The Florida Panthers, set to play their first home game since Dec. 15, have received a break from the injury report.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2015 as the NHL’s best netminder, will miss the Panthers game on Friday night due to a lower-body injury.
Price had a 1.96 goals-against average in his great 2014-2015 season, but he hasn’t been quite the same since knee surgery the following year.
This season, Price is 15-10-4 with a 2.84 GAA. He will likely be replaced by his backup, Antti Niemi, who is 4-3-1 with a 4.14 GAA. Niemi’s save percentage is .876 compared to .904 for Price.
Florida, which is 4-0-1 in its past five games for its second-best five-game stretch of the season, is expected to start goalie Roberto Luongo (8-6-1, .905 save percentage, 3.00 GAA).
Friday will also mark the first time Canadiens forward Max Domi has played against the Panthers since he was suspended for the rest of the preseason schedule for punching Florida defenceman Aaron Ekblad.
Luongo called Domi’s punch, which broke Ekblad’s nose, “gutless” and said the act won’t be forgotten.
Domi, though, didn’t want to discuss the matter when Montreal’s media asked him about it this week.
“All we are focused on is the game,” Domi said. “It’s a hockey game, and we’re focused on finding a way to get two points. We want to start this (three-game) road trip the right way.”
The Panthers have been short-handed at forward this season as Vincent Trocheck (ankle), Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Jamie McGinn (back) and former captain Derek MacKenzie (shoulder) are all out.
Trocheck, a 2017 All-Star, scored a combined total of 54 goals the past two years, never missing a game. His absence hurts the Panthers offensively but also defensively because of his speed and disruptive ability.
Bjugstad, who scored 19 goals in 82 games last season, is another major loss since he was a top-six forward in the Panthers lineup.
Without those two, the Panthers rely on four forwards primarily: Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, who share the team lead with 17 goals each; Jonathan Huberdeau, who tops Florida in assists (33) and points (42); and captain Aleksander Barkov, who is second with 36 points.
Domi has scored 14 goals and leads Montreal in assists (21) and points (35). Brendan Gallagher leads Montreal with 15 goals.
In other Canadiens news, defenceman Karl Alzner could return to the lineup after being called up from the American Hockey League’s Belleville franchise. He was promoted after defenceman David Schlemko was placed on injured reserve.
“I was a bit surprised when I got the call,” Alzner told the Montreal media. “But I’m happy. It’s a nice Christmas present.”