Benji Marshall is expected to be rushed back into St George Illawarra's team for Thursday's must-win NRL clash against Penrith.
Without playmaker Marshall (hamstring) the Dragons were humbled 32-6 by Brisbane on Friday, leaving them hanging grimly onto their spot in the eight.
Coach Paul McGregor's decision to start forward Jack de Belin in the halves backfired against the competition leaders, who led 32-0 before back-up playmaker Drew Hutchinson was finally introduced into the game.
The Dragons are now locked in a battle to keep surging Manly at bay in the race for a finals berth, ahead of the ninth-placed Sea Eagles only on points differential.
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan said on Monday he expected Marshall to return and make an instant impact.
"It was just a small tear, so really he was only looking at one or two weeks out anyway," Dugan said.
"Benji's pretty professional in that way, and he's been doing everything he can and I'll be expecting him to play on Thursday."
Dugan warned his teammates to prepare for anything from a Panthers side now out of finals reckoning.
"With teams that are outside the eight, you never know what they're going to do, whether they're going to turn up and play ad lib footy and throw the ball around," he said.
"We've just got to be ready for anything, do our own jobs and know our own roles in that."
The Dragons have an easy run home that includes matches against Penrith, Gold Coast and the Wests Tigers.