Florida Panthers Captain Sasha Barkov Says Hischier Hit Not Dirty
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SUNRISE — Florida Panthers captain Sasha Barkov is expected to be back in the lineup Thursday night after missing the past three games after being hit in the knee by New Jersey’s Nico Hischier on Dec. 17.
Barkov was hit when Hischier used his stick to chop at Barkov’s knee during a faceoff in the dying seconds of the first period in Florida’s win over the Devils in Newark.
Although some people didn’t take kindly to it — including his own teammates — Barkov did not think the play was malicious or a cheap shot.
”I don’t think Nico is a dirty player,” Barkov said.
”Of course, I don’t think it was intentional or anything. It was a battle situation and I don’t think he wanted to injure me. It happens in hockey but everyone is over it now.”
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Florida’s star center has been in and out of the lineup for the past month and a half after he missed seven games after contracting pneumonia.
He has missed 10 of Florida’s last 19 games.
It has been a stretch where the usually efficient goal scorer has struggled to find consistency in to the tune of just two goals since Nov. 15 and six all season.
Florida has gone 2-6-2 without its captain.
”You don’t want to think about it,” Barkov said. ”You just want to get back to what you’ve been doing. And, yeah, it’s not an ideal situation, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The Panthers are 6-10-3 since Barkov became sick as a flu bug worked its way throughout the locker room.
A total of 10 players have missed time with injury or illness during that time but Florida is expected to have its cleanest bill of health coming out of the holiday break since Opening Night.
“You can survive without your best players — you can grind and you have to when you are out of the lineup,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“But you take two of the top three centermen (Anton Lundell) off every team and you run them for 10 games and you are going to be challenged.”
In addition to Barkov, the Panthers are expected to get Radko Gudas back after he missed 10 games with a concussion.
Aaron Ekblad appeared to sustain a shoulder injury Friday against the Islanders but has been practicing with the team the past two days and is also expected to play.
It is just about the closest the Panthers have been to full-strength all season, now just missing Anthony Duclair (Achilles) and Patric Hornqvist (concussion) with long-term injuries heading into the New Year.
“We know it won’t stay that way, but it’s nice to see what we could be,” Maurice said.
PANTHERS ON DECK
MONTREAL CANADIENS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 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
- Last season: Florida won 3-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 51-38-11, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Dec. 30 at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m.
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