The Florida Panthers appear to be rolling out the same lineup Wednesday in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning with one exception: Keith Yandle was working with the scratch players again and will likely not play.
The Panthers were without defenseman Radko Gudas at the morning skate Wednesday but coach Joel Quenneville said he is “go to go.”
Since the Panthers used a fill-in — assistant coach and former team captain Derek MacKenzie — all signs point to Gudas indeed being in the lineup.
He was just taking the morning off apparently.
Yandle will be scratched for the third time in the past four games.
With Markus Nutivaara out with an assumed injury (Quenneville has repeatedly said simply that Nutivaara was “fine”), Yandle returned to the lineup in Game 5.
He did not see much ice time.
As we noted in this morning’s preview, Yandle played less than 10 minutes in Game 5 which is a number you would expect from a fourth-line winger not a defenseman. Yandle only got two shifts in the third period and one of those was for a power play.
Getting burned on his opening shift which led to Tampa Bay’s lone goal did not help his cause to stay in the lineup.
Blake Coleman worked the puck around Yandle defending in the neutral zone, went right by him to get the puck back and feed Ross Colton for a 1-0 lead. Spencer Knight did not give up another goal.
Nutivaara was back working with Brandon Montour on Wednesday with Quenneville saying it was likely he would play.
We expect Chris Driedger to back up Knight tonight as he did in Game 5.
Controlling the ups-and-downs of a playoff series can be tough but the Panthers need to rein in theirs and continue playing smart after winning Game 5.
This is going to be a fired up Tampa Bay crowd so keeping things in check — and staying out of the penalty box — will be of the upmost importance.
“You can look and say a win forces a Game 7 but the biggest thing is to take it one game at a time and that is what we have done,” Frank Vatrano said. “We need to win to get to that next game so we just have to take it shift by shift, period by period. They obviously have a very dangerous power play so we just need to play hard between the whistles and don’t get that extra jab afterward. The refs are watching and they have been cracking down this series.”
Said Patric Hornqvist: “Obviously it felt good to win that game in front of a lot of fans in our building. We played a hell of a 60-minute effort. We were backchecking, playing for each other. That’s exactly what we have to do tonight.”
Quenneville has been in a number of playoff rounds where his team was down and rallied to win — the biggest coming in 2013 when the Blackhawks overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Red Wings in the west semifinals.
Florida is still a ways from coming all the way back against the Lightning, but winning Monday night certainly was a start.
“A start is important in a building like this,” Quenneville said. “They’re going to be ready, they know how to win in this building. It’s loud and it’s a fun place to play. We’re going to try and neutralize that right off the bat. Let’s have a purpose right from the first few shifts. Hey, it’s going to be quick. Simplicity is part of that.
“Part of the playoffs is, whether it’s early in a round or round-to-round, the highs and lows are extreme. Recapturing momentum when it is lost is very important. When you get to the latter stages in the Games 6s and 7s, you have to keep it as long as you can. The importance of every shift gets magnified.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
GAME 6: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
TAMPA BAY LEADS BEST-OF-7 SERIES 3-2
- When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- Tickets: AVAILABLE HERE
- Regular season series: Florida won 5-2-1
- The series so far — Game 1: Tampa Bay 5, Florida 4; Game 2: Tampa Bay 3, Florida 1; Game 3: Florida 6, Tampa Bay 5 (OT); Game 4: Tampa Bay 6, Florida 2; Game 5: Florida 4, Tampa Bay 1.
- TV: CNBC, BS-FLA
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM