The Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Panthers Facebook page are all announcing winger Nathan Horton - injured by an errant Dennis Seidenberg puck clearing attempt on Thursday against the Islanders - will be out of the Cats' lineup for the foreseeable future.
Horton is Florida's leading scorer with 46 points but, like the entire club, has slowed of late, recording two points (both goals) and a minus-1 in his past five games. The Panthers have lost their past two matches going into tonight's home stint against visiting Toronto, while struggling mightily to find scoring from anyone.
Nine games remain before the Olympic break in mid-February. With David Booth still on the mend - and having as yet gone unreplaced in the lineup - the loss of Horton completes a one-two punch Florida can ill afford. Promotion from within the organization to cover numerous injuries sustained by the parent club has proven unremarkable at best while leaving the Rochester Americans gasping for coverage.
Intriguingly, the Panthers demoted hard-nosed first year winger Victor Oreskovich just yesterday. While this may be - as the Sun-Sentinel speculated - a move made to allow for the return of Kenndal McArdle, it's a bit confusing since the Cats were obviously aware at the time that Horton would be out of the lineup this weekend.
Will this force the hand of management to find a replacement - even temporarily - via trade? Or does Florida's weak bargaining position quickly strike that possibilty down? GM Randy Sexton should have some tough decisions to make in the coming days.
In any case, the Panthers will be relying on their third and fourth lines like never before.