BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The National Hockey League officially cancelled all preseason games through Sept. 30 because of its most recent labor dispute.
The NHL locked out its players for the third time since 1994 last Sunday morning when the shared collective bargaining agreement expired after seven seasons.
The Florida Panthers were scheduled to open training camp on Friday with players reporting for physicals. The first on-ice workout was to come on Saturday morning.
The cancellations of the first week of exhibition games does affect the Panthers. Florida was set to host Nashville in a double-header at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Sept. 24. The Panthers were then to travel to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio to play the Dallas Stars on Sept. 28 then visit Dallas the following day.
The Panthers still have preseason games scheduled against the Lightning in Tampa (Oct. 2), Estero (Oct. 4) and Sunrise (Oct. 6).
With the most recent announcement from the league, many more players are expected to head to Europe to play in various professional leagues. Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said Wednesday that he'll likely be playing in Russia by next week.
Panthers' forwards Sean Bergenheim (Finland) and Marcel Goc (Germany) could go soon as well.
"My agent is in negotiations and we're close,'' Kulikov said. "I just want to play. Sitting around, that's not for me.''