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Panthers to get Jokinen back against Maple Leafs

Florida left wing missed one game with lower-body injury

by Tim Wharnsby / NHL.com Correspondent

PANTHERS (39-22-9) at MAPLE LEAFS (24-34-11)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SNO, TVA Sports, NHL-TV

TORONTO -- Left wing Jussi Jokinen said he was ready to return from a lower-body injury, and will be in the lineup Thursday when the Florida Panthers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Jokinen missed Florida's 4-1 road win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. He was injured when he blocked a shot in a 3-2 loss against the New York Islanders on Monday.

 

Jokinen, who had a 10-game point streak ended Monday, will be reunited with linemates Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith. The line had scored five times in four games prior to Jokinen's injury.

"Trocheck, Jokinen and Smith have played really well," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "They have good chemistry and it's good to have them all back."

The Panthers have won three of their past four games and are in first place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins with a game in hand. Florida has 28 more points than the 30th-place Maple Leafs, but Gallant said his players are well aware of how Toronto has performed in consecutive wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.

"We're not overlooking anybody because Toronto has played real well," said Gallant, whose team is four wins shy of the Panthers record for wins in a season of 43, set in 1999-2000.

"Obviously, they had a big win against Tampa the other night and a 1-0 win in Detroit. Those are teams that are battling for points like we are. Toronto has brought in some good young talent. They are going to work hard and compete hard every shift."

For the Maple Leafs, forward Connor Brown will make his NHL debut. He will replace right wing Leo Komarov, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Maple Leafs' 4-1 win against the Lightning on Tuesday.

Komarov likely would have played if this were a playoff game, but instead was held back in order to be ready for the Maple Leafs' next game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

The 22-year-old Brown, a native of Toronto, is the latest to be summoned from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League in recent weeks to get a taste of the NHL.

Forwards William Nylander, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov and defensemen Viktor Loov and Rinat Valiev have made their NHL debuts with the Maple Leafs since the NHL Trade Deadline.

"I've been watching the games when I've been at home," Brown said of his AHL teammates with the Maple Leafs. "I hope I can carry the same sort of confidence up here that they have shown."

Brown, who will wear No. 16, his father Dan's number when he was a standout at the University of Western Ontario, enjoyed a strong training camp with the Maple Leafs. But he suffered a broken bone in his ankle while blocking a shot in a game for the Marlies on Oct. 30.

"He was our best kid in training camp," Babcock said. "He has elite hockey sense and he'll be an NHLer for a long time."

Here are the projected lineups:

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Jiri Hudler - Nick Bjugstad - Teddy Purcell

Garrett Wilson - Greg McKegg - Shawn Thornton

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad

Brian Campbell - Steve Kampfer

Jakub Kindl - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Derek MacKenzie (foot), Willie Mitchell (upper body), Dave Bolland (lower body), Erik Gudbranson (lower body)

Scratched: Logan Shaw, Quinton Howden

MAPLE LEAFS

Nikita Soshnikov - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown 

PA Parenteau - William Nylander - Zach Hyman 

Colin Greening - Brooks Laich - Peter Holland  

Milan Michalek - Ben Smith - Michael Grabner

Morgan Rielly - Martin Marincin  

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick  

Rinat Valiev - Frank Corrado

Jonathan Bernier

Garret Sparks

Injured: Leo Komarov (lower body), Stephane Robidas (lower body), James van Riemsdyk (broken foot), Joffrey Lupul (sports hernia surgery), Bryon Froese (lower body), Matt Hunwick (lower body), Tyler Bozak (concussion)

Scratched: Brad Boyes, Viktor Loov

Status report: Bozak was cleared for contact on Wednesday. He has been out since Feb. 6 and hopes to return next week. … MacKenzie will miss the next two weeks, while Gudbranson is out a week. 

Who's hot: Trocheck has two goals and eight points in five games. … Campbell will play in his 365th consecutive game with the Panthers, eight shy of Olli Jokinen's team record. … Bernier has stopped 65 of 66 shots in back-to-back wins against the Lightning and Red Wings.

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