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NOTEBOOK: Eager to Return, Barkov 'Feels Great'

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/28/21 Practice

12/28/21 Practice

Aleksander Barkov and Andrew Brunette discuss the excitement leading into our first game back after the break

  • 01:05 •

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is getting ready to return to the lineup, several important players return from the NHL's COVID-19 protocol, and more!

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Aleksander Barkov is feeling like his old self again.

After sitting out 12 of the last 13 games due to injuries, the superstar captain is poised to return to the lineup when the Panthers open their homestand against the Rangers at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday.

"I feel great," Barkov said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm happy to be back on the ice with the guys."

Tied for first on the Panthers in goals (10) and fifth in points (18) despite missing an extended period of time, Barkov was first knocked out of the lineup with a lower-body injury on Nov. 16. Returning on Dec. 7, he then sustained an upper-body injury during his first game back and missed the next four contests.

In his absence, the Panthers posted a 7-5-0 record to improve to 18-7-4 on the season.

"I want to play hockey, but sometimes these things are going to happen," Barkov said of his recent bad luck. "You're going to miss games to recover from injuries and stuff like that. We have some really good people here to take care of that. The depth of this team is really good as well. The guys did really well."

Even while battling through these injuries, Barkov, the league's reigning Selke Trophy winner, has tallied at least one point in each of his last 11 games, racking up eight goals and five assists during that stretch.

"Barky could miss two years and he's so talented that it doesn't seem to affect him," Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said.

During practice, Barkov was centering Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair on the top line.

GETTING HEALTHY

In addition to Barkov, the Panthers appear to be getting even more reinforcements.

After spending time in the NHL's COVID protocol, MacKenzie Weegar, Eetu Luostarinen and Owen Tippett were all full participants during Tuesday's practice. Additionally, Mason Marchment and Maxim Mamin both practiced for the third straight day as they work their way back from pre-pause injuries.

"Obviously we were missing a lot of players the last couple games due to COVID and injuries," Barkov said. "It wasn't the same team that we'd had the whole season. Now, almost everyone is back and everyone else [that isn't back yet] is going to come back soon. We're almost back to normal."

As it stands now, only Jonathan Huberdeau and Olli Juolevi are in COVID protocol.

"There's no playbook on it," Brunette said of dealing with COVID. "It's fluid. We're day-to-day, but we have numbers. We're kind of trending in the right direction. We just try to piece things together."

With four games postponed due to COVID, the Panthers last took the ice on Dec. 16.

BOBROVSKY TO START

While we won't know exactly who's available to suit up against the Rangers until morning skate on Wednesday, Brunette did announce that Sergei Bobrovsky will be between the pipes during the game.

Off to a strong start in net this season, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has posted an outstanding 12-3-2 record on top of a 2.47 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage over 19 appearances.

Nearly unbeatable in Sunrise, he's gone 9-1-0 with a .919 save percentage at home.

TUESDAY'S PRACTICE LINES & PAIRINGS

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair

Maxim Mamin - Sam Bennett - Sam Reinhart

Frank Vatrano - Anton Lundell - Mason Marchment

Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist

Extras: Joe Thornton, Owen Tippett

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas

Lucas Carlsson - Brandon Montour

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight

Jonas Johansson

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