Trocheck, an All-Star in 2017, is out indefinitely after undergoing a successful surgery to repair a fractured ankle. The injury occurred in the first period of Monday’s 7-5 win in Ottawa, when the 25-year-old fell and twisted his right leg after chasing a loose puck behind the Senators net.
Prior to the injury, Trocheck had posted three goals and 14 points in 18 games this season.
“It’s never easy losing a guy like Troch,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “We thought a lot about the lines, the combinations and who should play with who. The bottom line is that you’re never going to replace him, but there’s gong to be some opportunities for guys that are going to get a lot more ice time, a lot more responsibility.”
Boughner said one of the most difficult things to replace will be Trocheck’s minutes. A bona fide workhorse, he was among the top-30 minutes eaters in the league among forwards, averaging 20:14 of ice time per game, including 4:06 on the power play and 1:40 on the penalty kill.
“He’s a 21-22 minute a game guy,” Boughner said. “Those are heavy minutes. We’re going to have to spread them out. Guys are going to have to seize that opportunity.”
In looking to fill their void at center, the Panthers have moved Jared McCann up from the third to the second line, while rookie Juho Lammikko has been promoted from the fourth to the third. On the fourth, Colton Sceviour will slide over from his usual spot on the wing to the pivot position.
This isn’t the first time McCann has been moved into the top-six in a time of need, as the 22-year-old most recently registered three assists in two games after being elevated to the second line for the final two games of last season after an injury to top-line center Aleksander Barkov.
McCann, who scored his second goal of the season on Monday, has six points in 17 games.
“Troch is a huge part of our team,” McCann said. “We’re going to have some guys step up and fill the role. I feel like tonight’s kind of my time to show them I can do that. At the end of the year when Barky went down, I kind of stepped up in that position, too.”
As for Lammikko, the 22-year-old Finn is red-hot after an historic night against the Senators in which he matched a franchise record with four assists – all of them primary. A two-way center, he is also likely to his 1:33 of shorthanded ice time per game increase in Trocheck’s absence.
“I’ve felt better every game I’ve played,” said Lammikko, who played over 100 games in the AHL before his first NHL call-up this season. “Last game was last game. Now I’m just focused on this upcoming game. I feel good to be here. I hope I can help the team win today.”
Boughner said he’s been impressed by Lammikko’s development.
“He put his time in and he constantly got better every year,” Boughner said of Lammikko, a third-round draft pick in 2014. “He did the things we asked him to do in the summer to get himself physically ready. You can tell he’s had some experience in the American League as a pro. His details of the game are great… His game’s constantly getting better.”
On Wednesday morning, Trocheck tweeted that he’ll be “back before you know it.”
“Vinny is a tremendous competitor and leader for our club,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a release. “It’s never easy to see a player and person like him suffer an injury like this, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery and be back on the ice with our team this season.”
The Panthers (8-7-3) have won six of their last eight games, but have not faced the cross-state rival Lightning since being dealt a 2-1 overtime loss in the season opener on Oct. 6. Tampa sits a 14-6-1, but has lost three of its last five games, including a 3-2 defeat in Nashville on Monday.
Brayden Point leads the Lightning in both goals (14) and points (26).
“They have speed and skill and they’re obviously really good in the offensive zone,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said of tonight’s Atlantic Division-matchup. “The key is to try and play in their zone as much as possible and try to spend as much time there, so they get tired and have no fuel to go in the offensive… If you give them chances, they’re going to capitalize.”
Until Trocheck returns, Barkov said the Panthers need to come together to hold the fort.
“He’s the engine of our team, and one of the most underrated players in the league,” Barkov said of Trocheck. “It’s tough to replace him, but it’s up to us as a team to do this as a group until he gets back.”
— Mike Hoffman enters tonight’s contest riding a career-best and franchise-record 16-game point streak. The 28-year-old winger has recorded nine goals and 10 assists during his torrid streak, which stands as the longest in the NHL this season. Acquired by the Panthers in a trade for draft picks this summer, he is the sixth player in NHL history to have registered a point streak of at least 16 games in his first season with a new team.
— Panthers Captain Aleksander Barkov has registered eight points (four goals, four assists) over his last seven games. The 23-year-old center also ranks first in the league with 33 takeaways, while also leading all NHL forwards with 22:33 of ice time per game.
— The Panthers have registered a power play in each of their last nine games, going 12-for-33 (36.3 percent) in that span. Keith Yandle leads Florida’s power play with 10 points and is tied for the team-lead in power play goals with three.
— The Panthers have gone 18-for-21 (85.7 percent) on the penalty kill over their last seven games. Dating back to Nov. 8, the team boasts the ninth-best penalty kill in the league.
— Aaron Ekblad enters tonight’s matchup with five points in his last four games, including three power-play goals. The 22-year-old needs six more goals pass Robert Svehla (61) for the most goals in Panthers history by a defenseman.
— Panthers winger Troy Brouwer has tallied three goals in his last six games.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Roberto Luongo (4-2-0, 2.48 GAA, .918 SV%) vs. Louis Domingue (5-3-0, 3.52 GAA, .892 SV%)
Luongo will look to end a two-game losing skid when he returns to the net after backing up James Reimer on Monday in Ottawa. After surrendering six goals and picking up the win in each of his first four starts, the 39-year-old has since allowed 10 combined goals in back-to-back losses. Poised for a rebound performance, Luongo has gone 18-6-4 with a .920 save percentage and four shutouts in his career against the Lightning.
Domingue will make his fifth straight start in place of injured starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, who broke his foot in practice last week. In Vasilevskiy’s absence, Domingue has won two of his previous four starts, surrendering 13 combined goals in that span. His last time out, the 26-year-old stopped 31 of 34 shots in a 3-2 loss in Nashville. In two career starts against Florida, he’s gone 1-1-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
Evgenii Dadonov – Aleksander Barkov – Mike Hoffman
Jonathan Huberdeau – Jared McCann – Nick Bjugstad
Dryden Hunt – Juho Lammikko – Frank Vatrano
Micheal Haley – Colton Sceviour – Troy Brouwer
Mike Matheson – Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle – Alexander Petrovic
Mark Pysyk – MacKenzie Weegar
Scratches: Bogdan Kiselevich, Denis Malgin, Vincent Trocheck (ankle)
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back)
– Nov. 21: F Denis Malgin was recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– Nov. 19: F Micheal Haley and F Dryden Hunt were recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– Nov. 19: F Maxim Mamin and F Denis Malgin were loaned to Springfield (AHL).
– Nov. 13: F Micheal Haley was loaned to Springfield (AHL) for conditioning.
HOW TO WATCH
When: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida Stream: HERE
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
Watch Party: Thanks to the new “Territory on Tap” program, every road game now offers a chance for a watch party in South Florida! To see which local bars and restaurants will have drink specials and giveaways for today’s game, visit the official “Territory on Tap” page!