When Noel Acciari finally made it back onto the ice for the Florida Panthers, he played in four games and then took four games off.
It was not by choice, of course, but the time off to continue getting into game shape may have been beneficial.
Acciari has now played in six consecutive games and is seeing substantial minutes centering Florida’s fourth line with Patric Hornqvist and, until Wednesday afternoon, Frank Vatrano.
Having Acciari back and playing as he did before his freak preseason injury has been a nice bonus for the Panthers.
When Acciari was hurt, he was expected to be out for most — if not all — of the regular season.
“He seems to be getting better every game,” coach Andrew Brunette said. “Even from the start of it, missing as much time as he had, he’s rounding his game into form. He is a nice luxury to have. We don’t have a lot of players like him. He is a right-handed faceoff guy, he’ll do anything — block shots, put his body on the line. He has fit in his role very well.”
Acciari was, by most accounts, a beast during rehab in trying to get back to the Florida lineup as soon as possible.
He returned to the team in December and practiced for a month before going to Charlotte to get some game work before making his seaosn debut Feb. 18 against Minnesota.
Acciari played the following game against Detroit as well but then was out of the lineup until March 5 — a time he used to continue getting stronger and more game ready.
He certainly looks to be in mid-season form.
”I am getting that game conditioning and there is no such conditioning for that than playing games,” Acciari said. “Being able to play consistent games has helped get my legs back and I have felt better as the games have gone on. I played a couple of games, got a taste of it and a feel for game situations.
“I’ll be ready whenever I am called upon. I want to keep this going. We’re on a pretty good streak right now. We have a big target on our back and know we’re going to get a team’s best game every night. We just have to be ready for it.”
KNIGHT VS. KNIGHTS?
Brunette said Tuesday night that Spencer Knight’s surprise start against the Sharks on Tuesday night was not due to Sergei Bobrovsky taking over a dozen stitches after getting hit by an errant puck on Sunday night while sitting on the bench.
Bobrovsky, Brunette said, was not feeling good and the team made the easy decision to give him the night off.
He could return tonight against Vegas although Knight is already 1-0 against the Knights and may get the start saving Bobrovsky for Friday’s game at Anaheim.
Vegas has lost its past five games.
“We’re going to make sure Bob is healthy and we will go from there,” Brunette said Wednesday afternoon. “You would like to get both guys in because it’s healthy for the stretch of the season with the amount of games we have.”
— Brunette confirmed that neither Anton Lundell nor Ryan Lomberg would be joining the Panthers for the final two games of this trip but both should be available for the next road trip which starts March 24 in Montreal.
”I don’t think they’ll be too far off,” Brunette said. “We’ll revaluate on Monday.”
With Vatrano traded to the Rangers and Ben Chiarot not available, Florida will play Maxim Mamin and Joe Thornton tonight.
Expect a call-up from Charlotte for Friday’s game. Owen Tippett, Aleksi Heponiemi and Zac Dalpe are the prime candidates for a return.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
- When: Thursday, 10:30 p.m.
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-170); Puck line (-1.5, +145); Over/Under 6.5 (-110/-110)
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Vegas leads 4-2-1
- Season Series — Florida leads 1-0: @Florida 4, Vegas 1 (Jan. 27)
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 98 Maxim Mamin
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair
17 Mason Marchment // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 13 Sam Reinhart
19 Joe Thornton // 55 Noel Acciari // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
40 Petteri Lindbohm // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Ben Chiarot
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Ryan Lomberg (IR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Anton Lundell (LBI)
Traded: Frank Vatrano (NYR)
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINEUP
71 William Karlsson // 9 Jack Eichel // 91 Jonathan Marchessault
28 Will Carrier // 20 Chandler Stephenson // 10 Nicolas Roy
63 Evgenii Dadonov // 41 Nolan Patrick // 55 Keegan Kolesar
46 Jonas Rondbjerg // 15 Jake Leschyshyn // 22 Mike Amadio
14 Nicolas Hague // 7 Alex Pietrangelo
2 Zach Whitecloud // 27 Shea Theodore
94 Brayden Pachal // 52 Dylan Coghlan
39 Laurent Brossoit
36 Logan Thompson
Vegas Golden Knights lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com