There’s never a good time for an NHL team to be battling injuries, but with six games in the next nine days, the Florida Panthers don’t have the luxury of waiting around for guys to get back into the lineup.
The Panthers will play back-to-back home games this weekend before playing twice in the New York area in a three-day span next week.
Florida then returns home to play another set of back-to-back games before hitting the road again.
“To us, we just go with the flow and come to the rink, see what line you’re on,” said Vincent Trocheck, who has moved up to replace Sasha Barkov as center of Florida’s top line.
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“Injuries happen to every team in the NHL ... When they happen, you have to have guys step up and fill roles and lean more on the top guys to lead the charge. That’s what we have to do now.”
On Wednesday night, another Florida player was added to the injured list as winger Seth Griffith — playing on the top line due to other injuries — was lost to a concussion off a hit from Winnipeg’s Nik Ehlers.
Florida general manager and interim coach Tom Rowe said Griffith will miss at least a week. Rowe did have some good news on the injury front Thursday saying Colton Sceviour would return Friday after missing the past two games.
The Panthers also brought back 20-year-old Jared McCann who was sent to the minors in November. McCann came to the Panthers in the Erik Gudbranson trade with Vancouver over the summer and had four goals with Springfield.
“Whomever is in the lineup, we expect them to play the right way,” Rowe said. “We had a video session [Thursday] going over what we didn’t do right on Wednesday.
“We have injuries just like everyone else in the league. We just have to deal with it. There’s an opportunity for other guys, that’s how we have to look at it.”
The Panthers have been battling injuries since the preseason when Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau were lost in exhibition games.
Bjugstad has returned but Huberdeau is still out until next month; Florida’s once potent top line has been ripped apart with Jaromir Jagr the only player standing as Barkov joined Huberdeau on the injured list last month with an undisclosed lower body injury.
Rowe said Barkov is out for the next few weeks.
“Sometimes it feels like a ‘when it rains, it pours’ kind of situation,” Derek MacKenzie said.
“We certainly have had some guys come in and fill some voids. ... What can you do? All teams go through it, all teams get banged up. The bottom line is you have to find a way to win.”
Greg McKegg took advantage of his extended playing time due to Griffith’s injury on Wednesday as he jumped into a rush after Aaron Ekblad knocked down a puck and got it to Jagr.
Jagr sprung McKegg with a chip pass and the fourth-line forward raced up the ice and beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a wrist shot to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1 heading into the third.
It was one of the few highlights from a Florida team which looked more than a step off in a 4-1 loss.
“It’s definitely tough when you’re as short-manned as we are right now,” said McKegg, who was brought back from the minors last week.
“We just have to play through, deal with the cards we have been dealt and try and rally and get some wins. We have some key players out, some big roles to fill. We just have to put our best moving forward.”
Rowe said Paul Thompson would come off the bench and play Friday against the visiting Nashville Predators.
Thompson, 28, was one of the final cuts of the preseason and scored six goals with 15 points in the AHL this season before being called up early last month. Thompson has been a healthy scratch in the past two games.
▪ MacKenzie spent parts of seven seasons in Columbus and said he’s happy to see the reaction from fans in Ohio to the recent success of the Blue Jackets.
On Tuesday, Columbus won its 16th consecutive game, one shy of the NHL’s all-time mark set by Pittsburgh in 1993. The Jackets played in Washington on Thursday night.
“I’m super happy for those guys,” MacKenzie said. “I know how fun it was during our streak last year and it’s a pretty great feeling to string those wins together and you start feeling the playoffs during the season.”
The Panthers were the last team to beat the Jackets heading into Thursday’s game; Columbus visits Sunrise again next week.
Friday: Predators at Panthers
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
Series: Nashville leads 12-9-3
Scouting report: The Preds, who played at Tampa Bay on Thursday night, have won three of the past four meetings between the two in Sunrise. The first 10,000 fans to attend Friday’s game will receive a special Jaromir Jagr t-shirt as the team celebrates their 44-year-old forward taking sole possession of second place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.