The Panthers got a big jolt to their lineup on Friday night as Vincent Trocheck returned after being out for almost a month with a fractured bone in his foot.
Trocheck, who scored a career-high 25 goals before being injured, was out there for Friday’s full morning skate before Game 5 of the Panthers’ best-of-7 series with the Islanders.
Coach Gerard Gallant said Trocheck would be a game-time decision.
The decision, obviously, was that Trocheck felt ready to go.
“He’s skating well, he feels real good, so we’ll make a decision,” Gallant said Friday afternoon.
“He’s been missed, he’s a big part of our hockey team, and he was playing great hockey before he got injured. He’ll be a big help to our lineup but, again, he’s missed four weeks now, so it’ll be tough. We’re going to get him back soon whether it’s [Friday night] or Sunday or Game 7, we’ll see.”
Trocheck was spotted leaving Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in a walking boot on Wednesday night, but he skated Thursday and Friday. In Friday’s morning skate, Trocheck didn’t do much team activity but seemed focused on individual work.
Because of the nature of his injury Trocheck wasn’t able to skate much, but Jaromir Jagr — who called Trocheck’s play this season Florida’s biggest surprise — said coming in fresh could be a benefit in this closely contested series.
“Well, it would be huge, there’s no question about it,” Jagr said when asked about Trocheck’s impending return.
“The way he played all season, he was a great player for us. … On the other side, don’t forget he missed a lot of games, so it’s not easy to just …; he couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t even practice. It’s not easy to just jump in and start playing again. But other guys may be tired, so he may look good.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Although Trocheck and linemates Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith were on fire before the injury, Trocheck took the center position on Florida’s third line with Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler.
Trocheck’s line combined for 17 goals and 41 points in March, but with Nick Bjugstad there for the playoffs, they had seven goals and 15 points through the opening four games.
“Less disruption,” one Florida official said before the game.
▪ Jakub Kindl said he was on his way to the press box to watch Wednesday’s Game 4 when he was told to quickly suit up as an emergency seventh defenseman.
Kindl said Dmitry Kuliov got nicked up during warmups, and the Panthers weren’t 100 percent sure he could play. So, as a precaution, Kindl went in cold.
“I found out five minutes before the game that I needed to get dressed,” said Kindl, who didn’t leave the bench Wednesday. “That hasn’t happened before. I’m on the way to the press box, and I get a phone call.”