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.
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.
“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
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
- NHL Betting Odds from FanDuel: Florida favored (Puck Line -1.5 +118) — (Money Line -220) — Over/Under 6.5 (-102/-120)
- Last season: Florida won 6-2
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 23-19-2, 3 ties
- This season: @Dallas 6, Florida 5 (SO), Jan 6
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