SUNRISE — With the Florida Panthers down a couple of forwards, rookie Mackie Samoskevich gets a chance to try and help them out.
The Panthers called up Samoskevich on Sunday, and he will be in the lineup tonight when they visit the Nashville Predators (8 p.m., Bally Sports Florida).
Florida will be without captain Sasha Barkov for a third consecutive game; Will Lockwood is also out after being suspended three games due to his hit on Minnesota goalie — and future Hall of Famer — Marc-Andre Fleury during the first period on Friday night.
Although Nick Cousins traveled with the Panthers as they face his former team, he is still on Injured Reserve following a concussion sustained off a blindside hit from Arizona’s Jason Zucker.
The Panthers previously called up Samoskevich following Cousins’ injury, but he did not play.
“He’s earned the right,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of Samoskevich, who has 11 goals and 26 points in 32 games with the AHL Charlotte Checkers.
Samoskevich, 21, is the top prospect in the Florida system and is playing in his first pro season following two years at the University of Michigan.
The first-round pick of the Panthers in 2021, Samoskevich made the team’s opening night roster after a strong training camp.
Samoskevich played in Florida’s first two games before being sent to Charlotte for the first time; he was recalled later in October and played in his third game against San Jose before being sent back.
The Panthers did not want Samoskevich or fellow rookie Justin Sourdif to get small amounts of playing time in the NHL when they could play significant roles with the Checkers.
“(After) 30 or 40 pro games, you get a better idea of where a young man’s game is,’’ Maurice said. “He’ll get a chance. He’ll get a look.”
As for how long Samoskevich will get in this go-round with the Panthers, Maurice could not say.
He will line up on the right wing of Florida’s third line with center Kevin Stenlund and Evan Rodrigues after playing on the left side of the fourth line.
Samoskevich has been playing on the right wing with the Checkers, and Maurice wants to see what he can do.
That starts tonight against the Predators.
“I want to see him on the right, further up the lineup, with a different style of player,” Maurice said.
“Sometimes it is a one-off. Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter what a guy does (in a game), but we are not healthy enough for a guy to quickly come out. The more players we have who are healthy, at some point, we will have to make decisions on waivers and those kinds of things.
“But if a player distinguishes himself, we’ll make those decisions.”
As for Barkov, Maurice said he was not making the short trip to Nashville to remain back in South Florida and get some extensive skating work with skills coach Maxim Ivanov.
Barkov has been out since leaving last Monday’s overtime loss to Anaheim late in the third with what Maurice described as further “tightening” of something in his lower body — either a groin or hamstring injury.
Although Barkov is healthy enough to play, the Panthers are holding him out because they do not want this lingering. They want Barkov healthy and ready to go down the stretch.
Florida has three games this week before the All-Star break — although Maurice said he is hopeful Barkov returns Wednesday against the visiting Coyotes.
“There is no setback; I am shooting for and hopeful for Arizona,” Maurice said. “Like I said, he is not coming in at 93 percent or whatever. If he comes back for Arizona, he’s 100 percent, right-and-ready. … We have 45 minutes on the ice in Nashville, max. They kick you off the ice. So he gets a full skate … and a full gym here.”
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FLORIDA PANTHERS @ NASHVILLE PREDATORS
- When: Monday, 8 p.m.
- Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
- Season Series — At Nashville: Monday. At Florida: March 21.
- Last Season: Nashville won 2-0
- All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 21-14-6, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Wednesday vs. Arizona Coyotes, 7 p.m.