The Panthers lost superstar center and team captain Aleksander Barkov to an apparent knee injury Friday after he was on the receiving end of a hit from Ducks defenseman Jackson LaCombe. Today’s initial news regarding his status wasn’t positive – Barkov was a non-participant in practice today, per George Richards of Florida Hockey Now, and David Dwork of The Hockey News believes the team will issue a further update on Barkov’s status later today.
Barkov has been invaluable to the Panthers, notching 17 points in 16 games and leading the team with a +14 rating. Missing him for any length of time is a tough blow, especially for a squad that just reached near-total health with the returns of Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour on defense. Barkov already missed one contest this season, an October 24 contest against the Sharks, with an illness. The Panthers won that game 3-1 to reach a 3-3-0 record on the season – a pace they’ve obliterated since and now sit second in the Atlantic Division.
Florida will struggle to replace his offense if he misses significant time, as their secondary scoring outside of Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart has struggled to keep up. Outside of Evan Rodrigues, who has 13 points in 17 contests, mainly playing with Barkov, few Panthers have played up to expectations. That applies mostly to Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen, who have scored just one goal each through 17 games after strong showings in the Panthers’ run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Lundell slid up to the first line between Reinhart and Verhaeghe at practice today in Barkov’s absence, Richards said.
The latest on some other storylines in the Sunshine State:
- The Lightning saw center Anthony Cirelli return to practice today in a full-contact jersey, Chris Krenn of the team’s official site relayed. Cirelli played less than six minutes in Thursday’s win over the Blackhawks and missed Saturday’s win over the Oilers with an undisclosed injury. Winger Tyler Motte moved to center the team’s third line in Cirelli’s absence. In the first season of an eight-year, $50MM extension signed in the summer of 2022, Cirelli has posted two goals, seven points and a -1 rating in 17 contests. The 26-year-old has continued to maintain a stellar defensive profile despite the mediocre plus-minus rating, as his line with Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont has a team-high expected goals share of 78.9%, per MoneyPuck. He’s also sporting a career-high faceoff win percentage of 56.4%.
- Staying with Tampa Bay, Krenn also reports that center Luke Glendening is absent from practice today with what the team labeled “body maintenance.” Glendening, 34, logged a season-high 15:52 and scored the game-winning goal against the Oilers yesterday. The veteran shutdown man has logged two goals, no assists and a -3 rating in 18 contests with the Bolts this year after signing a two-year, $1.6MM deal in free agency last summer.