Why surging Florida is making change to top line. And goalie plan with 8 games in 13 days
The Florida Panthers are playing their best hockey of the season and yet Paul Maurice didn’t hesitate to make a change in the third period of their come-from-behind win against the Devils on Saturday.
Although they believed they were playing well enough to lead, the Panthers trailed by two when their coach decided to bump Anthony Duclair down to the third line and promote Sam Reinhart to the first at the second intermission, and Florida ended up rallying for a fifth win in seven games.
Two days later, the Panthers stuck with the change when they opened up a quick-two game road trip Monday against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena in Michigan.
“We’re going to leave it as it is,” Maurice said. “The idea is we’re looking for an edge at some point.”
The results from the weekend were ultimately inconclusive.
Florida actually got outshot by New Jersey, 4-1, when the revamped top line — with forwards Eetu Luostarinen and Reinhart as the wings flanking All-Star center Aleksander Barkov — was on the ice and the new-look third line didn’t fare much better. The Panthers and Devils were even in shots when Duclair, left wing Ryan Lomberg and forward Anton Lundell were on the ice together for 5-on-5 action.
Reinhart and Barkov did, however, combine for three goals during the comeback with Barkov setting up Reinhart for the victory-sealing empty-net goal in the last minute.
The third line also took on an identity of relentless speed, with Duclair and Lomberg as two of the fastest skaters on the team.
“No matter who you’re going out with, everyone seems to be bought into our systems, our structure, the way we’ve got to play,” Reinhart said Saturday. ‘It doesn’t really matter who’s up. We’re all trying to hold on.”
Maurice said he discussed the change with Duclair, Reinhart and Barkov before Florida faced the Red Wings in Detroit, and laid out his vision for the altered lineup.
With the top line, Maurice’s hope is it’ll shake Barkov’s line out of a funk after the Panthers were outscored across their last three games when their captain was on the ice for 5-on-5 play.
With the third line, Maurice wants Duclair to lock back in as a shooter after his average shots per game dropped to two across his last six after he totaled nine in his first two games back from injury.
“We’ve got to get that mindset back to puck goes to the net when it’s on your stick,” Maurice said.
It’s an option Florida has now with Duclair back in the lineup and giving the Panthers the depth they so value.
It might not be a permanent move, but they believe it’s the right one right now.
“It has as much to do with matching and who we’re playing against,” Maurice said. “All three of those guys can flip easy, so it doesn’t change their game.”
Panthers eye starts for Lyon
Florida recalled Alex Lyon from AHL Charlotte on Sunday and the goaltender could start as soon as Tuesday when the Panthers wrap up their two-day, two-game road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center in Pennsylvania.
Lyon hasn’t started in the NHL since January, as star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has made 13 straight starts in net for the Panthers, but Florida is now in a stretch of eight games in 13 days and expects Lyon to start a few times to keep Bobrovsky fresh.
“Alex is going to play in probably two of them,” Maurice said. “There’s a strong consideration for him playing tomorrow in Philadelphia.”
The 30-year-old goalie started on back-to-back days for the Charlotte Checkers on Friday and Saturday, and stopped 34 of 35 total shots to pick up a pair of wins. He was down in the American Hockey League for a tune-up with the Panthers knowing they’d need him to spell Bobrovsky for a handful of games in the next few weeks.
Florida also loaned goaltender Mack Guzda, who backed up Bobrovsky on Thursday and Saturday, to the Checkers on Sunday to make room for Lyon on the active roster.
Panthers trade prospect to Kings
The Panthers traded the rights to prospect Cole Krygier to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in exchange for future considerations.
A defenseman, Krygier was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and is now in his fifth year at Michigan State.