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HURT BUT HEALING: Florida Panthers get Barkov, Gudbranson back but still missing Huberdeau, Pirri, Howden and Mitchell as Coyotes come calling

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
With Sasha Barkov and Erik Gudbranson set to return to the lineup Thursday, things are getting back to normal for the Panthers.
Yet as is the case with most NHL teams at this time of year, no one is 100 percent. That certainly applies to the Panthers.
When Florida plays host to Arizona to close out its six-game homestand, it will have Barkov and Gudbranson back after those two missed a few weeks with concussion-like symptoms although it will be without first-line winger Jonathan Huberdeau.
Forward Brandon Pirri and Quinton Howden as well as defenseman Willie Mitchell remain out as well.
"Every team goes through this during a season but I think us being able to continue earning points really shows the depth we have,'' goalie Roberto Luongo said. "Today, you need the depth because injuries happen. You need to be able to survive it, keep getting points or you're in trouble.''
With Huberdeau out but Barkov returning, coach Gerard Gallant continues to mix-and-match his forward lines.
"It's always good to get some of your healthy players back,'' Gallant said. "That's big for our club. It's coming. There are still a lot of guys out. ... It's good when you see guys come through the door to help us out. And they're important guys.''
Vincent Trocheck had been centering Jaromir Jagr and Huberdeau but Jussi Jokinen slid in after Huberdeau went hard into the boards Saturday and hit his head on the ice.
Barkov is back with Jagr and also reunited with Jokinen whom he played with at the World Championships last spring for their native Finland.
"It's always nice to be back, I hate missing games,'' Barkov said. "I want to play all 82 games then go to the playoffs and play more. Sometimes things happen. The guys did pretty well, won some games played the same way. We're still in first.''
Although Jagr will be reunited with the center he's played with most of the time since joining the Panthers almost a year ago, that doesn't mean he didn't enjoy his time with Trocheck.
Jagr, who turned 44 last week, has three goals in his past two games. Trocheck was his center for all of them -- with Jokinen getting assists on the two that Jagr tied and passed Brett Hull for third on the NHL's all-time list.
"We have to see what kind of shape he's in because I'm not skating for him, I'm telling you that right now,'' Jagr said with a smile, raising his voice so Barkov could hear him from across the room.
"He has big shoes to fill. I got three goals in two games with Trocheck, that's all I have to say."
Thursday: Coyotes at Panthers
When, where:
7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WNMA 1210
The series: Arizona leads 15-10-3
Scouting report: This is the first of two meetings between the two in the next 10 days as Florida visits Glendale March 5. The Coyotes are in the middle of a five-game trip and have dropped their past three.

 

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