The Panthers will have to proceed without Mike Kitchen as they prepare for their qualification series against the New York Islanders. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers will be without assistant coach Mike Kitchen for the return to play program, announcing Monday that he has opted out. Kitchen released a short statement on his decision:

It was a difficult decision to say the least, but the right decision for me and my family.

Kitchen joined the Panthers this season after spending years alongside head coach Joel Quenneville in previous stops and has the club's full support in his decision.

A veteran of 474 regular-season games as a player, Kitchen has been an NHL assistant coach for most of the last three decades. The Panthers will have to proceed without him as they prepare for their qualification series against the New York Islanders.

This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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