Florida Panthers down another forward. Matthew Tkachuk out vs Pittsburgh Penguins

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The Florida Panthers’ roster, specifically its forward group, has already been hit hard by injuries.

Add another absence to the group on Thursday.

The Panthers are without Matthew Tkachuk as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the All-Star winger sidelined by an illness that has run its course through Florida’s dressing room over recent weeks.

Add in the absences of Anton Lundell (upper-body), Colin White (upper-body) and Chris Tierney (concussion), plus Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair on long-term injured reserve, and Florida only has 11 forwards suiting up on Thursday.

Lundell has not played since Dec. 3 against the Seattle Kraken while simultaneously dealing with an upper-body injury and illness (he is no longer sick). White and Tierney both left Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets with their respective injuries.

Tkachuk is the biggest name of the group missing Thursday. His 39 points and 25 assists lead the team and rank tied for sixth and tied for ninth, respectively, in the league. His 14 goals are second on the team.

One positive: Carter Verhaeghe, the Panthers’ leading goal scorer with 15 on the season, returned to the lineup Thursday after sitting out Tuesday due to the illness. He was on Florida’s top line during warmups with center Aleksander Barkov and fellow winger Sam Reinhart.

The Panthers also had Sam Bennett centering Eetu Luostarinen and Zac Dalpe as well as Eric Staal centering Ryan Lomberg and Nick Cousins during warmups. Aleksi Heponiemi and Grigori Denisenko, the team’s most recent call-ups from their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, are the team’s other two forwards in the lineup.