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Panthers C Aleksander Barkov expected to play in Game 4 vs. Hurricanes

Panthers center was injured in Game 3 on Monday night and was unable to return.

Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during Game Five of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 12, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime. Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Update — Barkov is expected to play in Game 4 vs. the Hurricanes, Maurice confirmed to reporters on Wednesday afternoon. So Florida will have its captain and top-line center for the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Panthers are -115 on the moneyline to win Game 4 and advance to their first Cup Final since 1996.

Florida Panthers C Aleksander Barkov was forced to exit Game 3’s 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period and did not return. Head coach Paul Maurice told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the team is optimistic Barkov will be ready to play in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday night in Sunrise. The Panthers lead the best-of-7 series 3-0.

Barkov sustained a lower-body injury in the first period with about 7:00 left. He was unable to come out for the second period. The Panthers were able to persevere and come away with the shutout win thanks to a great performance by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 32 saves in the victory.

Barkov had been centering the first line for the Panthers with Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair. Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart both stepped up at center and played 20:00-plus of ice time in Game 3. Matthew Tkachuk and Verhaeghe were the other forwards Maurice opted to lean on. If Barkov is fine, we should expect the lineup to go unchanged. If something pops up, we could see a bit of a shuffle. Maurice could yank Reinhart off the third line and up to center the top line.