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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Matthew Tkachuk Does Not Practice, Status with Panthers for Game 5 Unknown

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Tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk celebrates his overtime goal with Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on May 20. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice was quick to say there would be no updates on his injured players, most notably Matthew Tkachuk, following Monday’s workout in Las Vegas prior to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday night.

The health of Tkachuk is the biggest concern among the Panthers right now as the star forward is playing with what is thought to be an injured shoulder.

His status for Game 5 is unknown although Maurice said “everyone is playing (Tuesday) as of today.”

On Thursday night in Game 3, Tkachuk appeared to be hurt after landing hard on the ice following a collision with Keenan Kolesar.

He did return for Game 3 and ended up scoring the game-tying goal late in the third. But his playing time was restricted in Game 4 on Saturday.

Tkachuk did not practice with the Panthers on Monday but Maurice explained that away to everything being optional at this point of the playoffs.

What if Tkachuk cannot go on Tuesday night?

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The Panthers are on the verge of elimination as they go into Game 5 trailing in this series to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Florida already is playing behind the proverbial 8-ball.

The possibility of playing without Tkachuk only puts them in a tougher spot.

“Everybody goes through it,’’ Maurice said. “When you into December and you lose Barkov and Lundell, then you lose Barkov and Bennett. Then you lose Barkov two minutes into a playoff game in Carolina. It starts there.

“You have had people out of the lineup — important people — and found ways to be successful. You have belief. If you didn’t have that happen to you all year, the first time an important player comes out of the lineup, it’s a big deal.”

The Panthers had a new face on the ice Monday what with a number of players not taking part in the Game 5 practice as 2018 first-round pick Grigori Denisenko was filling in on the fourth line.

Denisenko has only played in 19 NHL games with Florida, but 18 of them came this season. He has three assists.

Florida also did not have Nick Cousins nor Eetu Luostarinen on the ice Monday.

Luostarinen had not played since blocking a shot in the second period of Game 4 against Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals and is not expected to play Tuesday.

Denisenko may be a fresh option the Panthers are looking at after he had 12 goals with 36 points playing for AHL Charlotte this season.

“We have a group of guys who have been around us the whole playoffs, they have been watching the games,’’ Maurice said.

“Now they get into the inner circle. What’s important is, whether he plays or doesn’t, he is traveling with that group of 25 and you get to see how they interact with each other, how they act when you get that closeness. They get to see that as normal and as right. You get to learn.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 
GAME 5 (Vegas leads 3-1)

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