The Florida Panthers started the season without Sam Bennett, and they are bracing to be without him once again.
How long this absence will be is still unclear.
Panthers coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the team practiced in Detroit on Wednesday that the reigning Eastern Conference champions aren’t sure on the prognosis for Bennett, Florida’s fourth-leading scorer in last season’s playoffs. Bennett missed the first seven games of this season with a lower-body injury, returned for about 8 minutes of ice time in Monday’s 3-2 loss at Boston, and got hurt again after Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm fell on him in front of the net.
Bennett needed to be helped off the ice, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
“He’s not day-to-day. He’s going to be a little longer,” Maurice said. “We don’t think it’s as significant as the first one. Have to see how he feels. What happens in the first three days will tell us how long it’s going to be.”
Florida plays at Detroit on Thursday and visits Chicago on Saturday to end a three-game road trip. The Panthers have dealt with injuries throughout this young season, with defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour still expected to be weeks away from making their 2023-2024 debuts. Both men needed shoulder surgery after last season’s Stanley Cup Final.
Thursday will be a milestone game for Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov — who will play in his 672nd regular-season contest for Florida and break a tie with Jonathan Huberdeau for the most in team history.
Barkov is already the club’s all-time leader in goals (245) and points (639). Maurice was asked Wednesday what about Barkov is most impressive.
“That it’s every day, that he works hard every single day, takes care of his body, trains hard to be the best he possibly can,” Maurice said. “He’s an incredibly consistent professional. … He doesn’t complain ever about anything. He loves playing in Florida, loves the fans, loves the area. We’re just very fortunate.”