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Panthers forced to move on without Barkov, Kopecky

by Alain Poupart

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will be without their two injured Olympians when they return to action Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

Rookie center Aleksander Barkov and veteran forward Tomas Kopecky were examined by team doctors after returning from Russia on Friday, and Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said Monday that each player would be out at least a few weeks. Horachek did not have a specific timetable.

Aleksander Barkov
Center - FLA
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 24
SOG: 87 | +/-: -3
Barkov, the youngest player on Finland's Olympic roster, sustained a knee injury in a preliminary-round game against Norway. Kopecky, making his second appearance in the Olympics for Slovakia, sustained an upper-body injury against Slovenia after a high hit that landed Sabahudin Kovacevic a one-game suspension.

"You say indefinite because you really don't have a timeline," Horachek said. "So you really don't know where it's going to end up right now. We're just going to rehab them, then when we'll get a better idea. We'll give a timeline, but I don't really know what the timeline is."

To help make up for the absence of Barkov, the Panthers on Monday recalled center Drew Shore from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. It will be the third NHL stint this season for Shore, who has four goals and one assist in 17 games.

Veteran defenseman Mike Mottau was reassigned to San Antonio.

Barkov, the second pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, is fifth on the Panthers in scoring with 24 points in 54 games and has impressed with his all-around game.

"You can't really replicate a player like that," Panthers rookie center Nick Bjugstad said. "Obviously, there's no one really like Sasha. It's tough losing him. He's a big part of our team. We're bummed to hear that he can't play. Hopefully he's back by the end of the season, but I don't know what’s going to happen there. Guys are going to have to fill roles. I think we have some depth at forward. We'll see what happens. Obviously we're going to miss his skill on the ice. That's a tough loss."

Barkov had one assist in two games for Finland, which earned the bronze medal with a 5-0 victory against the United States on Saturday.

"I think Barkov will have plenty of chances to play for Finland again and again and again," Horachek said. "He's 18, 22, 26, 30, 34 ... I think he's going to play five or six Olympics."

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