« KOPECKY STILL SOLID: Goal Scoring is Done, Defensive Play is Not | Main | DEVIL OF A NIGHT: Thomas, Schneider Star although Zidlicky Gets OT Winner for Devils »

GUDBRANSON RETURNING: Panthers Still Nicked Up

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson could be back in the lineup Monday in Montreal but will do so wearing a steel cage on his helmet.

Gudbranson needed orbital bone surgery after being struck in the face by a puck Dec. 20 in Winnipeg. That was a rough trip for Gudbranson as he was slashed by a skate in Montreal a few days prior.

"We're hopeful he could play on this trip, as early as Monday,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "He'll have to wear the cage because of the surgery. You can't risk a direct hit.''

Florida's defensive depth has been receding of late with Alex Petrovic going down with an upper body injury Saturday. Horachek said Petrovic will not be on this road trip. Dylan Olsen (lower body) will not fly to Montreal but could meet the team later on in its travels.

"We're going to let [Petrovic] get some treatment and see where he is,'' Horachek said. "We'll know in the next few days. It's better to have our doctors here look at him.''

-- Winger Jesse Winchester is three weeks removed from injuring his hand blocking a shot in Montreal. He doesn't have a cast on the hand anymore and said he should be back later in the month. Winchester won't be on the trip.