HF catches up with Florida Panther Denis Shvidki

By Eugene Belashchenko

The Florida Panthers came through Washington D.C. yesterday and suffered another loss at the hands of the Capitals. The game was much closer then the trouncing the cats suffered here a couple of months ago, then losing to the Washington 12:2. In fact the Capitals were only winning 1:0 in the last minutes of the third period, when things really unraveled. But I am not writing this article as much to discuss the game, as to talk about Denis Shvidki, a young up and coming Florida player that I had a chance to talk to after the game was over.

Denis Shvidki’s promising career took a serious step back last year, when the talented forward missed the majority of the season due to a series of injuries. After a strong start in last year’s preseason, Shvidki suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the lineup for two months. Denis returned to the lineup after missing 24 games, but after several games it became painfully clear that after the long layover his conditioning wasn’t standing up to the rigors of the NHL. In late December, Florida’s management reassigned the right winger to the AHL, and that is where the final let down of an already disappointing season occurred. Just a few games after his arrival in Utah, Shvidki sustained a ruptured ligament in his right ankle and consequently missed the rest of the season. In the end, the talented winger only played 16 games of professional hockey during the 2001-02 season.

Considering these dreadful events that took place the last season, it was pleasant to see Denis Shvidki in Florida’s lineup yesterday and on the Panthers top line. The spot in the lineup did not come is to him, as Shvidki spent most of the season with Florida’s AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, periodically being recalled to the big club for a couple of games at a time. Now, as the season is winding down and the Panthers aren’t competing for a playoff spot, the speedy winger appears to be with the Panthers for the remainder of the season.

I met up with Shvidki in the visitor’s locker room after the game. During our conversation, he expressed his delight in being with the NHL team. Shvidki was very happy to be playing in a role with a lot of responsibility. The talented winger acknowledged the difficulties he had faced last season. The young forward then added, that the injuries he suffered last year are fully healed and that he is very happy to say they have not bothered him at all this season. I wish this talented forward good luck and share the significance he placed on delivering a healthy, productive year of injury free hockey. The Florida Panthers could certainly use his speed and talent.