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Panthers welcome Aleksander Barkov (knee) back to lineup

Dec 13, 2022; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) warms up prior to the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Top-line center Aleksander Barkov and defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Radko Gudas all returned to the Florida Panthers’ lineup for Thursday’s game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

Barkov last played Dec. 17, when he hurt a knee during Florida’s win over the New Jersey Devils. He missed the next three games after also sitting out six games in late November and early December due to an illness.

Barkov, now in his 10th season with the Panthers, has put up six goals and 16 assists in 25 games this season. Last season he led Florida in points (88), goals (39), and assists (49), and in 2020-21 won the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. He won the 2018-19 Lady Byng Trophy.

Gudas has missed the Panthers’ past 10 games with a concussion. Fellow blueliner Ekblad exited Florida’s most recent game, a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders last Friday, with an upper-body injury but is ready to return after the league’s holiday break.

Ekblad has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 24 games this season. Gudas has six points (two goals, four assists) over 25 appearances.

–Field Level Media