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Florida Panthers Pregame: Olli Juolevi to miss Vancouver return

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Florida Panthers defensemen Olli Juolevi (right) and Brandon Montour battle Vancouver’s Matt Highmore and former Panther center Juho Lammikko earlier this month at FLA Live Arena. // Roger Lee Photography (561) 866-2000

Olli Juolevi was set to make his return to Vancouver after being traded to the Florida Panthers on October 10, but it looks like it will have to wait until next season.

On Thursday, the 23-year-old defenseman was placed on Injured Reserve by the Panthers meaning he has to miss a week at least.

Per interim coach Andrew Brunette, Juolevi suffered a lower-body injury during Tuesday’s loss to the Calgary Flames that flared up just after morning skate on Thursday.

Brunette said he was day-to-day, but the injured reserve designation will keep him out until at least Nov. 27.

While Vancouver’s 2016 fifth overall pick joined the team in mid-October, he didn’t get to play his first game with the Panthers until Dec. 10.

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That was because he was dealing with a nagging injury he had since before arriving in Sunrise that kept him off of the ice for two months prior to his Florida debut.

“It’s a bit of a process here, but the team is playing well, so it’s easy to jump in with those guys,” Juolevi said. “I just try to learn every day about the system and I’m feeling pretty comfortable right now.”

Juolevi jumped into the lineup for the next five games, albeit playing in a limited role on the third pair during that time.

In Florida’s Dec. 12 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, he played just 4:33 while in the Dec. 16 game against the Los Angeles Kings where the Panthers played with just five defensemen, he had just 12:01 of ice-time, the lowest of any of the five defensemen by nearly 10 minutes.

When Florida returned from the pause in their season due to the Covid-19 outbreak that caused them to be shorthanded, it seemed as if he was beaten out by Lucas Carlsson.

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Florida Panthers defenseman Olli Juolevi gives some love to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky following Florida’s win over Juolevi’s former Vancouver teammates earlier this month. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

Carlsson got the nod to be in the lineup in five of Florida’s six games following the break, but he got his chance when the Panthers played his former Canucks on Jan. 11.

After logging 16:41 in a 5-2 win over Vancouver, he got the nod to be Brandon Montour’s regular partner on the third pair for the next three games.

“It’s been good, I think we really had a couple of good games there,” Juolevi said.

Juolevi was set to get a bigger opportunity after Gus Forsling was placed on the Covid list on Wednesday, but that opportunity will now go to Matt Kiersted, who was called up by the team ahead of Thursday’s game.

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