FORT LAUDERDALE – You could feel the collective exhale throughout South Florida.

After being injured in the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, captain Aleksander Barkov was back on the ice at practice with the Panthers on Wednesday.

Looking no worse for wear, he centered the team’s top line during rushes.

"Felt better today,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Barkov’s status. “Got through skate today as far as I know. He'll get checked after. Get him on a plane, get him off a plane, get him on the ice and we'll see where he's at tomorrow. He looked good today."

Barkov missed the final 9:28 of Monday’s 4-1 win at Amerant Bank Arena after being hit in the head by a leaping check from Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who was given a two-minute penalty for roughing after a review. On Tuesday, Edmonton's star forward received no supplemental discipline from the NHL's Department of Player Safety.

Winning his second-career Selke Trophy as the league’s top-defensive forward this season, Barkov is a crucial piece of everything the Panthers do. Through the first 19 games of this postseason, the 28-year-old has produced 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and racked up a team-high 26 takeaways.

In Game 2, he played a massive role in a defensive masterclass for the Panthers.

When 6-foot-3, 215-pound Finn was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Panthers led 8-3 in shots on goal and 3-0 in scoring chances, per He also won 56.3% of his faceoffs and helped Florida go 4-for-4 on the penalty kill with 2:35 of shorthanded ice time.

When Barkov was deployed at 5-on-5, the Panthers had a 71.39% share of expected goals.

“It’s nice to have him out there,” forward Kyle Okposo said. “He’s a huge part of our team.”

While the Panthers have yet to confirm that Barkov will be playing against the Oilers in Game 3 at Rogers Place on Thursday, there’s certainly a sense of optimism right now.

Leading 2-0 in the series, there’s no question his presence would be a game-changer.

“You go through that fear,” Maurice said of watching Barkov leave Game 2. “No one wants to lose their captain. You don’t know if you have [lost him] for a good block of time. Then you find out there’s a good chance you’re not going to, and you’re in a much better mood.”

Stay tuned for updates.