SUNRISE — The day after the Florida Panthers clinched a playoff spot, coach Paul Maurice would not reveal his plans for who would start in net for Thursday’s regular-season finale against Carolina much less for Game 1 of their opening-round series.
Alex Lyon appears to be the favorite to start Game 1 after leading the Panthers into the postseason on a 6-0-1 stretch where he put up a .952 save percentage and a 1.52 goals-against average.
He stepped into the starter role when Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a nasty illness on March 29 and has not come out since despite Bobrovsky returning to back him up last Saturday in Washington.
Either way, Maurice does not seem keen on giving the opponent — whomever that ends up being — the advantage of knowing who his goaltender will be.
“We are not going to help the other team prepare, so they will be game-time decisions,” he said.
As far as Bobrovsky goes, Maurice is not concerned with the fact that he has not gotten into a game since March 27.
That implies that Lyon could be in net Thursday against Carolina for an eighth consecutive start.
The rest of the Florida lineup for that game is up in the air depending on the result of the New York Islanders game on Wednesday night.
Florida would clinch the top wild card spot should New York lose in any fashion to the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
If that happens, Maurice may be keen on resting some of his stars against Carolina — and perhaps see newly-signed prospect Mike Benning make his NHL debut.
If the Islanders win, the Panthers will roll close to a full lineup against the Hurricanes as they push to earn that top wild card.
According to the NHL money lines at FanDuel, the Islanders are a heavy (-335) favorite to beat the Canadiens.
What they do know is that they will be without Sam Bennett for the 12th consecutive game as he continues to recover from a groin injury.
Bennett will finish the season with 16 goals and 40 points in 63 games after spending multiple stints on IR with lower body injuries.
The Panthers would like to have him back for the playoffs but he he has not progressed the way the team has wanted him to, per Maurice.
They will use the next three-to-four days to evaluate him before they make a final decision for his status for Game 1 of the playoffs.
On Wednesday morning, Matthew Tkachuk took a day off from practicing with Patric Hornqvist — still wearing the yellow, no-contact jersey — filling in on the right side of the second line.
Lyon and Bobrovsky split time in net.
PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- 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
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season (Series tied 1-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 70-46-10, 11 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers — First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 1 (Time, Opponent TBD)