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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Panthers Need Sam Bennett Back Against Bruins



Sam bennett
Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett is congratulated by defenseman Josh Mahura after he scored in the second period of Game 5 against the Bruins last April. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Not to sound like Captain Obvious here, but the Florida Panthers could use Sam Bennett in their playoff series against the Boston Bruins.

They may get him back from his hand injury pretty soon.

Bennett was hurt on April 23 during the second period of Florida’s 3-2 overtime Game 2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After scoring the game’s first goal and setting up the second to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead, Bennett was caught by a Brandon Montour slap shot, knocking the stick right out of his hand.

Bennett skated directly to the Florida medical room and was not seen on the ice by the viewing media until Tuesday afternoon when he joined Florida’s scratched players from Monday’s Game 1 loss to the Bruins for a conditioning skate.

He stayed on the ice a long time and was spotted putting the weight of his body on his injured hand. Bennett then fired off a lot of shots.

Coach Paul Maurice said that Bennett could return to the lineup in the coming days — but there is growing optimism for Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Enemy Lines: Follow the Bruins at Boston Hockey Now

One might recall that Bennett missed the end of the regular season in 2023 and did not play in the opener against the Bruins.

A few days before that series started, Bennett was seen on the ice trying to skate through a lower-body injury.

He looked like a 70-year-old trying to skate for the first time in decades.

There was no way Bennett would play against the Bruins, right?

Well, there he was in Game 2 of last year’s first-round series.

As he usually does in the playoffs, Bennett came to play.

At 1:42 of the second, Bennett picked up a Matthew Tkachuk chip-in while driving the net and stuffed it past Linus Ullmark.

That gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, which they eventually won 6-3, which tied the series at 1.

He could give the Panthers a similar boost tonight.

Florida needs to put more pressure on Jeremy Swayman — Boston has not announced a starting goalie yet, but, come on, it’s Swayman — and Bennett certainly helps do that.

With Bennett back in the lineup, Sam Reinhart would go back with Sasha Barkov and the Panthers would have four strong lines going into a pivotal home game against the Bruins.

Bennett is known for his play in the postseason, scoring 19 goals with 44 points in 67 games.

Last year, he scored five goals in the playoffs for the Panthers.

What makes him so good this time of year?

“He goes into the hard areas,’’ Reinhart said. “This time of year is always one where he steps up. It is those heavy games that he thrives in and does not shy away from.’’

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