For the first time this season, the Florida Panthers will have a new forward in the lineup when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.
In the first seven games, the Panthers had run the same 12 forwards — mostly out of necessity since they only had 12 on the active roster due to salary cap concerns.
But on Thursday, Eric Staal will make his debut with Nick Cousins getting the night off.
Staal will center Florida’s fourth line with Ryan Lomberg and Patric Hornqvist.
Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the sixth time in eight games this season.
The Panthers are looking to carryover how they played in the second half of the third period Tuesday and not the first 45 or so minutes.
“We need some directness with our game,” coach Paul Maurice said following Thursday’s morning skate.
Florida is also making a few changes to their lineup aside from Staal.
Matthew Tkachuk will remain on the top line with Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe while Sam Reinhart goes with Sam Bennett and Rudolfs Balcers.
“I liked what I saw in the third,” Maurice said. “We were 4-1-1 going into Chicago and we had some pieces to our lines we thought we underperforming a bit but there was no cost to it. We were doing well.”
Anton Lundell will also try and give the power play a spark by moving up to the top unit with Eetu Luostarinen getting a shot on the second unit.
The good news for the Panthers coming out of Tuesday’s loss in Chicago is the health of top defenseman Gus Forsling.
Forsling took a shot off his boot in the second period and was slow to get off the ice. He did return and play 10 shifts after being struck.
It appears that he will be in the lineup tonight for the Panthers.
Also, Maurice confirmed that the Panthers are “aiming” for a Nov. 12 return for injured defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Ekblad sustained a groin injury during Florida’s loss at Boston on Oct. 17 and would not meet the 10-game and 24 day long-term injured reserve threshold until that game against the Oilers.
He is skating and is expected to travel on Florida’s west cost trip prior to its game against the Oilers.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-200); Puck line (-1.5, +120); Over/Under 6.5 (-105/-115)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Philadelphia leads 55-37-6, 7 ties
- Season Series (Florida 1-0): Florida 4, Philadelphia 3 (Oct. 19)
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
38 Rudolfs Balcers // 9 Sam Bennett // 13 Sam Reinhart
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 6 Colin White
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 70 Patric Hornqvist
42 Gus Forsling // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
3 Matt Kiersted // 18 Marc Staal
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratch: Nick Cousins, Lucas Carlsson
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Aaron Ekblad (LTIR-groin)
PROJECTED PHILADELPHIA FLYERS LINEUP
86 Joel Farabee // 13 Kevin Hayes // 11 Travis Konecny
49 Noah Cates // 21 Scott Laughton // 74 Owen Tippett
23 Lukas Sedlak // 48 Morgan Frost // 57 Wade Allison
44 Nicolas Deslauriers // 58 Tanner Laczynski // 24 Egor Zamula
8 Ivan Provorov // 77 Tony DeAngelo
6 Travis Sanheim // 70 Rasmus Ristolainen
24 Nick Seeler // 61 Justin Braun
79 Carter Hart
32 Felix Sandstrom