In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, the Panthers start to pick up the pace in their second practice since the NHL's pause, Aleksander Barkov is on track to return to the lineup and much more.
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Hitting the ice for their second practice since returning from a nine-day pause due to a spike in COVID-19 cases around the NHL, the Panthers really picked up the pace on Monday.
After running through some up-tempo drills, they closed out the hour-long session with an abbreviated scrimmage that consisted of two five-minute periods and one three-minute period as they worked to get back up to game-speed prior to their matchup against the Rangers at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday.
In between periods of the scrimmage, players also showed off their skills during shootouts.
"Having just three days before a game, that's always a little tricky," interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. "I thought it was important to get a little bit of game-like speed, and pace. For me, it's like when you have any kind of break, a lot of it is the little puck battles. Things happen faster than just a normal practice. We're just trying to get a bit of chaos in there for them so that they get the timing back."
While practices are always rather loud and lively, the Panthers definitely had some added jump.
Following the uncertainty of this most-recent pause, players say they're still just happy to be back.
"We all love each other," forward Ryan Lomberg said. "We all love the atmosphere and being around the boys. When you're away from it, you miss it. It's almost like the first day of school all over again."
Sidelined with injuries suffered prior to the pause, Aleksander Barkov, Mason Marchment and Maxim Mamin were all full participants in the scrimmage and looked no worse for wear. While nothing is set in stone just yet, all three look like they could potentially make their return to the lineup against New York.
Missing 12 the last 13 games - first due to a lower-body injury and then an upper-body injury - Barkov's impending return is particularly important for the Panthers. In addition to being the team's captain, the reigning Selke Trophy winner has also registered 18 points this season, including a team-best 10 goals.
"He looked good," Brunette said of the team's top-line center. "I think he's ready to go."
Key contributors in the bottom-six at various points this season, Mamin and Marchment also appear to be inching closer to 100% in their recovery. While Mamin has only been out since Dec. 10, Marchment hasn't appeared in game since he sustained an upper-body injury against the Rangers back on Nov. 8.
"I've been through it a couple times with different injuries," Marchment said of his rehab. "It's definitely mentally tolling, but the support system around here and all of the staff did a great job. I feel great."
While Marchment is feeling like his old self again, Brunette said the Panthers don't want to rush him back into action too quickly as the gritty forward has only been through a few practices since his injury.
"We'll monitor him and see how he's doing throughout the week," Brunette said.
Whether he's back in the lineup on Wednesday or soon after that, Marchment's return should provide a nice spark for the Panthers. Prior to his injury, the 26-year-old had produced seven points (one goal, six assists) in 10 games and, according to Brunette, was likely playing the best hockey of his budding career.
"He brings a little unpredictability," Brunette said of Marchment, who was on a line with Joe Thornton and Mamin during practice. "We don't have a lot of players like him. He's a big strong kid. He's really strong on the puck, strong on his stick, and goes to the hard areas. We missed him when he was gone."
Stay tuned for more roster updates following Tuesday's practice at the Panthers IceDen.
The Panthers could be getting a few players back out of COVID protocol soon.
With Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenize Weegar, Eetu Luostarinen and Owen Tippett absent for the second straight practice while they wait to be cleared, Brunette mentioned it's possible that a few players could return on Tuesday, but noted that Huberdeau likely won't be back until later this week.
"We're making our way back," Brunette said. "It's a work in progress right now."
- Spencer Knight was recalled from the AHL and was at this morning's practice.
- With a record of 18-7-4, the Panthers will exit the pause sitting sixth in the NHL.
- Scheduled to visit the Panthers on Wednesday, the Rangers had three players -- Patrik Nemeth, Ryan Lindgren and Alexander Georgiev -- enter into the NHL's COVID protocol on Sunday.
MONDAY'S PRACTICE LINES & PAIRINGS
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano - Sam Bennett - Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg - Anton Lundell - Patric Hornqvist
Mason Marchment - Joe Thornton - Maxim Mamin
Gustav Forsling - Aaron Ekblad
Lucas Carlsson - Radko Gudas
Olli Juolevi - Brandon Montour