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NOTEBOOK: Return of the Sams

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart are ready to return.

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Sams have returned!

Out since Jan. 1, Sam Bennett (suspension) and Sam Reinhart (COVID protocols) were on the ice during this morning's practice at the Panthers IceDen and are expected to play against the Canucks on Tuesday.

While Bennett had been skating during his suspension, Reinhart hadn't practiced in roughly a week.

"I think he's good to go," Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said of Reinhart's status. "Obviously I've got to check in with him after [practice is over], but he looked good out there."

During practice, Reinhart, who has posted 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 32 games this season, was skating on the top line alongside Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe. Bennett, meanwhile, was in the middle of the second line, flanked by the red-hot duo of Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair.

Over the last six games, Huberdeau and Duclair have combined for 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists).

"They're both playing at an extremely high level right now," Bennett said. "They're having fun, so it's going to be fun to play with them. We're all excited. I think we have some good chemistry."

That chemistry is evidenced by their production.

Over the 53:46 of ice time that Bennett, Huberdeau and Duclair have been deployed together at 5-on-5 this season, the Panthers have led 37-29 in scoring chances and 5-1 in goals, per NaturalStatTrick.com.

Individually, Bennett has recorded 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 26 games.

"It's very comforting to know he's back," Brunette said of Bennett. "We missed him when he was gone. He's been a very important part our team. … We're a much better team with him in the lineup. It's fun to see him in. Hopefully he continues with the chemistry he's had on his line."

While Mason Marchment and Patric Hornqvist both remain out of action while going through the NHL's COVID protocols, the Panthers appear to be getting closer and closer to being back at full strength again.

Given that they're already sitting at 23-7-5, that should be a scary thought for the rest of the league.

"I'm extremely fortunate to have the depth we have," Brunette said. "We have five-plus [lines], especially when you have Hepo [Aleksi Heponiemi] coming in and playing the way he did. Marchy is out, Horny is out. We have a surplus of depth. We've been really lucky this year to have this much depth."

To watch the Panthers take on the Canucks tomorrow, visit FloridaPanthers.com/Tickets.

MONDAY'S PRACTICE LINES & PAIRINGS

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart

Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair

Frank Vatrano - Anton Lundell - Maxim Mamin

Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Aleksi Heponiemi

Extras: Joe Thornton, Owen Tippett

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas

Lucas Carlsson / Olli Juolevi - Brandon Montour

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Jonas Johansson

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