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Where things stand with Barkov's injury as Panthers prepare for Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald on

Published in Hockey

One day after having to watch his team’s captain be helped off the ice after an illegal high hit, Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice on Tuesday had only minimal updates on Aleksander Barkov’s status entering Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

“He came in today and he wasn’t worse. That’s a really good thing,” Maurice said, adding “If he continues to progress, we should be in good shape.”

The injury took place with 9:28 left in regulation of Florida’s eventual 4-1 win over Edmonton on Monday that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final. Oilers star forward Leon Draisaitl left his feet and hit Barkov in the jaw with his right forearm in the Panthers’ defensive zone. Barkov, who this season won his second Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top two-way forward, fell to the ice and had to be helped by trainers.

Barkov didn’t return to the game, and with Florida only up 2-1 at the time of the injury, Maurice said it wasn’t as a precaution. That means Barkov was either held out while in concussion protocol or was too injured to return to the game.

“There’s 9:28 on the clock in a 2-1 game. I’m not holding him” if he can play, Maurice said postgame, offering little other insight beyond that in the moment.

A day later, Maurice said the real assessment for Barkov will come on Wednesday before the team flies out to Edmonton.

“I don’t know that I can do all the hypotheticals,” Maurice said Tuesday. “He left. We had some things that needed to be looked at today that got looked at. There was nothing sort of sinister there. He passed that and he felt better today. He feels good, but you’ve got it another 24 hours to make sure he’s strong and effective. If he continues to progress, he would be a player for us.”

Draisaitl, speaking to reporters after the game, called the play “just a hit.”

“I don’t think there’s anything dirty about it,” Draisaitl said. “Maybe I got him a little high. Certainly not with intent to injure, though, or anything like that.”

Regardless, Draisaitl was given a two-minute minor penalty for roughing, and Evan Rodrigues scored on the ensuing power play for his second goal of the period to put Florida up 3-1. Aaron Ekblad capped scoring with an empty-netter.

 

“We rallied,” Rodrigues said. “We did what we had to do to win the game. You never want to see your captain go down, but I thought everyone did a great job, focused in and got the job done.”

Maurice didn’t want to comment on the hit postgame Monday, saying the league will look at it just like it does with all other hits. George Parros, the NHL director of player safety, was at the game Monday and will make the decision on if there will be any further punishment for Draisaitl — be it a suspension or a fine.

(Update: The NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Tuesday announced only one fine from the Panthers-Oilers game on Monday: Oilers forward Sam Carrick was fined $2,213.54, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for slashing Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov late in the third period.)

On Tuesday, Maurice was ready to move on.

“It’s done,” Maurice said. “The refs called the penalty on the ice. The league looks at just about every hit. They’ll make their decision.”

Barkov is tied with Matthew Tkachuk with a team-high 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and been on the ice for just eight goals against at 5-on-5 despite facing each opponent’s top players. He’s on the top power play and penalty kill units.

“He’s our captain. We never want to miss him, but we hope it’s going to be OK,’’ Panthers center Anton Lundell said. “We hope he’s going to be back. We love him and hope he’s coming back even stronger.”

This is the second time this season Barkov has taken an elbow to the face. The first came on Jan. 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Barkov didn’t miss any game action after that hit, returning to the ice two days later donning a full face shield that he wore for two games.


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