Sometimes the best additions to your roster come within, not via trade or the waiver wire. For the Florida Panthers’, they got a huge boost to their late season playoff push, as both Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are set to make their return to the lineup after missing time to injuries.
The two combined with Jaromir Jagr combined to form one of the best lines in all of hockey a year ago.
For Huberdeau, he has yet to play on the season, after receiving a deep gash on his leg during the preseason. Last year he recorded a career-high 59 points after upping his goal output from 15 to 20. He signed a new contract extension in September before the season started, a deal worth $35.4 million over six years.
The 21-year-old Barkov looked like he was set to take off this season after also setting a new career high in points a year ago with 59 (28 G, 31 A). Standing at 6’5”, Barkov was a budding superstar power forward but missed the last 15 games due to an injury suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In 26 games this season, Barkov had registered 27 points (9 G, 18 A).
This couldn’t have come at a better time for the Panthers, who haven’t had an ideal season to this point, just a year ago after winning their first divisional title in franchise history. They relieved Gerard Gallant of coaching duties, creating a mess of that in the process, and put General Manager Tom Rowe behind the bench with Dale Tallon taking back over the day-to-day operations.
Heading into the weekend, the Panthers currently sit with a record of 22-19-10, with 54 points overall. They sit outside of a playoff spot, trailing the Boston Bruins for the third spot in the Atlantic, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card position – both by four points.
They have four games in hand on the Bruins, one on the Flyers.
Florida has played better of late, earning points in seven of the last ten games, winning five of them.
Success on the road will be among the things that they will have to work on, with just nine wins in 26 games played away from the BB&T Center. They will get a shot to turn things around soon enough.
After a Friday night game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Panthers will enjoy their mandatory five-day ‘bye week’ before another home game against the Los Angeles Kings. At that point, they will hit the road for five straight games, all against teams from the Western conference.