Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers not worried about spending Thanksgiving out of the playoffs

Jonathan Marchessault and his Florida Panthers teammates celebrate a goal earlier this season.
Jonathan Marchessault and his Florida Panthers teammates celebrate a goal earlier this season. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Over the past decade, NHL and NBA teams holding a playoff spot on Thanksgiving make the playoffs over 80 percent of the time.

The Panthers went into this holiday two points out of a postseason slot in the Eastern Conference but, naturally, didn’t seem too worried.

Florida was five points away from a playoff spot last Thanksgiving.

And things worked out OK.

“It didn’t mean much last year, obviously, and hopefully it doesn’t mean anything this year,” coach Gerard Gallant said, noting Florida ended up winning its division last season by setting franchise records for wins (47) and points (103).

“To me, it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just another number. That 12-game winning streak went a long way for us last year. It happens every year. It’s not a big deal to us.”

Although the Panthers haven’t had the start they wanted this season, they are in better shape than they were at this point a season ago.

In 2015, the Panthers were reeling at Thanksgiving, having lost nine of 12 games, and were closer to last place in the Eastern Conference than a playoff spot.

Florida had won four of five before losing to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Of the eight teams in the playoffs last Thanksgiving in the East, only five made it.

Like the Panthers, the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were out of the playoffs.

“I don’t think anyone is focused on that because we all know we have a long way to go,” said Vincent Trocheck, whose team has 62 games remaining.

“We haven’t played our best hockey yet, and it’s just a matter of us getting there as quickly as we can. I don’t think Thanksgiving is some sort of deadline. We know what this team has the capability of doing. We all have faith we’re going to turn it on.”

The Panthers took Thanksgiving off after a long practice Wednesday.

With a few days between games, the Panthers are trying to recharge their batteries with a rough stretch coming up.

Florida plays back-to-back games starting Saturday and kicks off a six-game trip on Sunday in Carolina.

“We had a good practice, and now we have a little time to relax a bit, try to be fresh for this big road trip,” Sasha Barkov said.

▪ Greg McKegg lost the spot he held on the fourth line from opening night after being waived following Tuesday's game.

With McKegg expected to be headed to the minors, the opening gives newly acquired forward Seth Griffith and veteran Shawn Thornton the chance at more playing time.

Thornton has only played in three games this season, but it appears Gallant had some regret in not playing him Tuesday against the Flyers.

Not only did Derek MacKenzie have to be separated from Wayne Simmonds, but Radko Gudas had a high shoulder hit on Trocheck while he was wrapped up with Brayden Schenn.

Gallant felt Gudas’ hit was intentional.

“Defintely, for sure,” he said. “No doubt. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a penalty.”

Gudas has a reputation for questionable play and a long history against the Panthers dating to his days with the Lightning.

Florida ends its upcoming six-game trip in Philadelphia on Dec. 6.

“It’s frustrating to see that happen, especially in your own building,” Gallant said. “The Simmonds situation and then the Gudas hit on Trocheck ... you would like a response. But when you don’t have personnel to put out there for that, it shows.”

▪ The Panthers will hold an open practice at BB&T Center to coincide with Black Friday.

The workout, which begins at 11 a.m., is free and open to the public.

Fans are asked to enter the arena at Pantherland — the team store located at the front of the building.

The store opens at 9 a.m. on Friday.

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