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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Panthers at Bruins, Game 3: Sam Bennett Still in the Mix to Return



Sam bennett panthers
Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark drops to the ice on a goal by Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett during the second period of Game 2 of the first-round on April 19, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON — Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett will be a game-time decision for Game 3 of the team’s second-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Bennett has been out of the Panthers lineup since Game 2 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning after taking a Brandon Montour slap shot off the hand.

He participated in the team’s morning skate on Friday, skating on a line with the team’s healthy scratches, but received a good prognosis from coach Paul Maurice.

“He was good this morning. He felt really good,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We‘ll let him nap, get him through warm-ups and we will make a decision then.”

Bennett has been known to be an impact player in the playoffs for Florida, scoring five goals and 15 points in 20 games in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last season before adding a goal and an assist in Game 2 of the Tampa series before he left with his injury.

But it will be a hard decision for Maurice to make as far as who to take out.

Florida’s fourth line of Nick Cousins, Kyle Okposo and Steven Lorentz has made big plays in big moments throughout Bennett’s absence, scoring two crucial goals to help win Game 3 against Tampa while being a consistent presence throughout the first two games of this series.

Lorentz scored the goal that tied the game and got the Panthers going in their 6-1 win over the Bruins on Wednesday.

It is likely that one of Lorentz or Okposo would be the odd man out upon Bennett’s return.

“It’s one of those decisions where there’s no easy answer,” Maurice said. “I’ve thought about it for a while because we had a pretty good idea that Sam would be back almost at this time and then we get into the Tampa series and the fourth line scores two goals one night and is the difference in the game for us.

“It got a little wobbly for us [at times], but I am going to end up taking a player out of the lineup who doesn’t deserve to one out. But Sam Bennett is not watching games if he’s ready to play, he’s playing. So it’s going to be tough.”

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