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Florida Panthers Pregame: Barkov could join Huberdeau as NHL All-Star



Huberdeau panthers all star
Jonathan Huberdeau celebrates Sasha Barkov’s first career NHL hat trick in 2018. On Thursday, Huberdeau was selected for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game and Barkov can still be voted in. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE — For the second time in his 10-year career, Jonathan Huberdeau will represent the Florida Panthers in the NHL All-Star Game.

“Obviously, representing the team is always fun and it’s an honor,” Huberdeau said.

“That means your season is going well and I feel with us, there were a lot of options and there are some guys that should be there, but I’m excited to go there and have fun.”

Huberdeau is currently the fifth-highest scorer in the NHL with 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) through 36 games this season.

“I’ve been very fortunate coming here and coaching him,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette, who will be joining Huberdeau in Vegas, said.

“From coaching against him to being upstairs and watching him play a lot, and I’ve always loved his game. I think he’s one of the best playmakers in the league and the way he goes about his business, creates plays, and finds space is incredible.”

Huberdeau, who has the most points in Florida’s franchise history with 545 points in 627 games, is going to the All-Star Game for the second consecutive time.

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”I was definitely excited for him,” teammate Sam Bennett said. “It was obviously well-deserved, he’s been unbelievable this year, and he deserves it more than anyone.”

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To many, it may be surprising that Huberdeau only played in two All-Star Games given the caliber of player he is, but the NHL’s set-up limits the number of players per team as every team must have a representative at the event.

While the Atlantic Division’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning were among the teams that are set to send multiple players to the All-Star Game, Florida was not as lucky.

Despite having the league’s best record at the time of roster selection, the Panthers will only be sending Huberdeau to Vegas to represent them in the All-Star Game for now.

“I’m disappointed, but also understanding of how the system works,” Brunette said. “It’s probably not fair to these guys, we could’ve had three, four, or five guys if it had expanded rosters.

“A lot of these guys deserve more accolades and we’re an off-the-radar kind of team still, so maybe we don’t get as much respect as we think we deserve.”

Florida still could have one more representative, however.

If voted in, captain Sasha Barkov could join him through the NHL’s Last Men In campaign.

“Not sure how it works, obviously you need a guy from every team,” Huberdeau said. “Barkov should be there every year and hopefully Last Men In can be one of us.”

Despite missing 13 games due to injury, Barkov has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games so far this season.

When asked to make a pitch for Barkov to land the final All-Star spot in the Atlantic Division, Bennett didn’t need much convincing.

”I don’t think I have to make much of a pitch. All you have to do is watch a game and you’ll see why he deserves to be in the All-Star Game,” Bennett said.

”Every single game, he proves that he’s an all-star and he does something special. He makes it fun to watch, you so don’t have to sell it too much.”

Morning Skate Updates

  • Spencer Knight returned from the Covid-19 protocols list on Friday morning and will be backing up Sergei Bobrovsky, who will get the starter’s crease on Friday against the Stars.
  • Carter Verhaeghe skated after being given a maintenance day, he will be in the lineup alongside Barkov and Sam Reinhart on the first line.
  • Patric Hornqvist returned from Covid protocols and will be in the lineup. Aleksi Heponiemi moved back to the taxi squad to make room for him.
  • Mason Marchment, who re-joined the team from Covid protocols, will remain out on Friday as he continues to work his way back in the lineup. Brunette hopes he will be back either on Saturday or on the upcoming road trip that begins on Tuesday.
  • With Jonas Johansson on Covid protocol, Florida officially signed ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits goalie Evan Fitzpatrick to a one-year, two-way contract. Fitzpatrick was placed on the taxi squad.



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