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GameDay 37: Lineups, Betting Odds for Stars at Panthers

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The Florida Panthers will have veteran forward Patric Hornqvist back in the lineup Friday against the Dallas Stars after he missed the past few games due to a positive Covid test. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

CORAL SPRINGS — The Florida Panthers continue to deal with positive Covid-19 tests, but going into Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars, have seen their list shrink considerably.

On Thursday, goalie Jonas Johansson was added to Covid protocol but he may be the only one.

Florida not only had Mason Marchment and Patric Hornqvist back on the ice Thursday but Spencer Knight returned Friday morning.

Evan Fitzpatrick, playing for Florida’s ECHL Greenveville Swamp Rabbits, was called up and was on the ice Friday just in case Knight could not go.

Florida signed Fitzpatrick to a one-year, two-way deal and assigned him to the taxi squad.

With the Panthers being as healthy as they have been all season — even Noel Acciari practiced on Thursday — general manager Bill Zito is going to have to do some more shuffling.

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If everyone was to return Friday, the Panthers have more healthy players than they have roster space.

Which is not a bad thing at all.

Andrew Brunette said Friday morning that Marchment may not play against the Stars which allows the Panthers to keep the roster right where it is for the time being.

Brunette added if Marchment does not play Friday, he likely would Saturday against Columbus.

Acciari is not one of the players needing a spot.

At least not yet.

Still on the long-term injured reserve after a freak preseason injury against the Lightning in Orlando, Acciari played among the defensemen on Thursday due to the Panthers having so many healthy forwards.

MacKenzie Weegar, for one, was impressed by Acciari’s defensive acumen.

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Florida Panthers center Noel Acciari is down on the ice after being hurt pulling a Tampa Bay player off a pile during a preseason game in Orlando on Oct. 5. —Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire

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“Ten out of 10,” Weegar said. “He steps up in the middle, holds guys accountable. He’s got a great stick. Maybe he’s got a job on the back end helping the boys out. … He’s such a big part to our team. It was all smiles when we saw him out there.’’

Said Andrew Brunette: “I don’t think he’d ever played defense,” Brunette chuckled. “We wanted to get him moving.”

Acciari, who had surgery but has been skating for some time, is not expected back perhaps until after the March trade deadline although Brunette said he could return next month.

Brunette added that Acciari will likely travel on the team’s upcoming (maybe) road trip to western Canada and continue practicing with the team.

“It was great to see him on the ice,” Brunette said. “I think he’s ahead of schedule.”

Carter Verhaeghe was missing from practice on Thursday with Brunette saying it was simply a maintenance day.

He is expected to return to the top line with Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart on Friday.

— Hornqvist was back in his spot on the right side of the fourth line along with Eetu Luostarinen and Ryan Lomberg.

With Florida playing Columbus on Saturday night, Joe Thornton could get back in the lineup for that game.

Mason Marchment is back — and the Panthers are thrilled. Marchment has only played three games since Nov. 8 due to an injury and then a positive Covid test.

— With Sergei Bobrovsky and the team’s emergency backup goalie the only netminders at practice on Thursday, one can assume Bobrovsky gets the start Friday against the Stars.

And so he will.

Bobrovsky was on his game Tuesday, stopping 42 of 44 shots in the 5-2 win against Vancouver.

“He was as sharp as I’ve seen him,’’ Brunette said. “He was outstanding. He made some huge saves in crucial moments. He’s been great all year for us. It’s nice to see him have some fun.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS 

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart

11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair

77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 98 Maxim Mamin

94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist

52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad

42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas

4 Olli Juolevi // 62 Brandon Montour

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

30 Spencer Knight

Scratched: Joe Thornton, Lucas Carlsson, Owen Tippett

Taxi squad: Aleksi Heponiemi, Evan Fitzpatrick

Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)

Covid Protocol: Jonas Johansson, Mason Marchment

PROJECTED DALLAS STARS LINEUP

21 Jason Robertson // 24 Roope Hintz // 16 Joe Pavelski

40 Jacob Peterson // 14 Jamie Benn // 91 Tyler Seguin

18 Michael Raffl // 12 Radek Faksa // 11 Luke Glendening

64 Tanner Kero // 49 Rhett Gardner // 25 Joel Kiviranta

20 Ryan Suter // 3 John Klingberg

23 Esa Lindell // 4 Miro Heiskanen

5 Andrej Sekera // 2 Jani Hakanpaa

29 Jake Oettinger

35 Anton Khudobin

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