On Thursday, eight members of the Florida Panthers made their postseason debut.
The number grew by one Friday.
Mike Matheson, one of the team’s rapidly rising prospects, replaced veteran Jakub Kindl in Florida’s lineup for Game 2 of its best-of-7 series with the New York Islanders at BB&T Center.
A former captain at Boston College, Matheson has spent most of the season with Florida’s AHL team in Portland, Maine. Matheson had played in just three NHL games before coming in Friday night.
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The Panthers’ top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Matheson was expected to battle for a roster spot next year. It appears his career trajectory was sped up a bit.
“He can skate, he can carry the puck. Just give him a couple of shifts and he’ll be fine,’’ said general manager Dale Tallon, who picked Matheson 23rd overall four years ago. “He’s learned how to play his position better and is a player I trust. I love the young guys and he can be a dynamic player for us. It may be a risk putting him in, but why not? Lets go for it.’’
It appeared coach Gerard Gallant was sticking with the same lineup as Matheson joined Greg McKegg, Willie Mitchell and Quinton Howden during Friday’s early workout for non-game players.
But Matheson was pulled off the ice, and Kindl replaced him.
“I would be pretty excited if the opportunity came,’’ Matheson said before it was official he was coming in. “Everything gets ramped up in the playoffs. ... I think it’s best to stay calm and not read into things outside, get distracted. If I’m in, I need to play relaxed, play my game.’’
THIS AND THAT
▪ Vincent Trocheck was seen carrying his walking boot — and not wearing it — on Thursday and could begin skating Saturday, according to Gallant.
Trocheck, who scored a career-high 25 goals this season, fractured a bone in his foot on March 29. If all goes well, Trocheck could be back for Wednesday’s Game 4 in Brooklyn, at the earliest.
▪ Executive chairman Peter Luukko said the team won’t be giving out thousands of rubber rats at it did on March 31 anytime soon, but he wasn’t exactly apologizing for the publicity stunt that went awry.
After hundreds of rats hit the ice following Florida’s first goal in that game, officials warned the next such stoppage would bring a two-minute, delay-of-game penalty on the Panthers. Florida was hit with those penalties following its next two goals in what ended up being a 3-2 win over the Devils.
“We’re here to have fun,’’ Luukko said. “Yeah, we probably shouldn’t be giving out 10,000 rats, but wasn’t that a ball? Thank God we won the game or [Tallon] would have killed me.”
▪ One member of the Panthers not growing a playoff beard is Gallant. Although he some scruff going Wednesday, he was clean shaven by Thursday’s opener.
“Not for the coach,” he said. “As a player, I liked the playoff beard, but now it itches too much, and I don’t like it. That’s a player thing.”
▪ The Panthers are expected to take Saturday off and travel to New York. Florida and the Islanders renew the series Sunday at Barclays Center at 8 p.m.