FORT LAUDERDALE – When Aleksander Barkov was still just a teenager dipping his toe into the deep waters of the NHL, veteran teammate Jussi Jokinen offered him some sage advice.  

“You’ve got to enjoy every day because it goes by fast,” he told the budding superstar.

After notching the 700th point of his NHL career against the New York Islanders on Thursday, the Florida Panthers captain couldn’t help but think back to those wise words.

“It’s been a quick 11 years and hopefully many more,” Barkov said.

Already the franchise’s all-time leader in points – among many other records – Barkov is just the sixth Finnish-born player to reach the 700-point mark in the NHL. Hitting that lofty total in 728 games, he’s also the fourth fastest to 700 among his fellow countrymen.

Still just 28 years old, there’s no question that he’ll continue to climb the list.

“It means a lot,” Barkov said of his latest milestone. “As a little kid, I would’ve never even thought about being here right now, but it’s just one of those things that you don’t realize until after your career that you’ve been here for a long time and living the dream every day.”

A teammate of Barkov’s since his second NHL season in 2014-15, defenseman Aaron Ekblad said it’s been a real treat to watch his longtime friend reach such great heights.

“It’s been fun growing with him,” said Ekblad, who, like Barkov, also owns a fair share of franchise records. “He’s the ultimate leader and role model. Following his footsteps has always been a treat for me and a treat for me to watch. You guys see what he does on the ice. Having a front-row seat to that, sometimes in on the play, is really cool and really fun.”

In 64 games this season, Barkov has notched 69 points (19 goals, 50 assists).


Even though the Panthers officially punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday, players have been preparing to play beyond Game 82 since the season began.

“Every game is building toward the playoffs, even Game 1 of the regular season is like that,” Barkov said. “Now we’re getting close to that time. We’re just excited about that, but we have to remember that we have to be at our best every game before that.”

With an “X” next to their name in the standings and only seeding left to be decided, the Panthers have nine games remaining before the playoffs begin. At 46-22-5, they trail the Boston Bruins by just two points for first place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand.

Florida and Boston also have one head-to-head matchup remaining.

But in the midst of a 3-6-1 stretch over their last 10 games, the Panthers, who've dealt with both injury and adversity during that slump, know their game isn’t where they want it to be just yet.

With that, the next few weeks will be all about staying healthy and making adjustments.

“It’s not secret we’ve been in a little bit of a slump lately,” forward Steven Lorentz said after Friday’s practice at Baptist Health IcePlex. “We know we’ve played better hockey. It’s not that we’re that far off. We’re just making some mental mistakes. That’s stuff we can touch up in practice.”

Over the course of their final nine games, the Panthers will play only three teams currently in playoff spots, including two huge divisional matchups against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After hosting the Detroit Red Wings, who sit just two points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, they’ll embark on their final road trip of the season, making stops in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston before returning home.

Ending the regular season on a four-game homestand, they’ll host Ottawa, Columbus and Buffalo before making their final preparations for the playoffs against the Maple Leafs on April 16.

“I like our team,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s a good team. I don’t like parts of the way we’re playing. There are some good signs in there. … Let’s get it all thrashed out here in the next two weeks.”


“Last night I thought we had three pretty good lines. Now, we just need four.” – Paul Maurice

“It’s cool [having fans at practice]. It’s Good Friday, so it’s nice to see a bunch of kids out there off school coming out and supporting us.” – Steven Lorentz

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