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Sam Reinhart Shines with his Old Florida Panthers Linemates

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Sam Reinhart celebrates his 51st goal of the season Tuesday after Eetu Luostarinen (27) sent a slick pass through traffic to a waiting Reinhart at the net front. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — When Sasha Barkov missed three games with an injury, the Florida Panthers reunited Sam Reinhart with some old friends.

They liked what they saw from Reinhart, Eetu Luostarinen, and Anton Lundell enough to keep the trio together when Barkov returned on Tuesday night.

In those three games, that line combined for three goals.

“It started on the road trip with Barkov out, when we got three of four points against playoff teams,” coach Paul Maurice said. “A lot of times, they will run up against the other team’s best, and they are happy about it, and we are too. It puts us at an advantage whether we are on the home or the road.”

Reinhart added another goal in the team’s 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, courtesy of a slick feed through traffic from Luostarinen.

“I think we just work hard as a line,” Luostarinen said. “We played there last year, too, so it helps a little bit.”

Lundell and Luostarinen looked at their best all season, this year and last, next to Reinhart.

With the Panthers opting to play Reinhart on the top line with Barkov — and it paying off to the tune of a 50-goal season for him — the two young Finns went through some growing pains.

Both had to adjust to carrying the load on their line after the primary driver of it, Reinhart, got promoted and replaced with a rotating cast of characters throughout the season.

Luostarinen’s career-high of 17 goals and 43 points from 2022-23 are down to 12/22 through 72 games this season.

Lundell, at nine goals and 29 points through 68 games, is close to matching his totals of 12 goals and 21 points in 73 games last year.

The 22-year-old will be a restricted free agent for the first time following the season.

“Some of it is offensive belief,” Maurice said. “I also think, for Lundy, in his contract year, there was more pressure for him early to get off to that offensive start, and when that doesn’t happen, there is a tendency to lose a little confidence. I think that happened with Lundell and then he’s bounced back.”

But the two of them have scored their fair share of big goals, especially in the postseason, and that bodes well for their confidence heading down the stretch.

Luostarinen scored the go-ahead goal with 5:38 to go in a 7-5 win Game 6 of the first round against the Boston Bruins, which ultimately ended up being one of the biggest goals of the team’s entire run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Lundell started a Florida rally from a two-goal deficit in Game 2 against the Maple Leafs in a 3-2 deficit in Round 2, then picked up the primary assist on Reinhart’s overtime winner in Game 3 a few days later.

“They have scored enough huge goals that they believe they can,” Maurice said. “They can defend and score.

“In Toronto, they scored the goal that made it 2-1, which might be the most important goal we scored in that series. It started the process of getting us home up 2 -0 and for the other team, winning four of the next five is a big ask. So they have some big goals in their history.”

With the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko at the trade deadline, the Panthers can feel more comfortable separating Reinhart and Barkov while rolling three elite lines throughout the playoffs.

“With the team we have, we have a lot of depth and we are trying to use it to our advantage,” Reinhart said. “If we can keep this up and get back to where were and where we’ve been the last couple of games with each other, that just makes us that much more dangerous, so the lineup works.

“We’re playing with pace. We’re not sitting back too much, and we are reading and reacting off of each other. It’s an easier read and an easier game to play, so I think we can keep our pace up and keep that competition going; we should be good.”

Reinhart is a vital cog that keeps that line going.

Luostarinen and Lundell are well-versed on the defensive end, but adding a 50-goal scorer who is also out there killing penalties and playing consistent defense makes it much more of a dynamic shutdown line.

He has taken both under his wing during his time in South Florida.

“Sam Reinhart is just a brilliant mentor for younger players,” Maurice said. “Because he’s got 50 goals and he never cheats the game. 

“So he’s really good, unless you’re trying to sign him as a free-agent.”

Reinhart credits Maurice and his style of hockey for helping him to a feat only 100 players in NHL history have ever reached, and fewer have done it the way he had.

“I think that speaks to the way we try to play,” Reinhart said. “Everyone’s playing the same way, everyone’s creating offense the same way and that’s not cheating the game. It’s coming back, being on the right side of pucks and creating ice that way. So it fits in well to our system.”

After all, that’s what works well with that line: All three of them bought into that style of hockey.

“Luostarinen is really hard on the puck and he gets on pucks, so he is a great defender, but he is an aggressive defender,” Maurice said. “He creates offense for the other two by doing the heavy lifting.

“Lundell is naturally gifted as a defensive player, but I don’t think that’s where his focus is. He wants to produce, he wants to put up numbers, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing. But even in his default, he will kill penalties at times, he is going to be a good defensive player. In his background from Finland, he would understand the defensive side of the game.

“Reinhart has the mental capacity to work off all those guys and can be as good defensive as either of them or better. But he also has the hands, right? He can produce offense that maybe the other two don’t quite have.

“And then all three of them are never cheating.”

ON DECK

NEW YORK ISLANDERS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Series Tied 1-1) — At Florida: Islanders 4, Panthers 3 (Dec. 2); Thursday. At Islanders: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 OT (Jan 27).
  • All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 57-33-11, 8 ties
  • Next Up for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Detroit, 12:30 p.m.

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