Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Panthers’ Trocheck back

- By Matthew DeFranks Correspond­ent

SUNRISE — In 15 minutes of pregame ice time, Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck tested his injured foot, swiveling and shooting. It must have felt good enough: Trocheck returned to Florida’s lineup for Game 5 Friday night against the New York Islanders.

Trocheck had not played since March 29 and missed 10 games after blocking a shot and fracturing his foot. The 22-year-old scored 25 goals and assisted on 28 others during the regular season for Florida.

After morning skate Friday, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant labeled Trocheck a game-time decision.

“He’s been missed,” Gallant said. “He’s a big part of our hockey team. He was playing great hockey before he got injured. He’ll be a big help to our lineup. He’s missed four weeks now, so it’ll be tough.”

The Panthers and Islanders were tied at two games apiece in their Eastern Conference quarterfin­al matchup entering the game.

Trocheck centered Florida’s third line — with wings Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler — instead of returning to the second line he spent time with during the regular season. Nick Bjugstad has filled in for Trocheck alongside Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen. The trio has combined for 15 points this series, enough production that Gallant shied away from splitting them up.

Trocheck’s offense should be a huge boost for the third line, on which Gallant resorted to center-by-committee in Game 4 in an attempt to generate offense. Purcell and Hudler have three total points.

“They haven’t generated as much as the top two lines, but they’ve been OK for us,” Gallant said.

To make up for Trocheck’s absence in Game 4, Gallant chose to rotate centers through the third line. He asked Bjugstad, Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie and Aleksander Barkov for more ice time, leading Barkov to play a game-high 24:10.

Gallant said there was no strategy about when and who he deployed on the ice.

“There was no pattern,” Gallant said. “I’m not smart enough to make a pattern. I was just throwing in the guy that didn’t look tired.”

The strategy would not be necessary Friday night.

Veteran forward Jaromir Jagr emphasized the importance of Trocheck in Florida’s lineup but offered tempered expectatio­ns for a player not only 24 days removed from his last game, but also making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

“The way he played all season, he’s a great player for us and probably the biggest surprise on our team,” Jagr said. “On the other side, don’t forget, he missed a lot of games. It’s not easy. He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t even practice. It’s not easy to just jump in and start playing again.”

Defenseman Steven Kampfer (ankle) warmed up with the team but did not crack Florida’s lineup. He was scratched along with Shawn Thornton, Greg McKegg, Quinton Howden and Jakub Kindl.

Jagr relishing playoffs

Game 5 Friday was Jagr’s 38th postseason game since returning from Europe’s KHL, but the feeling that drew him back hasn’t grown old yet.

“If you’ve never, ever been involved in an NHL playoff game, you don’t really understand how great it is,” Jagr said. “That’s the reason I came back from Europe. I was missing that part of the game; it cannot compare to anything else.”

Jagr registered his 200th career playoff point Wednesday in Game 4, becoming the fifth player in league history to reach the milestone. He joined Wayne Gretzky, Mark

Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. He has not scored in any of his past 35 playoff games.

Though Jagr still enjoys the buzz surroundin­g playoff games, he admitted he would have liked for the series to be over.

“I’d be happy if it were over right now,” Jagr said, “and it’s not.”

Isles’ Pulock out

Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock did not travel with the team and has been ruled out for the rest of the series with an upper-body injury, New York coach Jack Capuano said. Pulock had one goal and two assists in the series’ first four games. Marek Zidlicky took his place in the lineup.

 ?? JIM RASSOL/SOUTHFLORI­DA.COM ?? Thomas Greiss of the Islanders makes a save in the frist period. Friday. The game did not end in time for this newspaper. For results, go to SunSentine­l.com/Panthers
JIM RASSOL/SOUTHFLORI­DA.COM Thomas Greiss of the Islanders makes a save in the frist period. Friday. The game did not end in time for this newspaper. For results, go to SunSentine­l.com/Panthers

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