot past Lightning goalie Anders Lindback, the same goalie Bjugstad had beaten in the 2012-13 season finale.

That goal last April 27 was big for Bjugstad because it was his first as an NHL player and sent him off into the summer with a happy memory. The goal on Sunday also had some significance.

It was the culmination of a strong performance for Bjugstad and hopefully a sign of things to come from the 21-year-old native of Minneapolis who the Panthers selected with their second of three first-round picks in the 2010 NHL draft.

The goal aside, Bjugstad turned in a strong performance against the Lightning when he won 62.5 percent (10 of 16) of his faceoffs and was credited with two hits and one takeaway.

It was the strongest performance of the season for Bjugstad, who didn’t make his 2013-14 debut until the Oct. 15 game against the Nashville Predators because of a concussion he sustained during the prospects tournament at the Saveology.com Iceplex in early September.

That injury was a shame for Bjugstad and the Panthers on many levels because Bjustad had been the most dominant player in the tournament — which also included 2013 top four picks Jonathan Drouin of the Lightning and Seth Jones of the Predators — before he was hurt in the final game.

Bjugstad said upon his return that the toughest part about the injury wasn’t so much missing the first game of the regular season but rather missing training camp and missing building on a summer spent working on his game and his physical development.

Make no mistake, Bjugstad is a key player for the Panthers because of his draft status and also because of his size. The Panthers are looking to build around some big, physical centermen and that’s where Bjugstad and 2013 first-round pick Aleksander Barkov come in.

After only 12 games, it appears pretty obvious that Barkov is going to be a star in the NHL — heck, the kid already is one of the team’s top two-way forwards. Bjugstad also looks like he has the game to get there.

The Panthers worked him in slowly after he made his season debut in that Nashville game, but his ice time increased dramatically after his third game as he went from averaging about 10 minutes to playing more than 13 minutes in the games against the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay.

Bjugstad has appeared more assertive in recent games, specifically in terms of taking advantage of his size when he has the puck. For a Panthers team looking for more offense, seeing Bjugstad becoming a bigger factor would be ideal.

He’s coming off his best game of the season, perhaps the best game of his young NHL career. The hope now is that the Tampa Bay game was merely a sign of things to come.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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