SUNRISE — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice said that captain Sasha Barkov would miss his team’s game against the host Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Sam Bennett, who has missed the past four games with what is believed to be a hip injury, may play although that will be determined on Monday.
Barkov appeared to be struck high on the back of the left hand during Tampa Bay’s visit to Sunrise on Feb. 6; Barkov left that game and missed the following game against San Jose but played in the next six.
After playing on Monday afternoon against Anaheim, Barkov skated but missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
He did not play Friday night in the Panthers’ 3-1 loss to the Sabres and did not practice with the team on Sunday.
Maurice said that he is confident in talking to trainers that if Barkov takes off on Tuesday, he should be close to 100 percent moving forward.
“They are both day-to-day but Barkov is not playing,” Maurice said. “The plan is he will come out of Tampa with two days and he will be ready to go. I am expecting him for Nashville. The thing is, is it going to get better or worse? If it is going to get worse, we have the chance to sit him now and will not have to deal with it again.”
Tampa Bay should be in a very good mood Tuesday after giving up five goals within the final 4:32 of the second in a 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lightning has now lost four of its past six.
With Barkov, Bennett and Eric Staal missing practice on Sunday, the Panthers had defenseman Casey Fitzgerald dressed and working with the forwards.
Maurice said the move was made just so Florida had four full lines, but did not rule out giving him a shot on the right side of the fourth line moving forward.
”I am going to say both,’’ Maurice said when asked if the move was just for practice. “The starting idea was we needed four lines to do some heavier line work.
“There is a place in the NHL, now more than ever with the cap being as tight as it is, for a swing guy. It is something, in my mind, we are auditioning him a little bit. We’ll get him through a few practices on the right wing so there is always a possibility.”
Fitzgerald has yet to play with the Panthers since being claimed off waivers from Buffalo in January; he has played forward in the past for Buffalo’s AHL team in Rochester.
With the Panthers seeing Mark Pysyk had a career-high nine goals and 18 points mostly as a hybrid role in 2020 — with Keith Yandle giving him the ‘Prius’ nickname — it is not too far-fetched to think Fitzgerald may just get a chance to play with the Panthers in a position other than defenseman.
Especially with the team’s salary cap situation.
Florida was not up against the cap when Joel Quenneville decided to give Pysyk a shot on the fourth line in 2020.
That move was made just to give Pysyk a chance to get some playing time.
He excelled moving to forward, even getting a hat trick in what has been Florida’s last win in Toronto on Feb. 3, 2020.
Just do not be surprised if Fitzgerald’s debut with the Panthers comes on the fourth line.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- 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
- Season Series (Tampa Bay leads 2-1): Lightning 3, @Panthers 2 OT (Oct. 22); Lightning 4, Panthers 1 (Dec. 10); Florida 7, Lightning 1 (Feb. 6)
- Last season: Split four regular season games; Tampa won second-round playoff series 4-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 74-50-19, 10 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Nashville, 7 p.m.