(Image property of Kim Smith)
When Vincent Trocheck originally hurt his ankle the time frame for his return was initially not known for sure. He had a plan however to return shortly after the All-Star Break, which would have been near the last week of January. Earlier this week, Trocheck was cleared to play by the team doctors, deeming him 100% medically ready. He demanded, by allegedly pounding on head coach Bob Boughnerâ€™s desk that he wanted to play Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And he did.
And the Florida Panthers won.
Breaking a 7 game losing streak for their first win in 2019.
Trocheck as many know is the engine, the spark, the driver of this team. His return to the lineup was a much needed shot of adrenaline that the Panthers sorely needed. Trocheck played 18:12 centering the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad on his wings. Trocheck assisted on what turned out to be the game winning goal by Mike Matheson, who looked noticeably different re:better last night as well. Hereâ€™s the replay of the goal:
Trocheck had 3 shots on net, and led the team in hits with 7. He was noticeable, and he was effective.
Typical reaction when such an important player returns after a long absence is just what you saw last night. The Panthers played a complete game for a change. Although we must admit that the Leafs were playing the second of back to back games, and were coming off a very emotional and hard fought win the night before against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nonetheless, the Panthers will take this victory and hopefully use it as fuel for the remainder of the season.
Roberto Luongo made 20 saves last night including a clutch chance against Patrick Marleau. Mike Hoffman scored his 23rd goal of the season on a nice redirect. Defenceman Josh Brown made his NHL debut last night with 10:54 of ice time, while MacKenzie Weegar was out of the lineup and placed on IR after the hit by Montrealâ€™s Paul Byron earlier in the week.
The Panthers are 14 points out of a playoff spot as of this morning with 46 points. Their work is cut out for them. Last year after 46 games the Panthers had 44 points. I say that not to give you hope, but to remind you that they were supposed to be better this season. And to make the playoffs, theyâ€™re going to need to be a whole lot better.
Nashville on the road is up next tonight, followed by San Jose on Monday at home.
Thanks for reading.
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