With their season on the line, the Florida Panthers aren’t sure whether they will have their lone All-Star available for Game 4 of the qualifying round against the New York Islanders.
Jonathan Huberdeau, who missed the last few minutes of the Panthers’ 3-2 win against the Islanders in Game 3 on Wednesday, is making progress, but Joel Quenneville wouldn’t guarantee the left wing would be available for the must-win game Friday at noon in Toronto.
“Good progress today,” the coach said, “and right now we’re looking for him to be ready.”
Huberdeau missed the final 5:02 of Florida’s victory after he sustained an apparent right leg injury in the third period at Scotiabank Arena.
The winger played more than 20 minutes in Game 3, logging two shots and a plus-minus of minus-1. In the series, the 27-year-old Canadian has one goal, one assist and seven shots with a plus-minus of plus-1. He has skated on the Panthers’ top line for the entire series after finishing the abbreviated regular season as the second-line left wing.
“We’ll see how he presents,” Quenneville said after the win Wednesday in Toronto. “He was battling through some things there, but we’ll see how he is. We’re hopeful he’ll be fine.”
Florida, which trails 2-1 in the series, has reshuffled lines before every game in the best-of-5 series. On Wednesday, Quenneville slid center Noel Acciari all the way up from the fourth line to the first line, where he played right wing alongside Huberdeau and center Aleksander Barkov. Evgenii Dadonov has also been a first-line winger in the five-game qualifying series, and winger Frank Vatrano finished the regular season as the left wing on the Panthers’ top line before Quenneville decided to reunite Huberdeau and Barkov for the expanded postseason.
Huberdeau and Barkov, both former top-five picks, were Florida’s top two scorers in the regular season. Huberdeau led the team with 78 points — 23 goals and 55 assists — and scored in Game 1. Barkov finished second with 62 points — 20 goals and 42 assists —and scored a power-play goal in Game 2 with the help of a screen by Huberdeau.