Barkov expected to return for Panthers against Rangers

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Aleksander Barkov is expected to return for the Florida Panthers when they host the New York Rangers on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; BSFL, MSG 2, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). 

The center, who has missed 12 of his past 13 games, participated fully in practice Monday. 

“He looked good,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “I think he’s ready to go. It was good to get him these couple practices in. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and make a decision based on that.”

Barkov has scored 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 16 games this season. The Panthers captain has missed the past four games, last playing Dec. 7 when he scored and played 18:03 but sustained an upper-body injury during a 4-3 overtime loss at the St. Louis Blues. Before that, he hadn’t played since Nov. 16 because of a left knee injury. 

“‘Barky’ could miss two years and he’s so talented, it doesn’t seem to affect him,” Brunette said.

The Panthers also expect to get forward Mason Marchment back Wednesday. He has been out since Nov. 8 with an upper-body injury. Marchment (6-foot-4, 209 pounds) has scored seven points (one goal, six assists) in 10 games this season. 

“He brings a little [unpredictability],” Brunette said. “We don’t have a lot of players like him. Big, strong kid, really strong on the puck, strong on his stick, goes to the hard areas. … We missed him when he was gone.”

Forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Eetu Luostarinen and Owen Tippett, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar were placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Sunday. Brunette said he’s hoping Huberdeau will be back this week. Florida hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Panthers (18-7-4) last played Dec. 16, when they lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings. Florida had its next four scheduled games postponed because of COVID-19 concerns.

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