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Kovalev likely to return for Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers forward Alex Kovalev likely will be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Washington Capitals after being a healthy scratch the previous two games.

Kovalev, who turns 40 later this month, worked on a line with Tomas Kopecky and Marcel Goc during the morning skate.

Kovalev, who was signed after being invited to camp on a tryout basis, had been benched in favor of Jack Skille for Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory at the Philadelphia Flyers and Saturday's 5-0 loss at Washington.

Skille scored Florida's first goal in the victory against the Flyers. He'll stay in the lineup, with Jerred Smithson relegated to the press box.

On defense, the Panthers again will be without captain Ed Jovanovski, who will miss his sixth consecutive game since sustaining a knee injury at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 29.

The Panthers' top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg will be reunited Tuesday.

Peter Mueller skated with Fleischmann and Weiss the past two games, while Versteeg skated with rookies Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore.

Scott Clemmensen looks like he'll be getting the start in net for the Panthers. He came on in relief of Theodore in the third period of Saturday's game.

Here are the Panthers’ projected lines:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller

Alex Kovalev - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Jack Skille - Shawn Matthias - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Tyson Strachan - Erik Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen

Jose Theodore

Injured: D Ed Jovanovski (knee), LW Scottie Upshall (lower body), D Michael Caruso (upper body), LW Sean Bergenheim (lower body)

Scratched: Jerred Smithson

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