The centre left Wednesday’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was hit in the side by a shot from teammates Keith Yandle. He didn’t return to the game, but the Panthers confirmed that he’d actually been fighting an injury since before Wednesday’s game.
Head coach Tom Rowe confirmed that Barkov had an MRI on Thursday and said the injury was not to the ribs, so at this point the details are sketchy.
“A couple of games before that,” Rowe said. “He’s been fighting through it.”
The injury to Barkov is the latest case of bad luck for the Panthers, who’ve been contending with injuries to their top players all season long. In fact, Vincent Trocheck and Jaromir Jagr have been the only forwards within the top seven that’ve avoided serious injury this year.
And without a timetable for Barkov’s return, this latest case of bad luck could be the worst this year.
“You don’t [replace Barkov],’’ Rowe said. “It’s tough. He’s a great player. He’s one of the best, if not the best two-way centreman in the league for his age group, so it’s hard one to replace.”
The 21-year-old has 27 points in 36 games this season, including nine goals and 18 assists. He put up a dozen points in his past 10 games, overcoming a slow start to the campaign. He also recently potted his 12th career goal in the shootout, the most in Panthers history.
As of press time, the Panthers are 15-14-7. They’re sixth in the Atlantic Division, a long way off from where they were at this point in 2015-2016.
24-year-old forward Michael Sgrarbossa was called up to help fill the void, while forward Reilly Smith was put on the injured reserve list retroactive to December 22. That should open him up to play against the Winnipeg Jets on January 4.
The Panthers are hoping forward Jonathan Huberdeau will rejoin them at some point mid-February, while defenceman Alex Petrovic is about a month away from returning to action.