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Florida Panthers Get Key Player Back in Regular Season Finale

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Florida Panthers Carter Verhaeghe, left, celebrates with Sam Bennett (9) after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday Dec. 17, 2022, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Carter Verhaeghe will return to the lineup when the Florida Panthers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

He was initially expected to miss the rest of the regular season after leaving mid-game with an undisclosed injury on April 1, but he feels good enough to play after returning to the ice for practice on Monday.

The Panthers are not in control of their own destiny to end the season — they would need the Boston Bruins to lose to the Ottawa Senators to have a shot at the Atlantic Division title — but the message is clear from coach Paul Maurice.

They are not resting anybody and will do what they can to get the two points on their end against Toronto.

“We’ll play to win,” Maurice said. “There is something on the line for our time and we will dress everybody who is healthy and ready to go, which I like.

“I’m not a fan of sitting guys out because then you’re a week between games and I’m not a big fan of that. Verhaeghe is good to go, so he’s back in the lineup tonight.”

Verhaeghe returns to the lineup with 33 goals and 71 points in 75 games this season, with a career-high eight of those goals coming on the power play.

Florida’s power play has hit a snag in his absence, running at the third-worst clip in the league at 30 percent.

“When Carter went down, our power play went down a little bit,” Maurice said.

“He’s the fixer to it, because he can get on a puck form a corner, he is such a good skater, his puck retrieval is great and what happens is when you’re banging around and everybody things we’re trying to get it to Sam Reinhart, Verhaeghe gets it in an unusual spot and it’s bar down.”

GAME NOTES

Sasha Barkov will play on Tuesday after missing Monday’s practice due to tightness.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Aaron Ekblad will both miss Tuesday’s game but are expected to be healthy for Game 1 of the playoffs.

Nick Cousins will slide down to the fourth line with Kevin Stenlund and Jonah Gadjovich.

ON DECK

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (51-24-6) LINES

10 Vladimir Tarasenko // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk

27 Eetu Luostarinen //15 Anton Lundell // 17 Evan Rodrigues

12 Jonah Gadjovich  // 82 Kevin Stenlund //21 Nick Cousins

 42 Gus Forsling // 62 Brandon Montour 

77 Niko Mikkola //  26 Uvis Balinskis

28 Josh Mahura // 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Ryan Lomberg, Kyle Okposo, Steven Lorentz, Toby Bjornfot

Injured: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body), Aaron Ekblad (lower body)

PROJECTED TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (26-41-12) LINES

59 Tyler Bertuzzi // 34 Auston Matthews // 16 Mitch Marner

23 Matthew Knies // 91 John Tavares // 88 William Nylander

89 Nicholas Robertson // 29 Pontus Holmberg // 18 Noah Gregor

24 Connor Dewar // 64 David Kampf // 75 Ryan Reaves

44 Morgan Reilly // 46 Ilya Lybushkin

2 Simon Benoit // 22 Jake McCabe

20 Joel Edmunson // 37 Timothy Liljegren

60 Joseph Woll

35 Ilya Samsonov

Lines courtesy of Mark Masters (TSN).

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