For the first time since his freak shoulder injury during the preseason, Noel Acciari will return to the ice as the Florida Panthers take on the Minnesota Wild.
“He took a lot of time out to rehab and the process was ahead of schedule, so we’re really excited to have him back,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said.
“He is such a big part of our group, he’s such a good teammate and he’ll do anything it takes to help our team win.”
Acciari suffered a freak shoulder injury while separating a pile of players during a skirmish in Florida’s preseason tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Orlando.
Pat Maroon put salt on the wound, unknowingly, by pushing Accairi to the ice where he appeared to hit the back of his head.
The “freak incident,” as Acciari coined it, required surgery and he was expected to be out until April.
But come mid-February, the hard-nosed, penalty killing forward was ready to return.
“I think it speaks to his character as a teammate, as a player, and how much he loves the game,” Brunette said.
“He couldn’t wait to get back and he has been chomping at the bit here, so kudos to him. It was impressive to see him come back.”
Just nine weeks after the surgery, Acciari was already back on the ice.
In December, he was skating ahead of practice and slowly working back at the training facility to get back in the lineup.
“We didn’t see him that much at the beginning because he was rehabbing his shoulder away from the team, but then he started coming back and skating in the facilities with us,” Sasha Barkov said.
“He’s a great guy to have around and we’re all happy when he’s with us, and now that he’s back in the lineup, it’s even better.”
Although Acciari is known for his success in the face-off dot, he will play right wing tonight.
He will skate on the fourth line alongside Ryan Lomberg and Eetu Luostarinen.
“He was a huge part of our team and it was tough to see him go down early in training camp and missing him for such a long time,” Barkov said.
“But now he is back and the boys are excited to see him. He skated in the optional today, so that’s a good sign.”
Morning Skate Updates
- Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal on Friday against the Minnesota Wild, Jonas Johansson will back him up.
- Owen Tippett, OllI Juolevi and Frank Vatrano are healthy scratches; Joe Thornton and Maxim Mamin remain on Injured Reserve.
- Patric Hornqvist is set to play on the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett, per Jameson Olive.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT MINNESOTA WILD
- When: Friday, 8 p.m.
- Where: Xcel Energy Center; St. Paul, Minn.
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Streaming Only: ESPN+/Hulu
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Fanduel’s NHL odds — Florida favored: Puck line (-1.5, +184); Money line (-134); Over/Under 7 (+110/-134)
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Wild lead 18-7-2, 1 tie
- This season — Florida leads 1-0: @Florida 5, Minnesota 4 (Nov. 20)