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Barkov back as Panthers head into Edmonton for Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

Florida Panther captain had been questionable due to high hit
Florida Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov (16) kneels on the ice after he was injured during the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 10, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Wilfredo Lee

Aleksander Barkov is good to go for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

The Panthers captain was a question mark ahead of Thursday after taking a forearm to the jaw from Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl midway through the third period of Monday’s 4-1 victory that put Florida up 2-0 in the title series.

Head coach Paul Maurice added winger Vladimir Tarasenko (undisclosed) would also play.

The winner of this year’s Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward, Barkov practised Wednesday before the team flew to the Alberta capital after not returning to action in Game 2.

The Oilers, meanwhile, have a couple of injury question marks heading into the crucial tilt at Rogers Place, including defenceman Darnell Nurse (suspected hip injury) and winger Evander Kane (sports hernia).

Veteran forward Corey Perry is also expected to dress. He sat out Game 2 of the best-of-seven series as a healthy scratch.

Edmonton had to play most of Monday with five blueliners after Nurse took a hit from Florida winger Evan Rodrigues in the first period. The 29-year-old got back out for a couple more shifts, but was largely a spectator from the bench.

“Losing Darnell obviously wasn’t ideal early,” Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard said after the game. “He’s a big part of the back end.”

Draisaitl, meanwhile, was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty on the play that injured Barkov, but avoided supplementary discipline from the league’s department of player safety.

The 28-year-old German has never been suspended by the NHL.

“I looked at it,” Draisaitl said Thursday of the incident. “I’m not a player who plays with an intent to injure anybody by any means. I have no track record of that. I’m not a player who enjoys that part of the game — injuring other players or anything like that. I caught him in an unfortunate spot.

“I’ll leave it at that.”

Barkov’s inclusion in the lineup is a big boost for the Panthers, who took the first two games of the series on home ice by limiting Edmonton’s firepower led by Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

Panthers forward Kyle Okposo was impressed with 28-year-old’s ability to protect the puck and have a strong stick as an opponent.

The trade deadline acquisition has now seen the whole picture.

“He just does so many things exceptionally well,” the 36-year-old said of Barkov. “His awareness on the defensive side of the puck and how hard he works off the ice — just everything.

“Phenomenal all-around player. “

READ ALSO: Panthers 2 wins from Stanley Cup, top Oilers 4-1 for 2-0 lead in title series