Panthers coach Peter Horachek was thinking he may have to start Tuesday’s game down a forward. Turns out he was without Brad Boyes for much of Florida’s 4-2 loss to the host Islanders.
Scottie Upshall and Brad Boyes were both game time decisions because of various injuries. Both played in Florida’s final road game of the season, although both left in the first period — with Upshall returning in the second.
Boyes’ sore back tightened up forcing him to leave the game for good with 7:55 left in the first period after five shifts.
Upshall was knocked out by a big hit from Matt Carkner late in the period. Upshall got hit in the face while skating up the ice and hit the deck hard. Upshall remained flat on the ice for a few minutes as he was attended to by head athletic trainer Dave Zenobi and would later slowly be helped off the ice by Zenobi.
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Horachek, the initial fear was Upshall broke his jaw. He returned midway through the second period and finished the game.
“Losing guys right off the bat puts you behind from the start because you’re mixing and matching,” Horachek said. “That put us a little bit behind the 8-ball but other guys went out and had opportunities. It’s not an easy situation.”
Upshall didn’t comment on the incident as he headed to the training room.
“Sorry guys, have to go put ice on my jaw,’’ he said.
The nasty hit led Erik Gudbranson to fight Carkner as Zenobi was tending to Upshall a few feet away.
Carkner was given two minutes for high-sticking Upshall, but because it was determined Gudbranson initiated the fight, he was penalized as well and there was no power-play chance. Carkner would later fight Krys Barch as well.
Florida got off to a rare good start Tuesday. Defenseman Jonathan Racine made quite an impression in his first NHL start, hammering Cal Clutterbuck with a big hit that was called interference 42 seconds in.
The Panthers, for only the fourth time in their history, got a shorthanded goal for the second game in a row as Quinton Howden picked the pocket of Frans Nielsen and raced down the ice, beating Evgeni Nabokov with a wrister.
That was about the it for Florida highlights as the Islanders scored the next four goals before Brandon Pirri scored with 3.9 seconds left.
New York tied it with a Travis Hamonic shot from 50 feet out with seven seconds left on the power play 45 seconds after Howden scored.
After being deadlocked at 1 for some time, the Islanders added a pair of goals in the second and never looked back.
Scott Clemmensen, likely making his final appearance with the Panthers, played well at times and didn’t get much help. Florida was being outshot 28-13 by the end of the second period and ended up at a 40-22 disadvantage.
“Playing in the NHL is a privilege and playing for the Panthers was just that,” said Clemmensen, who could return to Florida’s minor league team in San Antonio in the coming days.
“I played with a tremendous amount of guys over my five years and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I’m taking it one day at a time and appreciating everything. I’m taking it all in. Regardless of what happens, I’ll look back and know I laid it all on the line. I’ll have no regrets.”
This and That
• The Panthers made two roster moves but only used one. Although Racine made his NHL debut by filling in for Ed Jovanovski, Bobby Butler was scratched.
Racine apparently heard he was joining the Panthers on Sunday so he was able to get some friends and family to the New York area.
“I tried to play hard, play my game and do my best on the ice,” Racine, 20, said. “I was so happy to get the call. I think I did a very good job for my first game.”
Florida expected either Upshall [lower body] or Boyes [back] to miss Tuesday’s game but both decided to play after warmups so Butler watched. He could play Friday if Boyes is out.
• The Panthers will take Wednesday off as it appears the team will have been stuck on Long Island Tuesday night because of a problem with its chartered plane.