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If Kulikov Suspended, Tobias Bjornfot May Make Panthers Debut

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Tobias Bjornfot, with the Los Angeles Kings, bodies up Florida center Anton Lundell during a game in Sunrise last season. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

With Aaron Ekblad out with injury and Dmitry Kulikov facing suspension for his high hit on Conor Sheary, Tobias Bjornfot could make his debut with the Florida Panthers this week.

There is an old hockey adage that you can never have too many defensemen, one reason why Florida put in a waiver claim for Bjornfot prior to the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month.

Kulikov will have a hearing with NHL Player Safety today after being ejected during the second period of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bjornfot, who turns 23 on April 6, played in 117 games with the Los Angeles Kings before being lost on waivers to the Vegas Golden Knights in January.

In part due to injury, Bjornfot only played in two games with the Golden Knights — and was going to be returned to their AHL team in Henderson when the Panthers claimed him.

“Toby is only 22 years old and was a recent first-round pick who has already played a full season in the NHL,” Florida GM Bill Zito said last Friday when Florida claimed the 22nd overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft. “We looked at him as a prospect with a pretty significant upside. We’re going to bring him in, work with him and see where it goes.’’

Bjornfot joined the Panthers last week and, while he has yet to play, says he is excited about the opportunity Florida could offer him.

When Florida is completely healthy, Bjornfot looks to be its eighth defenseman; with Ekblad out with an injury and Kulikov’s status currently up in the air, that opportunity may come on Thursday against the Nashville Predators.

“I am excited to be here, and just so pumped up. This is going to be fun,” said Bjornfot, who is from Upplands Vasby, Sweden, and says he works out with Kevin Stenlund during the summer.

“It feels good to know that they wanted me and this is a great organization. This is the best team in the league, a lot of good players here. So many good players and it is fun to be around them. This is a great group. I know a couple of guys here and they are helping me get more comfortable. We’re going to go from there.”

Evan Cormier, called up from ECHL Florida on an emergency basis Saturday, was returned to the Everblades on Sunday.

With Anthony Stolarz feeling sick Saturday morning, Cormier drove over and backed up Sergei Bobrovsky. 

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ON DECK

NASHVILLE PREDATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Nashville: Panthers 4, Predators 1 (Jan. 22). At Florida: Thursday.
  • Last Season: Nashville won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 22-14-6, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday, March 23 at New York Rangers, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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