SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran forward Alex Tanguay will be back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2 when the Colorado Avalanche face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center Friday. But there will be no second matchup this season between the first and second selections in the 2013 NHL Draft because Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is out with a lower-body injury.
Barkov was injured in the first period of Florida's 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night and didn't return to the game. He didn't practice on Thursday and wasn't on the ice for the morning skate Friday.
Interim head coach Peter Horachek said Barkov would be evaluated on a daily basis and no decision had been made yet on whether to take him on a four-game road trip that begins Sunday with a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Barkov, the No. 2 pick last June, leads the Panthers with 24 points and had played in every game this season.
He didn't record a point but finished with a plus-1 ratio on Nov. 16 when the Panthers won 4-1 at Colorado. Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, was minus-1 that night for the Avalanche but had seven shots on goal.
"There was a lot of hype around the 2013 draft and it's always nice to see guys doing well," said MacKinnon, who had both Colorado goals in their 5-2 loss against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday and is tied for second on the team with 17 on the season. "With (Jonathan) Drouin, he's tearing junior again. Obviously, with Barkov, he's having an unreal year and with Seth (Jones), every time we play him he seems to get better. It's always nice to see the first four or five guys doing a pretty good job this season. Obviously, it would have been fun to play against Barkov tonight."
Barkov has been centering Florida's top line between veterans Brad Boyes and Sean Bergenheim, and his place in the lineup will be taken by Scott Gomez.
It will be only Gomez's 22nd appearance of the season and his first since Dec. 28 when the Panthers dropped a 4-3 decision against the Detroit Red Wings.
"You come into the game, you want to help out, you want to do your job," Gomez said. "It's not my first game. I wish I could give you guys, 'I'm shaking in my boots,' but no. I've done this before, I've gone through this. Timing might be a little off, but playing with two great players tonight, you're excited. It's not my first rodeo. It's going to be fun."
Tanguay, for his part, said Friday morning he was a bit nervous about returning after missing the Avalanche's past 36 games because of knee and hip injuries.
"I'm anxious to see how the body is going to respond after all this time, how it's going to hold up as well," Tanguay said. "I'm anxious to get back. As a competitor, you want to be on the ice. It's extremely tough to watch on TV. You've got no control over the outcome of the game, so definitely I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm hoping to be up to the task."
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy is putting Tanguay back on the top trio alongside Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny, and also said Tanguay would play the point on the power play.
Roy said Tanguay would be held out of Colorado's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday to avoid overloading him with back-to-back games immediately upon his return.
Tanguay had three goals and six assists in the first 13 games as he helped the Avalanche get off to a tremendous, and surprising, 12-1-0 start.
"We were playing so well when Alex got hurt," Roy said. "It's nice to have him back. It's also nice to have everybody back in a way [where] this is kind of the lineup that we projected. We have more depth now and it's good for us."
Here are the projected lineups for the Avalanche and Panthers on Friday night at BB&T Center:
Gabriel Landeskog – Paul Stastny – Alex Tanguay
Ryan O'Reilly – Matt Duchene – Jamie McGinn
Maxime Talbot – Nathan MacKinnon – PA Parenteau
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Nick Holden – Tyson Barrie
Ryan Wilson – Andre Benoit
Scratched: Nate Guenin
Injured: John Mitchell (illness), Cory Sarich (back), David Van Der Gulik (head)
Notes: Mitchell, who will miss his first game of the season, is scheduled to join the team in Tampa and Roy said the plan is for Mitchell to skate in Tampa and then get back in the lineup Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. … With the back-to-back games, Roy indicated that Giguere would get the start against Tampa Bay after Varlamov starts against Florida.
Sean Bergenheim – Scott Gomez - Brad Boyes
Tomas Fleischmann - Nick Bjugstad – Scottie Upshall
Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc – Jesse Winchester
Krys Barch– Drew Shore – Shawn Matthias
Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski – Erik Gudbranson
Scratched: Jimmy Hayes
Injured: Dylan Olsen (lower body), Tomas Kopecky (upper body), Aleksander Barkov (lower body), Mike Mottau (lower body), Alex Petrovic (upper body)
Notes: Kopecky will miss his third consecutive game because of an injury sustained in a 3-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Horachek said Kopecky's status was day-to-day. … Gudbranson continues to play with a facemask after undergoing orbital bone surgery on Dec. 23, but Horachek said he was confident it no longer would be necessary around the first week of February.