Jonathan Huberdeau is in the lineup for the Florida Panthers for their must-win Game 4 against the New York Islanders.
The All-Star left wing, who missed the final five minutes of Game 3 because of an apparent right leg injury, is slotting into his usual spot on the Panthers’ top line Friday at Scotiabank Arena as Florida needs a win to force a winner-take-all Game 5 on Sunday.
Huberdeau’s injury was serious enough for coach Joel Quenneville to have some reservations about his star winger’s status for Game 3 of the qualifying round. After practice Thursday in Toronto, the coach didn’t commit to having Huberdeau in his lineup Friday, although he was optimistic.
“Good progress today,” Quenneville said, “and right now we’re looking for him to be ready.”
The progress was good enough for him to get right back on the ice for Game 4 of this best-of-5 series with the Panthers trailing 2-1. Florida is also keeping its top line intact from Wednesday: Huberdeau is at left wing, Aleksander Barkov is at center and Noel Acciari, usually a lower-line center, is at right wing.
One of the only consistent parts of the Panthers’ lineup in this series has been the Huberdeau-Barkov combination. The two forwards have typically played together, but Quenneville split them up at the end of the regular season before reuniting them ahead of Game 1 on Saturday. Both have already scored goals in the series.
Huberdeau was Florida’s top scorer in the regular season, leading the Panthers with 78 points and earning an All-Star nod. The 27-year-old Canadian also led the team with 55 assists, to go along with 23 goals. He posted a plus-minus of plus-5.
He had also been one of Florida’s top offensive performers in the first three games of this five-game series. Huberdeau scored the Panthers’ first goal in the series in the third period of their Game 1 loss and followed it up with an assist in their Game 2 loss Tuesday. He’s one of only four players with multiple points for Florida and his seven shots are second most among Panthers forwards.