Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers getting an unlikely boost from their fourth line

Florida's fourth line getting job done

The Florida Panthers are getting strong play from their fourth line on both ends of the ice.
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The Florida Panthers are getting strong play from their fourth line on both ends of the ice.

With everyone healthy for the first time this season, the Panthers like to say they now have three lines which can score at any given time.

If Florida has forgotten it has four lines of forwards, well, opponents probably have not.

Not only has Florida been getting plenty of scoring lately from the likes of Sasha Barkov’s line or the trio centered by Vincent Trocheck, but the Panthers’ defense-first trio making up their fourth line has been doing some offensive damage of late as well.

Call it chipping in, and the Panthers will take it.

"I think we know what kind of role you have to play on the fourth line," captain Derek MacKenzie said. "We’re giving guys a breather and hope, when they come back, the puck is in the offensive zone."

MacKenzie now centers Colton Sceviour (two goals in the past four games) and Shawn Thornton with the three’s main responsibility being on the defensive side of the ice.

Only recently, however, these three have been causing a little bit of havoc in the offensive zone as they have been able to not only kick the puck out of their side of the ice but keep it buried in the opponents’ end for long periods of time.

"Derek flies around, plays his heart out every shift and Sceviour is a talented player," Thornton said. "We’re pretty decent at getting pucks out of our zone when they come up the wall. We get pucks in and we don’t turn it over. We play a simple brand of hockey and there’s a lot of communication going on."

Coming into Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames at BB&T Center (7:30 p.m., FSFL), members of Florida’s fourth line have accounted for three goals and two assists this month – which may not seem like much but considering their on-ice objective (not to mention their limited ice time) that’s not too bad.

"They have been great," said coach Tow Rowe, who said he didn’t give Florida’s fourth line as much PT as they deserved in Wednesday’s loss to Edmonton although losing Trocheck for much of the second period and trailing in the third played into that.

"They’re going to get more minutes because I think that hurt us as [Wednesday’s] game went on. They have been getting scoring chances, scoring goals and getting points. They can do it off their forecheck, they are so aggressive physically. They’re quick, get pucks turned over and are always around the net where they need to be."

WATCH THIS: Florida Panthers coach Tom Rowe speaks after the morning skate via One Panther Parkway

Thornton, who was a healthy scratch for much of the first two months of the season, hasn’t had many nights off lately.

Although Thornton’s minutes have been limited past the second period – he got just 4:58 on Wednesday – the 39-year-old forward is expected to be in the lineup Friday for his 19th consecutive game.

"We have had some consistency with our lineup and I know MacKenzie hasn’t had that much," said Thornton, who hasn’t had a night off since Jan. 7.

"This line has kind of been a revolving door. But now with the three of us, we’re starting to put pucks in areas where we know the others will be.

"There’s something about being able to know someone’s tendencies to where you don’t have to look out there on the ice. We’re starting to get that chemistry and that’s definitely helping us out there."

▪ Roberto Luongo is back in net for Friday’s game against the Flames.

Friday: Flames at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.

Series: Calgary leads 16-11-3.

Scouting report: This is the second and final meeting between the teams this season, with the Flames winning 5-2 in Calgary last month. … As was the case with Edmonton, Calgary visits Tampa Bay the night before playing the Panthers. The Flames beat the Lightning 3-2.

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