Florida Panthers

Loss of Sasha Barkov to hand injury crucial as Florida Panthers visit red-hot Dallas Stars

Florida Panthers center Sasha Barkov, right, battles for the puck against Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews during the first period Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Chicago.
Florida Panthers center Sasha Barkov, right, battles for the puck against Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews during the first period Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, in Chicago. AP

The Panthers lost more than just a game Thursday night as top-line center Sasha Barkov appeared to injure his right wrist or hand while blocking a shot during the second period of Florida’s 3-2 loss to the host Blackhawks.

Barkov immediately left the game after stopping the puck with his arm and was spotted leaving the locker room with his wrist and hand heavily bandaged.

On Friday, coach Gerard Gallant ran a practice at AmericanAirlines Center in Dallas minus Barkov.

Gallant said Barkov will miss Saturday’s game against the Stars and will be evaluated by team doctors in South Florida when the team returns after the game.

If Barkov’s injury is worse than it appears, he could miss some time.

Florida doesn’t plan on recalling anyone from its AHL team in Portland, Maine, for Saturday’s game with Nick Bjugstad likely to move up and center Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau.

The Panthers were carrying an extra forward on the active roster and Shawn Thornton will be in the lineup against the Stars.

“He’s been probably our best player since the start of the season,” coach Gerard Gallant said Friday afternoon. “It’s a big loss, for sure. He plays both sides of the puck; he’s great defensively and plays a great offensive game. He’s a real team player. But when you’re missing a guy, it gives the others an opporunity.”

Barkov, 20, is in his third season with the Panthers and has evolved into one of their top players despite missing time with injury.

Last December, Barkov missed two weeks after injuring his hand after blocking a shot in Detroit.

As a rookie in 2014, Barkov missed much of the second half of that season with a serious knee injury that slowed him a bit at the start of last season as well.

This year, Barkov has been terrific centering Jagr and Huberdeau, his six point off three goals second on the team in scoring behind Jagr.

“That’s a big loss. He’s our best player,’’ Jagr said after Thursday’s loss. “He’s going to be tough to replace although no one knows how long he’ll be out. It’ll be tough but we’ll do it no matter what.”

▪ On Thursday, the Panthers and Blackhawks were tied 1-1 when Florida began a march to the penalty box unseen since last season.

The Panthers were flagged for five penalties in the second period alone and ended up giving an opponent eight power-play chances for the first time since last October in Arizona.

Chicago scored both the go-ahead and winning goals on power-play chances.

Florida cut Chicago’s lead to 3-2 when Jagr scored on a tap-in on a rare power-play chance in the third. The Panthers couldn’t make a hard charge in the final minutes, however, as they took yet another penalty and was forced to kill it off.

“We took eight penalties and it’s real tough to play against teams like that when you’re doing that,’’ Gallant said. “They weren’t good penalties. We have to move our feet, we have to skate. You can’t fault the referee. We put ourselves in that situation.”

▪ Vincent Trocheck scored Florida’s first goal when he fought through a trio of Chicago defenders — not including goalie Corey Crawford — before scoring.

“I whacked at it 10, 15 times until it went in,” Trocheck said. “The next shift after a goal for either side is very important. We were trying to take the momentum away from them. And then we lost it.”

George Richards: 305-376-4995, @GeorgeRichards

Saturday: Panthers at Stars

When, where: 8 p.m., AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas.

TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 620, WNMA 1210

Series: Dallas leads 14-13-3

Scouting report: This is the second meeting in a week and final meeting between the two this season. Dallas won the opener 4-2 in Sunrise last Saturday night. The Stars are red-hot right now, beating host Tampa Bay on Thursday to improve to 6-1.

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