Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Alex Petrovic may be targeted by Blackhawks for hit on Patrick Kane

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) suffers an injury after a cross check by Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic (72) during the first period on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago.
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) suffers an injury after a cross check by Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic (72) during the first period on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. TNS

Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic will not be suspended for a hit that injured Chicago’s Patrick Kane on Tuesday — but he still could have a target on his back come Thursday.

With the Panthers and Chicago playing a rare home-and-home series, Petrovic could find some lingering anger from the Blackhawks when they visit BB&T Center on Thursday night.

Kane, tied for the NHL lead with 64 points, is expected to miss three months after having surgery for a broken collarbone Wednesday.

Petrovic was given a two-minute penalty for cross-checking Kane midway through the first period of Chicago’s eventual 3-2 shootout win at United Center.

After reviewing the play — Petrovic gave Kane a slight shove, causing Kane to lose his balance and crash into the boards leading with his left shoulder — the NHL decided no further discipline was warranted.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was incensed on the bench after Kane skated off to the locker room but didn’t criticize Petrovic in his postgame media session, saying only “live, it looked a little dangerous.”

The Blackhawks and Panthers were off Wednesday.

“We’re missing a valuable guy, one who is having a year that’s very noticeable,” Quenneville said of Kane, a past postseason MVP who was the top pick of the 2007 NHL draft by current Florida general manager Dale Tallon.

“We still have to stick with it, go with what you’ve got.”

Former Panther Kris Versteeg, who scored Chicago’s second goal Tuesday, said Kane is “irreplaceable.”

“You’re really ticked off when a player like him gets hurt,” Versteeg said. “You never want to see someone like that hurt, someone that exciting who people pay to watch play. It’s not good for the game.”

Kane, 26, is the second high-profile player knocked out for some time by the Panthers this month.

“You’re talking about one of the best players in the league so there’s no doubt,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said when asked whether the Blackhawks are a different team without Kane. “It’s unfortunate he got hurt.”'

On Feb. 13, Dmitry Kulikov’s low body check took out Dallas’ Tyler Seguin at the knees. Seguin is expected to miss at least another month with an MCL strain. Kulikov was suspended four games for the hit Seguin called “dirty.”

IN THE HUNT

The Panthers battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period Tuesday as Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trocheck scored in a span of four minutes to gain a point by forcing overtime.

Despite Florida’s strong offensive push in the final minute of overtime, the game went to a shootout in which Chicago scored on its two attempts and the Panthers went scoreless against goalie Scott Darling.

The Panthers kick off a season-long, seven-game homestand Thursday against the Blackhawks and do so two points behind Boston for the final playoff spot.

“We don’t give up,” goalie Roberto Luongo said. “It’s exciting to be in a playoff race at this time of year, but we have a lot of work to do.”

▪ Sean Bergenheim said he was happy to be traded by the Panthers to Minnesota on Tuesday as he joins another team in the midst of a playoff run. Bergenheim could make his debut with the Wild on Thursday in Nashville after being a healthy scratch in six consecutive games and nine of the previous 11 by the Panthers.

“I was very very happy. I kind of expected something would happen before the trade deadline,” said Bergenheim, who asked the Panthers for a trade earlier this month. “I have some good friends on the [Wild]. In that way, I’ve followed them.”

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