Penrith’s run to the NRL finals has suffered a setback with key forward Chris Grevsmuhl joining a growing list of injured forwards on the sidelines.
The mid-season signing will miss Sunday’s crunch match against Newcastle with an elbow injury that could rule the former South Sydney player out for up to a month.
Prop Suaia Matagi will be added to the 17 after recovering from a foot issue.
“Particularly this week with Chris missing out, that’s a real bonus for us,” Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.
Grevsmuhl, who has become a critical member of Penrith’s line-up since moving to the club in June, enters a casualty ward that also includes Sam McKendry and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Jeremy Latimore is just one game back from a foot injury, while Matagi was forced to miss last week’s win over the Sydney Roosters.
Griffin said Campbell-Gillard was close to returning against the Knights.
“With a short turnaround, he’ll probably play on Friday (against Wests Tigers),” he said.
The Panthers sit in eighth spot on the ladder following Gold Coast’s win over the Wests Tigers and, with just four games to go in the regular season, must win to stay in the top eight.
In his first year in charge at the club, Griffin said he was simply excited that his team was in contention to make their second finals series in six seasons.
“We’ve been in and out for most of the year, on the edge of the eight,” he said.
“It’s certainly been more exciting, as the year comes to a close, that we put ourselves in there with a chance.”
Winners of three of their past four, the Panthers meet a Knights side aiming to avoid breaking more unwanted records in a disastrous season.
After losing a club record 14th straight game last week, Newcastle are now in danger of equalling their longest losing streak at home with seven.
And with just one win on the board this year, they could also have the fewest wins of any team in the NRL era, a record owned by the Rabbitohs’ three wins in 2003 and 2006.
Hooker Tyler Randell returns from a rib injury to replace Danny Levi, while Mitchell Barnett comes back from suspension for co-captain Jeremy Smith (calf).
STATS THAT MATTER
* Since the beginning of 2006, 12 of the 15 matches between these two sides have been decided by double figure margins.
* The Knights have conceded the first try in eight of their nine home games this season, including each of the past six.
* If Newcastle are held scoreless, they will equal the all-time record of four games in a season scoring zero points. Only five other teams have suffered the feat.