Panthers: F Nick Bjugstad out until late summer following back surgery

Tallon: Bjugs will be "ready for the start of training camp"

Quite a blow to a roster seeking scoring from just about anyone not named Brandon. From the team:

Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that F Nick Bjugstad underwent successful surgery on his lower back today at the Mayo Sports Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He will be out for the remainder of the regular season and a full recovery is expected.

"After consulting with Nick and thoroughly evaluating the extent of his injury, we mutually felt it was important to have this procedure done as soon as possible," said Tallon. "Nick showed a tremendous amount of character over the past month, playing through an injury, while helping our club compete down the final stretch for a playoff spot. He will be closely monitored by our medical staff during his rehabilitation process and will be ready for the start of training camp in September."

Bjugstad's full injury status has been kept pretty quiet though it was no secret the sophomore center was ailing. Raising a glass on a speedy recovery for a gentleman who has become the heart-and-soul of Florida's forward ranks.

That said, replacing his 43 points (24G) in 72 games will most certainly be a topic of discussion in the coming days. Brandon Pirri's somewhat miraculous numbers (7 goals over his last seven games played, with 2 GWGs) in recent weeks have shifted the focus but Bjugstad remains the offensive rock upon all hopes are placed, short of in net.

We knew it would be a wild ride to close out the year...