TAMPA — Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville confirmed that center Noel Acciari will miss significant time after sustaining what Quenneville called a “freak” injury Tuesday night in Orlando against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s not good,” Quenneville said when initially asked about Acciari. “It’s going to be a while.”
The Panthers visit the Lightning on Thursday night and, perhaps due to the nature of the previous game, will sit a number of their star players.
Players such as Sasha Barkov, Jonathan huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar will not play.
That gives the likes of Serron Noel, Noah Juulsen and Zac Dalpe — among others — another chance to impress coaches before the roster is set as early as Sunday.
Florida will also have Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell in the lineup for the first time in a preseason game.
“We’re kind of a half-and-half tonight and be close to an opening night roster on Saturday,” Quenneville said. “A couple of guys haven’t played. We’ll get to see Joe tonight, Lundell tonight. They’ll probably get the next one too, so we’re giving these guys an opportunity. (Maxim) Mamin is back in South Florida so we will see where he’s at and he could possibly be ready as well.”
As for Acciari, it appears that he sustained a pectoral injury after trying to pull a Tampa Bay player off one of his teammates. Acciari was then taken down by Pat Maroon although video replay appears to show that the injury happened before Maroon hit him.
Quenneville said the team will have a better understanding of how long Acciari will be out in the coming days. A decision whether he will have surgery has not been determined.
“It was a freak, freak, freak thing. A very unusual injury,” Quenneville said. “It’s an extensive rehab process and we’ll see right now what the decision will be.”
Spencer Knight will start Thursday’s night game although Quenneville said Christoper Gibson will get some playing time as well — perhaps the third period and beyond. This would likely be Gibson’s final preseason appearance as Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the whole game Saturday night in Sunrise.
With Barkov out, Eetu Luostarinen appears to be centering the top line of Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair.
Reinhart, for one, said he is happy to be playing Thursday after coming over from Buffalo in a June trade.
“I think we have done a lot of things well but for me personally, I need to find my game in this new system and learn to play a way I wasn’t as used to,’’ he said. “I’m getting closer so I am excited to get another opportunity to play. … This is an important one for me. I don’t think I am right there so it is important for me to get in. I’m just excited about playing hockey right now.”
Juho Lammikko has been playing on the fourth line throughout camp but slides back into a center role on Thursday perhaps a bit of a tryout with Acciari injured. Lammikko centered Florida’s fourth line for much of the first half of the 2018-19 season after Derek MacKenzie was injured.
Lammikko appears to be centering Thornton and Owen Tippett.
“I am trying to improve my game and camp has been good so far,” Lammikko said. “When you play a bottom-6 role, you have to bring a lot of energy to the table, play physical and stuff.”
PRESEASON PANTHERS ON DECK
PANTHERS (5-0-0) AT TAMPA BAY (1-4-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3
- 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, Round 1: Tampa Bay won 4-2
- Streaming: FloridaPanthers.com