TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck has had surgery for a fractured ankle and may play again this season.
Trocheck was hurt when twisted his right leg while chasing the puck near the end boards in Monday night’s game at Ottawa. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
”It’s never easy to see a player and person like him suffer an injury like this, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery and be back on the ice with our team this season,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement Wednesday.
The 2017 NHL All-Star has three goals and 14 points in 18 games this season.
Extremely grateful for all of the support and well wishes I’ve received over the last day or so. Can’t thank you all enough. Surgery was a success, and the road to recovery begins now. I’ll be back before you know it. Thanks, everyone, and go Cats @FlaPanthers
NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday afternoon’s matchup between the Winnipeg Jets and the Florida Panthers at 2 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.
The Jets are looking to rebound after blowing a 2-0 lead in the third period last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Losers of two out of their past three, the Jets are looking to climb the Central Division standings with a win in the first of a back-to-back in Finland as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
Meanwhile, the Panthers need to start winning. With just two wins in their first nine games of the season, the Panthers sit dead last in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
James Reimer gets the nod in net for the Panthers. Reimer has struggled in the absence of Roberto Luongo, posting just a single win in five game starts. His .878 save percentage leaves a lot to be desired and he’s in tough against the high-powered Jets offense.
Reimer will face off against Vezina finalist Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck’s season hasn’t started in the same vein as it did when he won 44 games last year. He’s 4-4-1 with a pedestrian .907 save percentage in nine starts.
With points at a premium for teams in the NHL’s bubble races, sometimes it’s about digging deep … and maybe getting a bounce or two.
All four division leaders either hold huge or at least comfortable edges over their competitors through Saturday, so let’s focus on teams that are in more urgent battles for positioning, if not spots altogether.
Blues > Blue Jackets
After rattling off 10 consecutive wins, the Columbus Blue Jackets fell short against the St. Louis Blues in a 2-1 regulation decision. St. Louis is on a nice run of its own, as this gutsy win gives them five in a row.
Earlier on Saturday, the Avalanche beat the Golden Knights 2-1 via a shootout, so the Avalanche and Blues now hold the West’s wild-card spots. Each team could conceivably creep into the Central’s top three, yet they also don’t have a lot of room ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks. (Update: Minnesota ended up beating Nashville, widening its lead.)
Third in Central: Wild (defeats Nashville) – 92 points, 74 games, 38 ROW First WC: Avs – 90 points, 75 GP, 40 ROW Second WC: Blues – 89 points, 75 GP, 39 ROW
Update – Third in Pacific: Ducks – 89 points, 75 GP, 34 ROW Ninth place: Kings (after loss to Oilers) – 89 points, 76 GP, 39 ROW
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
Gutsy wins by Devils and Panthers
For quite some time, it looked like the Arizona Coyotes might play the spoiler against the Florida Panthers.
Florida entered the third period down 2-0, but Vincent Trocheck helped them rally with two goals, pushing him to 30 on the season. Denis Malgin ended up collecting the game-winner in an eventual 4-2 win for the Panthers, who willed their way to a big win.
The New Jersey Devils probably rank as even more impressive. One night after gutting out an overtime win against the defending champion Penguins, the Devils beat the East-leading, more-rested Lightning by a score of 2-1. Taylor Hall assisted on the game-winner by Kyle Palmieri after scoring in OT on Friday, while Nico Hischier had two goals in as many nights.
Keith Kinkaid was even better closing out back-to-back wins, as he stopped 35 out of 36 shots on goal against the dangerous Lightning.
With the Atlantic top three essentially locked in and the Capitals closing in on the Metropolitan Division crown, take a look at the Metro’s other two spots, the two wild-card holders, and where the Panthers rank after a busy Saturday:
East WC1: Flyers – 88 points, 75 GP, 36 ROW East WC2: Devils – 86 points, 75 GP, 34 ROW
Ninth: Panthers – 83 points, 73 GP, 35 ROW
With three games in hand on the Blue Jackets and two on the other relevant Metro teams ahead of them, the Panthers are in a strong position to push their way into the postseason if they can keep things going.
Imagine how Florida felt going into the third. They lost their most recent game to Columbus by a humbling score of 4-0, and were down 2-0 with a four-game road trip looming. Saturday could have delivered a punch to the gut; instead, they kept fighting and demanded a big win.
Losing in regulation keeps Columbus from a) at least briefly grabbing a round of home-ice advantage and b) creating a meaningful cushion ahead of the bubble pack. They remain in third in the Metro even after this loss, but this one stings.
• Michael Leighton was traded to the Penguins earlier this week, but he’ll spend most of his team with their farm team in Wiles-Barre/Scranton. That’s not a problem for him because he seems pretty comfortable there already. (citizensvoice.com)
• The Bruins are starting to look like one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. (WEEI.com)
• Canadiens forward Daniel Carr is skating on his team’s fourth line, but he isn’t playing like it. (Montreal Gazette)
The Anaheim Ducks would probably qualify as unlucky so far in 2017-18 even beyond an extremely unfortunate bounce of a puck fracturing Ryan Getzlaf‘s cheekbone.
That loss was especially severe with Ryan Kesler already recovering, as Getzlaf missed 19 games, last appearing in a contest on that painful night of Oct. 29. The Ducks get quite the treat, then, as both Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg are slated to return as they host the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Ducks are still without Kesler, and Patrick Eaves is fighting a serious physical battle that puts hockey on the backburner, so there’s still some mystery to how the Ducks might look if they can get anywhere near full-strength this season.
As is, they look a whole lot better going into Monday’s game, something the Florida Panthers could relate to.
While Anaheim’s dealt with bad luck, you could chalk up Florida’s troubles to a mix of unforced errors (jettisoning depth, particularly to Vegas) and tough breaks of their own (Roberto Luongo‘s injury issues). Either way, management will look infinitely smarter when Aleksander Barkov is in the lineup than when he’s not, so the Panthers must be happy to welcome him back tonight.
That would be quite the top-heavy approach for Florida, even if Malgin can mesh well with Vincent Trocheck.
While the Panthers have floundered at times, the Ducks seemed like they were finally starting to crater under the pressure of all those injury losses, as Anaheim only boasts two wins (2-4-4) in its last 10 games.
It’s true that the return of Barkov and Getzlaf would be important in just about any context for their teams, but each team likely feels especially relieved on Monday, as they can use all the help they can get.