The Florida Panthers have been shutout twice in their past four games and finding offense isn’t going to be any easier without Brandon Pirri.
Pirri, 24, has 11 goals this season, but he’s expected to miss to some time after suffering an ankle injury on a scary play. Panthers coach Gerrard Gallant said Pirri could miss “a few weeks,” per the Miami Herald’s George Richards, which is incredible considering any initial guess about Pirri’s return to action after he suffered the injury would have been much more than that.
The injury, which is hard to watch, occurred in the third period of Saturday’s contest against the Nashville Predators. Pirri fired a shot towards Predators goaltender Carter Hutton, but had the attempt blocked by Nashville blueliner Ryan Ellis. The puck ricocheted off Ellis and headed toward the corner with Pirri giving chase. As he went to collect the puck, he was pressured by Ellis which caused Pirri to go skates-first into the boards. His ankle bent awkwardly, and Pirri went down in a heap:
Pirri had to be helped off the ice and, for obvious reasons, was not able to return to the contest.
Losing Pirri doesn’t hurt the Panthers as much as losing, say, Vincent Trochek or Jonathan Huberdeau, but there are implications with the trade deadline approaching. Pirri has the potential to become a consistent 20-goal threat in the NHL and he’s been rumored to be a possible trade chip at the deadline for the Panthers.
In late January and into February, Pirri was a healthy scratch in four consecutive games and it was believed his absence from the active lineup could have been a move to ensure his health while the Panthers worked out a trade. No deal happened, though, and Pirri was back in the lineup by Feb. 4 and has played in each of Florida’s past six games, over which time he has scored two goals and three points.
The injury comes at a bad time for Pirri, too, as it looked like he was finally gaining the trust of the coaching staff. Over his past two games, he had skated more than 18 minutes in each. It was the first time Pirri skated more than 18 minutes in consecutive contests since the final days of October. His 18:37 in Saturday’s game against Nashville was his second-most ice time of the season, and he likely would have reached season-high of at least 18:54 had he not fallen injured.
Pirri had 11 goals and 24 points in 52 games before the injury.