The Florida Panthers took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers thanks to a 4-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday night, but fans everywhere were immediately concerned about the well-being of star center Aleksander Barkov, who was forced out of the game early after taking a vicious hit from Leon Draisaitl. While his status for Game 3 is up in the air, it sounds like Barkov's health is trending in the right direction.

In the third period of Game 2, Draisaitl left the ice and hit Barkov in the jaw with his left elbow, resulting in him not being available for the final nine-and-a-half minutes of the game. With an extra day off between Games 2 and 3, the hope was that it would provide Barkov enough time to get himself ready for the action, and he took a big step towards playing when he took the ice with the Panthers on Wednesday morning for their latest practice.

Panthers could get a huge boost if Aleksander Barkov plays in Game 3

Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (16) skates with the puck during the first period against the Edmonton Oilers in game two of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena.
Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Given how big of a hit he received, and the fact that he didn't return to the game after he left the ice, it seemed like Barkov could be forced to miss some time for the Panthers. Instead, it looks like he could end up playing in Game 3, which would be a huge boost for Florida given how vital Barkov is to both their offensive and defensive game plans.

Barkov is tied with Matthew Tkachuk for the team lead in points through the playoffs with 19, as he's racked up six goals and 13 assists to this point. Beyond that, Barkov also won the second Selke Trophy of his career, which is given to the best defensive forward in the league, highlighting just how good he is at not just scoring and creating goals, but preventing them as well.

There is still some more work to do for Barkov if he intends on playing in Game 3, but seeing him practice is far more encouraging than seeing him not practice. If he were to miss time, that would put a serious strain on Florida at the center position, but it seems like he is making some real progress in his quest to help the Panthers take a 3-0 lead over Edmonton in this series.

While they will certainly have their work cut out for them during their trip up to Canada for the next two games of this series, the Panthers can practically put their opponent to rest by picking up a victory in Game 3, as coming back from a 3-0 deficit is nearly impossible. That's why Barkov's status is so important, and while he's not out of the woods just yet, it seems like there's a very real possibility that he will be suiting up for Florida on Thursday night.