Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad, the team's leading goal-scorer, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his injured back, the team announced Friday.
The Panthers currently sit three points behind the Ottawa Senators for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They have eight games left in the regular season.
"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 general manager Dale 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."
Tallon said Bjugstad will be ready for the start of training camp in September.
Bjugstad, 22, had played in all of Florida's games before sitting out on Tuesday and Thursday. He leads the Panthers with 24 goals and is second on the team with 43 points.
The Panthers signed Bjugstad to a six-year contract extension in December, reportedly worth more than $24 million.
- Dan Gartland