The Florida Panthers are getting out of their comfort zone by leaving home-sweet-home to kick off a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the host St. Louis Blues.
The Panthers have not exactly been tearing it up away from home of late, losing their past six (0-2-4) road games all the while winning nine of 10 at home.
Perhaps getting Sasha Barkov back will help.
Certainly cannot hurt.
Barkov will be activated off the injured list and will play Tuesday night per coach Andrew Brunette.
On Monday, Barkov took part in Florida’s complete practice and was running his own line (with Carter Verhaeghe and Maxim Mamin) and returned to the top power play unit.
”I was on the top line, now Barky comes back,” Jonathan Huberdeau joked. “It’s great to see him. He’s our best player and our captain.”
If Barkov was for sure not going to play, the Panthers would have practiced with someone else in those positions.
“It was nice to see him out there, we have seen him do a few days with the full practice,” Brunette said Monday.
“It’s an encouraging sign, for sure. … It could be Tuesday or Friday. We will see how he made it out of this practice. We obviously want to be cautious with him. It was a good test to see how he feels.”
The injury news looks good aside from Barkov’s imminent return.
Although Anthony Duclair is not expected to return until Friday at the earliest, defenseman Gus Forsling will be back and Olli Juolevi — who has been out since being acquired before the start of the season — should be activated to the main roster.
To make room for Barkov and Forsling being activated, Matt Kiersted and Aleksi Heponiemi were returned to AHL Charlotte.
Kevin Connauton was placed on waivers to make room for Juolevi.
”We’re going to get a look at him,” Brunette said of Juolevi. “We’ll see what happens.”
Florida could have returned Lucas Carlsson but the way he’s been playing, he is not only staying on the roster but in the lineup.
”We have a log jam and this is the hard part of the business,” Brunette said of Connauton. “He has been a great depth guy for us, is a great person and a leader. It’s one of those things where numbers (play) in.
“Ultimately, if he can go down and play, he knows the position we’re in. We value him quite a bit. If he can get his game to a level where he can help us, he knows he’ll be back.”
The Panthers head into St. Louis riding a three-game winning streak which all came at home.
Florida is 14-1 at home — which is the best record in the league — but only 3-3-3 on the road.
The Panthers are tied with playing the fewest road games in the NHL this season so there will be plenty more to come.
The Panthers need to start winning away from home.
They know this.
”We have to work harder and we’re getting some guys back,” said Huberdeau, who was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday.
“If we just stick to our gameplan and work, we have been sloppy defensively on the road. We have to be better there. Play at the same pace on the road even if we don’t have our fans with us. We need better starts.”
— The Blues are not only up against the salary cap but have been hit hard by injuries and Covid-19 positive tests.
Last week against Tampa, St. Louis had to go with the Lightning’s emergency backup goalie instead of calling up someone from the minors; tonight, the Blues are expected to play with 17 skaters instead of 18.
“The forwards are going to get a lot of ice time,” Craig Berube said per the Post-Dispatch.
“That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to play smart. You’re shorthanded. You can’t force things. You’ve got to have real good line changes. You’ve got to keep your shifts short.
— Florida Hockey Now is hosting a Panthers watch party Tuesday night at the Inn-Field Pub in Sunrise just a few blocks away from FLA Live Arena.
There will be food and drink specials throughout the game.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT ST. LOUIS BLUES
- WHEN: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
- WHERE: Enterprise Center, St. Louis
- NHL Betting Odds from FanDuel: Florida favored (PL -1.5 +172) — (ML -152) — U/O 6.5
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play
- This season: @Florida 4, St. Louis 3 (SO)
- All-time regular season series: St. Louis leads 23-12-1, 3 ties
- Up next: Florida at Arizona, Friday, 9; Detroit at St. Louis, Thursday, 8
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 98 Maxim Mamin
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 13 Sam Reinhart
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 74 Owen Tippett
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
32 Lucas Carlsson // 62 Brandon Montour
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
30 Spencer Knight
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Joe Thornton, Olli Juolevi
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Mason Marchment (IR), Anthony Duclair
PROJECTED ST. LOUIS BLUES LINEUP
20 Brandon Saad // 90 Ryan O’Reilly // 89 Pavel Buchnevich
25 Jordan Kyrou // 10 Brayden Schenn // 91 Vladimir Tarasenko
54 Dakota Joshua // 22 Logan Brown // 49 Ivan Barnashev
70 Oskar Sundqvist // 46 Jake Walman
6 Marco Scandella // 55 Colton Parayko
47 Torey Krug // 77 Niko Mikkola
48 Scott Perunovich // 41 Robert Bortuzzo
35 Ville Husso
39 Charlie Lindgren