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Panthers' Barkov returning to lineup against Lightning

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Center Aleksander Barkov will be back in the Florida Panthers lineup Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SUN, FS-F) after missing 10 games because of a broken bone in his right hand.

Barkov, 20, was second on the Panthers with three goals and six points in seven games when he was injured Oct. 22 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"He's real dependable,"?Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "He's a young player but he's so young at both ends of the ice. He's a 200-foot player and he's a big, strong guy. Faceoffs, power play, penalty killing; he does it all for us. He's a big part of our team. But other guys stepped up and played big roles and that's how you win."

The Panthers went 4-4-2 during Barkov's absence.

Barkov took part in the morning skate Thursday but did not play that night against the Buffalo Sabres, and the same happened Saturday against the Lightning.

"I???asked the trainers about Saturday and they said it might be too early,"???Barkov said. "It was good to get two more days to get the hand better and conditioning and everything else."

Barkov is expected to reunite on the Panthers' first line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr. That line has been together since the Panthers acquired Jagr in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26.

Barkov said he didn't think it would take any time for them to click again.

"Last year when [Jagr]???came we had a couple of chances in our first shift so I???think we didn't lose anything,"???Barkov said. "We just keep going and play the same way as we did.

"It's a lot of fun to play with those guys. You don't think too much; you know where to go and they know where to go."

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