Florida Panthers team captain Aleksander Barkov has been given the green light to hit the ice in tonight’s potentially series-clinching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, head coach Paul Maurice said today. Barkov’s status update comes after he missed most of Florida’s 1-0 Game 3 win, sustaining a lower-body injury on a first-period hit from Hurricanes forward Jack Drury.
The 27-year-old Finnish center’s leadership and two-way acumen have proven invaluable to the team’s success, displayed most recently by a highlight-reel goal in Game 2. His four goals and eight assists for 12 points are third on the team in playoff scoring behind linemate Carter Verhaeghe and Hart Trophy finalist Matthew Tkachuk.
The 2021 Selke Trophy winner will log heavy minutes tonight as he looks to advance to the first Stanley Cup Final of his career.
- Dallas Stars forward Evgenii Dadonov is listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s must-win Game 4, according to head coach Peter DeBoer. Dadonov left the game after sustaining a lower-body injury in a collision with teammate Roope Hintz while Dallas was on a power play and did not return. If captain Jamie Benn is suspended for his cross-check on Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone today, Stars forward Fredrik Olofsson would draw into the lineup and make his playoff debut if Dadonov can’t go.
- On the other side of the Dallas/Vegas coin, Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy also said today that forward Brett Howden’s status for tomorrow is uncertain. Howden, who’s been elevated to a top-six role and has six points in 14 games, aggravated a lower-body injury yesterday and didn’t play in the third period. Either Michael Amadio or Phil Kessel could return to the lineup if he’s unable to go.
The Panthers are in a great position. Play it safe & rest Barkov for game 4. If they lose bring him back for game 5. If they win he gets even more rest before the Final starts.