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Panthers' Barkov on NHL's return: 'When everything is fine, we'll get hockey back'

Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald on

Published in Hockey

Aleksander Barkov has spent the past few weeks like most in South Florida.

The Florida Panthers' captain and 24-year-old center is staying at his Boca Raton home (his mom is there, too), playing video games (primarily Call of Duty) and waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to slow down enough to continue his normal life.

Barkov doesn't know when hockey will resume -- the National Hockey League paused its season on March 12 and has since targeted a mid-May return -- but he is looking forward to the day he can get back on the ice with his teammates.

"Not the best situation right now with all this happening in the world," Barkov said on a 30-minute video conference call that also included Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber. "The main thing is to get everybody as healthy as possible in the world. Then, when everything is fine, we'll get hockey back."

And should the season resume, Barkov and the Panthers would assuredly want at least some sort of abbreviated finish to the regular season so that they could have a chance to close an up-and-down season with a Stanley Cup Playoff berth.

The Panthers' last game was a 2-1 road win over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. They went into the unexpected break on a two-game winning streak and three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference's battle for two wild-card spots.

"It's going to be tough to go straight to the playoffs," said Barkov, who has 62 points on the season (20 goals, 42 assists). "The intensity of the playoffs is high. I would love to play as many games as possible before the playoffs get here. The best-case scenario, I would do a tournament or something, but thank God I don't have to decide anything. I'm just here to wait for what the league is going to do with the season and just try to stay healthy."

But don't think the break means Barkov isn't still getting his workouts in. He just has to get creative with perfecting his shot.

On March 20, Barkov posted a video on Instagram of him shooting a roll of toilet paper into a net with a shooter tutor.

 

"I guess I had to come up with some sort of challenge too," Barkov wrote. "Do you think you can do the same? More importantly stay safe guys and wash your hands. We will get through this soon!"

When asked who he imagined being in net when he took the video, Barkov replied with the Canadiens' Carey Price.

The Panthers on Monday signed defenseman John Ludvig on a three-year, entry-level contract.

Ludvig, Florida's third-round pick in 2019, appeared in 60 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and had 62 points on the season (17 goals, 45 assists). He ranked third among all WHL defensemen in points and assists, while ranking fourth in goals.

"John had an outstanding season for Portland in the Western Hockey League and was among the league's top defensemen," Panthers president of hockey operations and general manager Dale Tallon said in a release. "He is a talented defenseman who possesses great compete, physicality and character. We are excited for John's continued development and look forward to his future in the Panthers organization."

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