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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

If Sam Bennett is Out, Florida Panthers Have Options



Florida panthers
Sam Bennett left Tuesday’s game early in the second period after catching a slap shot from teammate Brandon Montour and did not return. If he misses time, the Panthers do have some options. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — Sam Bennett was having a playoff game for the ages on Tuesday night. Then, things went south for the Florida Panthers center.

After scoring the opening goal and setting up Vladimir Tarasenko for the second, Bennett caught a slapshot from teammate Brandon Montour either in the hand or wrist early in the second period of the Panthers eventual 3-2 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bennett immediately dropped his stick, grabbed his arm, and skated off the ice. He did not return to the game.

“He was rolling,’’ coach Paul Maurice said afterward, “and that line was good.”

Maurice could give an update on Bennett’s status when he meets the media this afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, but he did not offer one late Tuesday night.

If Bennett is out for the near future, what would the Panthers do?

Fortunately for Florida, they have options.

The Panthers are relatively deep at center with Anton Lundell — who plans to speak Wednesday as well — filling in for Bennett in the past, and again on Tuesday night.

Lundell seems to be a natural move to center Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk, with Kevin Stenlund moving up to center the third line.

Ryan Lomberg is expected to return to the lineup after missing Tuesday with an illness; Steven Lorentz would be a pretty solid option to remain in and center the fourth line with Stenlund sliding up.

Eetu Luostarinen could also play center — as could Sam Reinhart, in a pinch.

“You have two lines that were really difficult to handle, so we missed [Bennett] when he came out of the rotations,” Maurice said.

“If there is a positive with it, we played a lot of hockey without Sam Bennett for the past year-and-a-half. He has had some unusual timeouts that we have been able to survive. We’re fortunate that Stenlund and Lorentz stepped up, two big centermen who can step up and play for us. Lundy can handle that job. We don’t want to be doing it for the remainder, but we are capable of doing it.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa 
  • Local TV/National TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/TBS/HBOMax
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • First Round (Panthers Lead 1-0) — Game 1: Panthers 3, Lightning 2; Game 2: Florida 3, Tampa Bay 2 OT; Game 3: Thursday at Tampa Bay, 7 (BSF, TBS); Game 4: Saturday at Tampa Bay, 5 (BSF, TBS, TruTV); Game 5*: Monday at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 6*: Wednesday May 1 at Tampa Bay, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 7*: Saturday May 4 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA). (*) — If necessary
  • 2023-24 Regular Season Series (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27)Panthers 9, Lightning 2 (Feb. 17). At Florida: Lightning 5, Panthers 3 (March 16).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 77-51-19, 10 ties
  • All-Time Postgame Series: Lightning Leads 2-0 (2021 first-round, 2022 ECS)

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