SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers will switch up their defense pairs for the first time this season as they prepare to host the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mike Reilly will play his first game for the Panthers after serving as a healthy scratch for the first 10 games, replacing Uvis Balinskis in the lineup.
“I’ve been in a situation like this before but it’s tough,” Reilly said.
“I’m not going to be the guy who comes to the rink with a bad attitude and let it show on my face to the other guys. I obviously want to be in, but I’m still going to come into the rink with the right attitude, practice hard and keep working on things.
“That’s just my approach. It’s tough sometimes because your mind starts to wander and overthink a little bit, but for me it’s if you’re preparing each day and having the right attitude, I’ll have a chance to come in at some point. I didn’t think it would be this long, but hey, it is what it is. It’s in the past.”
The change comes much later than coach Paul Maurice expected to after a defense core missing its top two players finds itself in the Top 10 of many top defensive metrics.
“If you were asking this before the opening game, I would say Mike would be within the first three or four games,” Maurice said.
”But they played well and because we have four new guys, I was a bit reluctant to start pulling defensemen in and out of the lineup. He’s practice really hard and we’ve had a couple of games where some of our defense hasn’t been fantastic, so it’s a perfect time to get a guy in.
“Everybody’s kind of got their feet wet, and I think when you take a player out now, he’ll come back in with some confidence and some edge.”
Maurice is making the change after his team got out to a sluggish start in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, allowing four unanswered goals in the first 25:29 of the game.
They were outshot 14-6 and trailed 14-11 in scoring chances in the first period.
“We‘ve had a lot of good starts this year and that one was probably our worst,” Evan Rodrigues said. “We just have to get back to doing what we do, getting in on the forecheck and being ready to go.”
— The Blue Jackets are coming off a 2-1 loss in Washington in which star Johnny Gaudreau was benched for much of the third period.
All is well, at least it seems that way.
“Johnny is a professional and we need Johnny Gaudreau,” coach Pascal Vincent said Monday. “We’re moving forward. There was a critical moment in the game where I made that decision … but it is in the past. He is a guy we rely on quite a bit. We were honest, we had a good chat.”
— Tonight’s starting goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Elvis Merzlikins.
PANTHERS ON DECK
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- DraftKings odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-230); Puck line (-1.5, +110); Over/Under 6.5 (-120/+100)
- Last Season: Florida won 2-1
- This Season: @Florida Monday, Ap. 11; @Columbus Dec 10
- All-time Regular Season Series: Columbus leads 26-17-4
- Up Next for the Panthers: Wednesday at Washington (TNT), 7:30 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (5-4-1) LINES
17 Evan Rodrigues // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 15 Anton Lundell // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 21 Nick Cousins
94 Ryan Lomberg // 18 Steven Lorentz // 67 Will Lockwood
42 Gus Forsling // 91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
77 Niko Mikkola // 7 Dmitry Kulikov
28 Josh Mahura // 6 Mike Reilly
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
41 Anthony Stolarz
Scratched: Uvis Balinskis, Rasmus Asplund
Injured: Aaron Ekblad (LTIR-shoulder), Brandon Montour (IR-shoulder), Jonah Gadjovich (UBI), Sam Bennett (LBI)
PROJECTED COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (4-5-2) LINES
13 Johnny Gaudreau // 38 Boone Jenner // 96 Jack Roslovic
10 Dmitri Voronkov // 11 Adam Fantilli // 86 Kiril Marchenko
59 Yegor Chinakhov // 4 Cole Sillinger //42 Alexandre Texier
17 Justin Danforth // 7 Sean Kuraly // 24 Mathieu Olivier
8 Zach Werenski // 78 Damon Severson
9 Ivan Provorov // 2 Andrew Peeke
22 Jake Bean // 44 Erik Gudbranson
90 Elvis Merzlinkins
30 Spencer Martin
Scratched: Adam Boqvist, David Jiricek, Emil Bemstrom