SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers had one of their top players back on the ice Thursday as Sam Bennett returned to practice.
Bennett, who has been out since getting hurt in a preseason game Oct. 5 in Tampa, was in a familiar spot centering Florida’s second line with Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkahcuk.
“It is good to have him back,’’ coach Paul Maurice said.
If Bennett feels good following Thursday’s intense practice, he should be able to go Saturday against the visiting Seattle Kraken.
“It feels great, obviously when you are out for a while just skating with the injured guys, you really get to miss being out there,” Bennett said. “It felt great to be out there with them again. It is exciting, it feels like the begining of the season. I have been skating with the injured guys so now I have to ramp it up and get ready to go.’’
The Panthers have missed having Bennett out there with Eetu Luostarinen filling his spot.
With Bennett back, the Panthers are expected to have Luostarinen on the third line with center Anton Lundell and Nick Cousins.
The Panthers were again without captain Sasha Barkov on Thursday although instead of doing any major shuffling to the lines, Steven Lorentz was brought up from the fourth line to fill in.
Barkov, who missed Monday’s game with an illness, could be back on the ice today.
The Panthers were also without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov due to illness.
“He is feeling better,’’ Maurice said. “Kulikov was the same way; we got them in, got them checked out and then get them out of the room as fast as possible.’’
Bennett was not the only player back on the ice for the first time this regular season as new forward Jonah Gadjovich practiced as well.
Gadjovich, signed to an NHL contract last week, is still recovering from an injury he sustained playing for the Sharks last season.
He could be ready to go next month.
“He is still a ways from being 100 percent ready to play,’’ Maurice said.
PANTHERS ON DECK
SEATTLE KRAKEN @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
- This Season: @ Florida, Saturday; @ Seattle, Dec. 12
- Last season: Tied 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Seattle leads 3-1-0
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Boston, 7