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Breaking News: Stephen Weiss out for rest of the season


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Weiss likely out remainder of regular season

Center Stephen Weiss will have surgery next week to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. He hopes to return for the playoffs -- if Florida can get there without him.




If the Florida Panthers are going to make a run at the playoffs, they'll have to do it without center Stephen Weiss.


Weiss is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday in New York to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. Dr. Charles Melone, a renowned hand specialist, is to perform the operation.


Weiss hopes to return for the postseason, if the Panthers get there.


''I have a lot of confidence in this team that we're going to do it,'' said Weiss, fourth on the team in scoring. ``We have a good schedule coming up at home, and if we can string a few together and get hot like we were not too long ago, we could be right there.''


Weiss has missed the past four games and doesn't remember when his wrist was injured.


''It was sore for about two months,'' he said. ``I was playing until I couldn't play anymore.''


Weiss visited Melone last week and had an MRI on Monday when the team returned to South Florida. He wasn't surprised by the news, just forlorn.


''It's terrible,'' he said. ``It's important time of the season. This is the best time of the season to be playing. We're right in the hunt.


``I'll do everything I can to be back in time for [the playoffs]. But at the same time, I'm not going to try to be a hero and come back and play if it's not ready. Then you're just out again. I understand that part of it, but it depends on where we are when it's time to come back. If we are right there, I'm going to be pushing to get back as soon as I can.''




The Panthers said they won't rely on one player to make up for the loss of Weiss, but they hope the overall play of several players will help ease the burden.


''We have a lot of guys on this team who can step up and do the job for us, and we have a lot of guys who have been there before and who know what it takes,'' Weiss said.


The committee approach tends to work with a team such as the Panthers, whose coach, Jacques Martin, is continuously swapping parts to find the best combination.


''He hasn't played for four games, so we have been playing without him,'' center Olli Jokinen said of Weiss. ``I don't like to think that losing one guy or two guys is an excuse. I don't like excuses. Every team goes through [injuries]. It's time for other guys to step it up.''


Still, Weiss, who had nine goals and 12 assists, will be missed. He anchors the second line and has been essential on power plays and penalty kills.


''It's definitely going to make it more difficult [to get to the playoffs],'' left wing Gary Roberts said.


``I think he is probably our smartest hockey player. He's a real key guy killing penalties and a good guy on the power play. Overall, he's a real great young talent, and we're going to miss him for sure.


``Hopefully, other guys playing that position are going to get more of an opportunity and show they can play in that role also. It's going to take a lot of guys collectively to make up for the loss of Stephen for sure.''




The Panthers are five points behind Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 37 games left. They can start making their push this week with home games against St. Louis and Columbus.


The Panthers have eight centers on their roster, and Martin thinks that is enough to get the team in the playoffs without Weiss. He has used Joe Nieuwendyk as his second-line center and recently moved Chris Gratton from wing back to center on the third line.


''I would think he would be ready for the playoffs,'' Martin said. ``It hurts, but at the same time, that's why we have some depth, especially at center. That's the one position we have the most depth. It's an opportunity for someone else.''


Goalie Robert Luongo, who has a sore ankle, took the day off Tuesday.



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