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Panthers captain Jovanovski back against Islanders

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski is expected back in the lineup for the first time since January when they face the New York Islanders on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

The Panthers captain has missed the past 22 games since sustaining a lower-body injury in a 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 29.

Jovanovski took part in the morning skate for Thursday's game against the Boston Bruins and again Saturday morning.

"Jovo looks like he's a go there for tonight," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's a heck of an addition to have our captain back in the lineup. He's been sorely missed and he'll be a great addition to have back.

"He makes a big difference with our group. Obviously, I took my time deciding which direction I was going to go captain-wise, but at the end of it Jovo just kept sticking out. And as much as his leadership ability was his on-ice play. It was a mixture of both of those last year. We're looking forward to having both his leadership and his play back on the ice."

The Panthers could have another new face on defense Saturday.

Dineen said defenseman T.J. Brennan, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in a trade for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, would be in the lineup if he makes it to South Florida in time for the game. He was on the ice for pregame warmups

Brennan, who had 35 points in 36 games for Rochester of the American Hockey League before joining the Sabres after the lockout, played two seasons for Dineen with the AHL's Portland Pirates.

"He's a great kid," Dineen said. "He's an extremely hard worker. He's still young, in that development stage, but he's got some real upside and we're excited to get him into our group here."

Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau missed the first 10 minutes of the morning skate Saturday after driving straight to the Panthers' practice facility from the airport. Huberdeau flew from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Friday to attend the funeral of the mother of former Saint John Sea Dogs teammate Stephen MacAulay.

Scott Clemmensen is expected to make his second consecutive start in net for the Panthers. He stopped 28 of 31 shots in Thursday's 4-1 loss against the Boston Bruins.

For the Islanders, Colin McDonald will be back in the lineup after sitting out Thursday's 2-0 victory against the Lightning because of illness.

Coach Jack Capuano said he could wind up juggling two of his lines Saturday night depending on the physical condition of McDonald, who signed a two-year contract extension Friday.

The long-awaited season debut of forward Jesse Joensuu will have to wait a bit longer. Joensuu has been out since undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason, but Capuano said the Finn is close to getting back in the lineup.

"I just want to make sure that mentally, physically he's 100 percent," Capuano said. "Obviously, you don't want to take a chance of putting in a guy who doesn't feel like he's capable right now. Not that that's the case to a certain extent, but we just want to make sure. He's had a couple of good days of stakes; he's not far, though. He's not far away."

Evgeni Nabokov, coming off an 18-save shutout against Tampa Bay, will make his ninth consecutive start in net for the Islanders. He has started all but four games this season.

Here are the projected lines for the Islanders and Panthers:


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Brad Boyes

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Casey Cizikas

Eric Boulton - Keith Aucoin - Colin McDonald

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Mark Streit - Radek Martinek

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Joe Finley

Injured: F Michael Grabner (shoulder), D Matt Carkner (groin), F David Ullstrom (groin), F Jesse Joensuu (sports hernia), D Brian Strait (ankle)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Mike Santorelli

Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille

Jon Rheault - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

T.J. Brennan - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: F Alex Kovalev, D Colby Robak

Injured: RW Kris Versteeg (knee), C Stephen Weiss (wrist), LW Scottie Upshall (lower body), G Jose Theodore (groin), D Dmitry Kulikov (upper body), D Mike Weaver (lower body), D Michael Caruso (wrist), LW Sean Bergenheim (lower body)

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