The Florida Panthers have missed Aleksander Barkov since he broke his hand in late October.
Which makes sense, because he’s their best center.
Fortunately for the Panthers, Barkov is getting close to returning. They’ve gone 3-3-2 without him.
“I feel good and hope to be back as soon as possible,” he told the SunSentinel. “It’s getting better every day. I can shoot more and shoot harder; I could pass; I could skate better. I just need to gain the game’s pace.”
The Panthers are trying to stay patient, not wanting to rush the 20-year-old back. But it has to be frustrating, given their heightened expectations for the season.
Florida hosts Buffalo tonight then makes a quick trip to Tampa for a game Saturday.
According to the newspaper, it’s “possible” Barkov could return for Monday’s home game versus the Lightning.
Gary Bettman has insisted time and time again that the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers are not relocating.
Earlier this week, he did it for the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina,” the commissioner told the News & Observier.
But it’s not hard to see why some have speculated. Not only is 72-year-old owner Peter Karmanos Jr. looking to sell, the ‘Canes are dead last in NHL attendance, averaging just 11,411 fans per game.
“Peter is exploring his options, but there is no rush, no pressure, no timetable,” Bettman said. “I am certain if he sells the franchise, he will continue the legacy of having the franchise in what has been a strong market and keep it where it is.”
Karmanos has always maintained that his goal is to sell to local owners that will keep the ‘Canes in North Carolina. Recently, he told the newspaper that he’s “befuddled by the rumors the team will move.”
The Hurricanes host the Wild tonight. At StubHub, tickets can be had for as little as $6.
With five wins in their last seven, the Buffalo Sabres have good reason for optimism.
“We’re starting to develop a belief that we can win and how we’re going to win,” said coach Dan Bylsma, per the club’s website. “Early in the season, we played well. We did some good things. But we might not have had the belief that we could win hockey games.”
Now, it should be noted that the Sabres enjoyed a brief winning run last year as well. From Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, they went 10-3-0.
But that run was mostly thanks to the goaltending of Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres were winning games when they were getting outshot 45-19 and 30-14 and 44-26. They were far, far from dominant.
Things are different this year. While they’re still not among the top possession teams, they’re vastly improved in that area. Adding Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel at center certainly hasn’t hurt.
“We feel good. We feel like we’re in the game and regardless of what the score is, we still have a chance,” said forward Brian Gionta. “That’s what you want from your team, is whether you’re trailing 3-1 or you’re up 2-1, you have a good chance of winning that game.”
The Sabres (7-8-0) are in Sunrise to play the Panthers (6-6-3) tonight.
Buffalo is only three points back of a playoff spot.
Jake Allen‘s save percentage is .950, the highest in the NHL among regular starters.
Henrik Lundqvist‘s save percentage is .949, the second highest.
Tonight at MSG, those two goalies will face each other.
ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE.
Wait, sorry, that’s not right. Both will survive. But only one will win. That’s what I meant to say.
— Reto Berra gets another start for the Avalanche after shutting out the Flyers Tuesday. Tuukka Rask likely for the Bruins.
— No word yet on a Sabres starter. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers.
— Braden Holtby for the Caps. Steve Mason for the Flyers.
— Devan Dubnyk for the Wild. Cam Ward for the Hurricanes.
— Karri Ramo for the Flames. Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
— Ryan Miller likely for the Canucks. Andrew Hammond for the Senators.
— James Reimer for the Leafs. Pekka Rinne likely for the Predators.
— Cory Schneider for the Devils. Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks.
— Ondrej Pavelec for the Jets. Kari Lehtonen likely for the Stars.
— Anders Nilsson starts again for the Oilers, after beating the Ducks last night. Mike Smith for the Coyotes.
— Jaroslav Halak for the Islanders. Jhonas Enroth for the Kings.
The Chicago Blackhawks have some decisions to make on the blue line.
With Duncan Keith cleared for contact and Michal Rozsival close to returning too, what of the seven healthy defensemen they currently have?
We’ll assume Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley, and Trevor van Riemsdyk aren’t going to the AHL.
That leaves David Rundblad, Viktor Svedberg, and Erik Gustafsson. Two of them may have to go. Only Svedberg and Gustafsson are exempt from waivers.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
In theory, this is one of those “good problems” Joel Quenneville frequently talks about — an embarrassment of riches. But the problem is, the Hawks’ rookies on two-way contracts (Svedberg and Gustafsson) have played better than the Hawks’ veterans on pricey one-way deals (David Rundblad and Trevor Daley). Quenneville said the pending moves will be as much business decisions as they are hockey decisions. Asked specifically if he wanted Svedberg to stay with the team, Quenneville was terse.
“I could say that, yeah,” he said. “But will that happen? I’m not sure.”
Svedberg has played 14 games. The giant Swede logged 20:12 in Sunday’s win over Edmonton. He’s played as much as 22:08, paired mostly with Seabrook.
To keep Svedberg, the Blackhawks could always risk exposing Rundblad to waivers, or they could explore trading one of their surplus d-men. But typically teams like to have as many NHL-ready defenders as possible. Chicago’s defensive depth was very much under the microscope during last year’s playoffs, even if it didn’t prove fatal, thanks to Keith.