Florida Panthers

Panthers go with five-forward power play against Lightning to start season

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) handles the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla.
Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) handles the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. AP

Panthers coach Bob Boughner will go the unconventional route to start the season.

At least on the power play.

Florida is using five forwards on the top unit, breaking the mold of using at least one defenseman on the blue line to run the point while on the man advantage.

Captain Aleksander Barkov will be at the point position, paired with Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman and Evgeny Dadonov.

It’s a look the Panthers used briefly in the preseason; Boughner liked enough of what he saw to go with it.

“We’ve seen it a few times now, we’ve practiced it and it just gives us a different look,” Boughner said. “That’s not to saw we won’t go back to [Keith Yandle] at the top there, but we want to strengthen our second unit, too, and this does that.”

The biggest adjustment will be using Barkov up top as opposed to around the net area.

“Barky is an elite passer and up top he’s going to get more touches,” Boughner said. “And when he was down low, he wasn’t getting as many touches on the puck, so it’s just a different look.

“We’ll have to see how it looks ... and make sure we are getting our chances and not giving up too much.”

Even with all the responsibilities on Barkov, he’s ready to accept another challenge.

“It’s my first time working on the blue line, so we’ll see what happens,’’ he said. “But we are going to be fine.’’

Rookie debut

Defenseman Jacob MacDonald earned his job out of training camp and his spot on the opening-night roster, suiting up for his first NHL game.

The undrafted blue-liner out of Cornell is coming off a 20-goal season with the Binghamton Devils last season in which he lead all American Hockey League defensemen in goals and points (55).

MacDonald is just the sixth player born in Oregon to play in the NHL.

“I just want to play my game, be solid in all three zones,” MacDonald said. “I can’t do anything thing other than go out and be myself.”

MacDonald opened the scoring for the Panthers at 5:58 of the first period Saturday against Tampa Bay, cutting down from the left point to take a feed from Trocheck for his first NHL goal.

LATE START

After sitting around for three days as the rest of the league started the season, the Panthers finally got things underway at Tampa Bay on Saturday.

The two teams were the last in the NHL to open their seasons.

“We’re excited to get out there and finally play for something,’’ defenseman Aaron Ekblad said.

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