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Back to Business? Florida Panthers scheduled to return today



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The Florida Panthers are expected to be back on the ice Sunday for the first time since Dec. 17. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

When the Florida Panthers left their training facility on Dec. 17, they were awaiting word on whether they would fly to Minnesota later that afternoon or be staying home.

They were staying home.

On Sunday, the team will be back with Covid-19 testing to resume before the Panthers hit the ice at FLA Live Arena for their first practice in more than a week.

General manager Bill Zito is scheduled to speak to the media before the team begins practice at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Although there is still uncertainty on whether the NHL will move forward with its schedule — Florida’s game Monday night at Carolina has already been postponed along with all other games that day — the Panthers are expected to get back to work.

As it stands right now, the Panthers next game will come Wednesday night in Sunrise as Gerard Gallant and Artemi Panarin come to town with the New York Rangers.

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If the NHL returns to action without any more delay, Florida will play three games in a four-day span: Rangers (Wednesday), Tampa Bay (Thursday) and Montreal (Saturday).

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The Panthers come out of this break with losses in their past three games — two of which on home ice. This is the first time the Panthers (14-3 in Sunrise) have lost consecutive home games.

Of course, the Panthers were a little shorthanded in their past home game.

Florida was down seven players due to positive Covid tests in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings and, perhaps, weren’t collectively feeling too great in a shockingly bad 8-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators two nights prior.

The day after the loss to Ottawa, Florida had four players test positive; two more came the morning of the Los Angeles game. Ryan Lomberg was the first to go into Covid protocol, missing both the Ottawa and Los Angeles games.

The good news for the Panthers is that all seven of their players officially in Covid protocol (Lomberg, Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe, Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour, Radko Gudas and Frank Vatrano) should be ready to go.

The Panthers were also missing Gus Forsling with what was called a non-Covid illness.

He should be ready as well.

Florida may also get Sasha Barkov, Maxim Mamin and Mason Marchment back from injury.

If so, the Panthers would be at their healthiest in weeks.

Which would lead to some roster moves.

The Panthers, who played down two players against the Kings despite calling up four from AHL Charlotte, would have to make some room for Marchment if he is indeed ready to return.

Marchment has been out since Nov. 8 against the Rangers but coach Andrew Brunette said he was about a week away from a return when the season was put on hold.

The only three players on the active roster who can go down to Charlotte without having to clear waivers are Mamin, Anton Lundell and Owen Tippett.

Marchment is currently on long-term injury reserve, but has already missed 10 games so he can return whenever he is deemed ready.

Florida would also have to activate Barkov from IR as well as add Bennett and Montour back to the active roster.



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