The worst kept secret among the Florida Panthers has been the imminent return of Anthony Duclair to the lineup.
He will be back, baring any unforeseen setbacks today or tomorrow morning, against the Sabres on Friday night.
On Wednesday, Duclair was working with the third line.
The Panthers obviously do not want to mess with their second line of Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk.
But the first line?
It has not been great lately, but coach Paul Maurice is sticking with it at least for the time being.
“Barkov had 17 points in 10 games and then he had an injury,’’ Maurice said. “I think when he steps on the ice against Buffalo, he’ll be 100 percent and I think that will change.”
While Sasha Barkov missed Wednesday’s practice — likely with the hand injury he sustained Feb. 6 against the Lightning — Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart were out there.
More on Duclair’s return, Spencer Knight heading to Charlotte with Grigori Denisenko (and, perhaps Chris Tierney) and an update on the playoff race below…
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
The Florida Panthers have cleared the deck for Duclair’s impending return to the lineup on Friday night against the Sabres.
Duclair, who is running with the third line, has missed the entire season after Achilles surgery during the summer.
Florida placed Tierney on waivers and sent Denisenko to Charlotte to create enough cap space to eventually activate Duclair from LTIR on Friday.
The Panthers also assigned Knight to Charlotte — but that has nothing to do with Duclair, simply some dedicated gametime in net.
- Carter Verhaeghe had himself another big game for the Panthers on Monday as he scored the game-winner in their overtime win against Anaheim. The goal was Verhaeghe’s 30th this season with 22 games remaining. He continues to have a career season in each year since joining Florida in 2021.
- Givani Smith was struck with a puck in the face on Monday and missed practice on Wednesday. Maurice said X-rays were negative and he did not sustain a concussion.
- The Panthers went into Monday’s game without Bennett — although he is expected back Friday against the Sabres.
- Not only do we have postgame video from Monday on the FHN YouTube Channel from Maurice, Eric Staal, Marc Staal and Verhaeghe — but post-practice video from the coach and Gus Forsling. You can click the embedded videos below or click RIGHT HERE to see everything all in one place.
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NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
The New York Islanders took a three-point lead on the Panthers for WC1 as they beat the visiting Jets 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Ilya Sorokin made 25 saves as Simon Holmstrom broke the 1-1 tie in the third. New York has won its past two games.
- Alex Ovechkin returned from Russia and was back with the Washington Capitals, opening up about the death of his father.
- The Vegas Golden Knights cleared some salary cap space on Wednesday as former Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber’s contract was finally traded to Arizona.
- Did you hear? The Detroit Red Wings are in thick of the playoff race.
- Should the Calgary Flames be buyers at the NHL Trade Deadline?
- With Jake DeBrusk back, the Boston Bruins may not be looking for a forward. Eh, they will are.
- The Los Angeles Kings found some positives in their loss to the Wild.
- Who is on the Colorado Avalanche trade board?
PANTHERS ON DECK
BUFFALO SABRES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Florida leads 2-0): Panthers 4, Sabres 3 (Oct. 15); Panthers 4, Sabres 1 (Jan. 16)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 53-44-8, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Feb. 28 at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.