NHL News

Panthers grateful Barkov knee injury not serious

SUNRISE, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov escaped major injury in a knee-to-knee collision and is being listed by the Florida Panthers as day-to-day, a relieved coach Paul Maurice said Sunday.

Barkov was hurt when he was hit by Anaheim‘s Jackson LaCombe on Friday night in the Panthers’ 2-1 win. LaCombe initially was assessed a five-minute major after the play; the penalty was downgraded to a two-minute minor for tripping after review.

Barkov needed help getting off the ice and immediately went to the locker room area for evaluation. The Panthers were off Saturday then returned to the ice for practice Sunday. Barkov won’t play Monday, when the Panthers open a three-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers.

“We got lucky,” Maurice said.

There were some indications Friday night that Barkov hadn’t been seriously injured; he was walking around postgame, which the Panthers took as a good sign. Still, the official sigh of relief didn’t come until the team returned home Saturday to begin a more complete evaluation.

“We’ll leave him at day-to-day,” Maurice said.

The Panthers entered Friday’s game as healthy as they have been all season. That game marked the return of defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, both of whom had not played since the Stanley Cup Final in June and needed shoulder surgeries after that series. They returned much earlier than originally expected; the Panthers at one point were bracing for both to be out until mid-December.

Barkov appeared in 16 of Florida’s first 17 games this season, with six goals and 11 assists. If he misses the entire homestand, he will also be out for games Wednesday against Boston and Friday against Winnipeg.

“Anytime you’re missing Alex Barkov, it’s never going to be easy,” Ekblad said. “But we’ve got to find a way to get it done against three good teams here coming up.”

Barkov has had only two instances of missing at least 10 consecutive games in his Panthers career. He missed 10 games with a hand injury in 2015-16 then missed 15 games with a back injury in 2016-17.

He is in his 11th season with the Panthers, tied with Stephen Weiss and Roberto Luongo for the most in team history. The Panthers captain is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (680), goals (249) and points (648), along with second in assists (399, 16 behind Jonathan Huberdeau) and power-play points (189, one behind Huberdeau).

Maurice said Barkov will be assessed daily, checking things like the level of swelling in the knee and his range of motion. Knee-to-knee hits often end up with a far worse result and can cause serious injury.

“Those are dangerous, dangerous plays,” Maurice said.

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