Jason Brough

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Rowe says no timeline on Barkov, who could be out a while longer

Aleksander Barkov was only supposed to miss 2-3 weeks with a then-undisclosed injury.

That timeline was provided almost three weeks ago, and Barkov still isn’t back playing for the Florida Panthers.

Today, interim coach Tom Rowe provided an update, and it wasn’t good news. Rowe told reporters on a conference call that there’s no timeline for Barkov’s return. He then dropped an even bigger bomb, admitting there’s concern that both Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau could have season-ending injuries.

The Panthers are still hopeful that Huberdeau will be back by early March. The 23-year-old hasn’t played at all this season after suffering a skate laceration in the preseason. His original timeline was 3-4 months.

The Panthers’ frustrating season continued last night in Edmonton, where they lost 4-3 in overtime on a Connor McDavid goal with 2.6 seconds remaining. Though they’re only one point back of a playoff spot, the closest two teams they’re chasing, Toronto and Ottawa, each have five games in hand.

It’s estimated that Florida (20-18-9) will need to go in the neighborhood of 20-10-5 down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. And that will obviously be a lot tougher to accomplish without two of the team’s best forwards — if, indeed, Barkov and Huberdeau are sidelined for much, or even all, of the remaining schedule.

Toffoli unlikely to join Kings on road trip

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The Los Angeles Kings will have to keep on keeping on without Tyler Toffoli.

Toffoli has not played since Dec. 20 due to a lower-body injury, and head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t expect the sniper will join the Kings for their upcoming road trip.

“It was four weeks yesterday,” Sutter said, per LA Kings Insider. “We thought he’d be further ahead. Once we came back and had the doctor’s evaluation we were told a three-to-six week time frame, so yesterday was four weeks, so we thought he’d be a little further ahead, but at the same time, there’s a fine line between the healing and the training. I think Tyler’s pushing hard and we want him back. We were hoping to have him for sure on this next trip, so that doesn’t appear to be the case right now because he hasn’t had any skating or practicing.”

Toffoli did actually hit the ice for a skate this morning, but there remains no timetable for his return.

Without Toffoli, the Kings have been leaning heavily on Jeff Carter to score. Carter has a team-high 23 goals; Tanner Pearson is next with 13, followed by Toffoli with eight.

Read more: Kings still don’t have timetable for Toffoli’s return 

Los Angeles hosts San Jose tonight, then hits the road for five games starting Saturday in Brooklyn. A poor trip and the Kings — currently holding down the second wild-card spot, but only barely — could find themselves on the outside looking in.

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Don’t expect a full-scale rebuild in Detroit

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Don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to tear it down and start over. Even if they miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990 — which appears likely at this point — GM Ken Holland has no intention of changing course.

“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said today, per MLive.

The long-time GM added that having veterans like Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson around to guide the younger players was key to maintaining the culture of the Red Wings.

The Wings aren’t the only team that’s opted for a rebuild-on-the-fly model. The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks are also attempting similar transitions.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” said Holland.

And that’s simply not something the Wings are willing to risk. So they’ll keep at it their own way, just trying to win every game they can.

Related: Sedin says a ‘winning culture’ is important to maintain

Pre-game reading: Panthers owner (and Trump nominee) accused of throwing punch at racehorse auction

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— Up top, watch Bob McKenzie answer all questions Islanders. Why was Jack Capuano fired after a 4-0 win in Boston? Who will be their next coach? Is ownership going to make changes to the hockey-ops hierarchy? What does the future hold for captain John Tavares?

— From the New York Times: “Vincent Viola, the billionaire Wall Street trader Donald J. Trump has nominated to be the secretary of the Army, was accused in August of punching a concessions worker at a high-end racehorse auction in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., according to a police report and local law enforcement officials.” Viola is better known on PHT as the owner of the Florida Panthers. And for the record, he claims the concessions worker shoved his wife; hence, the punch. The concessions worker, according to the article, told the police he did not shove Viola’s wife. (New York Times)

— What does each team need as the March 1 trade deadline approaches? TSN’s Frank Seravalli goes through all 30 NHL squads and makes his assessments. Only two teams, Colorado and Arizona, are totally out of the playoff race at this point in the season, so things could certainly change in the next month and a bit. Even the Islanders still think they’ve got a chance to turn things around. (TSN)

Patrik Laine is back skating for the first time since suffering a concussion Jan. 7; however, it remains to be seen when he’ll be back in the Jets’ lineup. Winnipeg starts a four-game home stand tonight against Arizona. Laine has yet to participate in a full-contact practice. (NHL.com)

— We wrote earlier today about the struggles of the St. Louis Blues. Their GM, Doug Armstrong, recently sat down with the Post-Dispatch to discuss his team’s season. One interesting quote: “I don’t think you can ask Robby Fabbri to play the way David Backes did. I just think it’s unrealistic. So our coaches’ responsibility is to use their expertise to find different ways to play. We have to find different ways to get the same results. I think you need a good balance and we’re trying to find that balance.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

— If Cam Neely and Don Sweeney decide to fire Claude Julien, they’ll have the full support of Bruins ownership. “That’s not my call to make,” Charlie Jacobs told the Boston Herald. “That’s on Cam and Donnie.” The B’s are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Islanders on Monday. Strangely enough, it was the winning team that canned its head coach the next day. Boston plays tonight in Detroit (on NBCSN). (Boston Herald)

Report: New event to replace ‘breakaway challenge’ in All-Star skills competition

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The NHL is ditching the “Breakaway Challenge” at the All-Star Skills Competition and replacing it with something called the “Four Line Challenge”.

The details of the new challenge from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

Players will try to hit targets in the net from the closest blueline, centre ice, the far blueline and then the opposite goal line. Goalies will be offered the chance to try from the farthest distance, with more points available if they can do it.

It was no surprise to hear that the breakaway challenge was no more. While there have been a few memorable moments, like last year when P.K. Subban dressed up as Jaromir Jagr, the gags and/or breakaway attempts too often fell flat or failed to deliver.

For the record, Friedman reported that the change was “as much the players’ decision as the league’s.”

This year’s skills competition will take place on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.