TAMPA -- With Tom Pyatt out with a broken collar bone suffered during the Tampa Bay Lightning's win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, coach Jon Cooper is turning to Richard Panik to fill the gap.
Panik made the team out of training camp but did not look effective in the first two games and was a healthy scratch against the Sabres. He is a player Cooper knows well, having played for the coach previously in the American Hockey League.
"Richard is a high-end talent and he’s just got to -- he knows it, we've talked about this -- whether you are new to the League or old, you have to bring it every single night," Cooper said, "and there are times he's been exceptional for us and times he hasn't. He's just growing as a young player. It's not to the point where he doesn't belong in the League. Maybe for one night he didn't belong in the lineup.
"He was one of those guys that was an unreal talent, but he was probably two games on, six games off type-of-deal; and now he's reversed that into probably six games on and two games off. It's been a work in progress, but when he is going he can really impact a game."
Of course, Cooper is taking nothing for granted with Panik and the rest of his collection of young players.
"I think having such a strong American League team in Syracuse and having a stockpile of talent in the minors, that ultimately will put pressure on guys," he said. "It simply can come down to just a phone call away and a couple buttons on Expedia and that's it."
Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, a victim of a groin pull 7:31 into the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 6, was on the ice working out after the morning skate. Coach Kevin Dineen termed him "very unlikely" for the team's home opener Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Shawn Matthias woke up feeling ill and is doubtful for the game Thursday night. Joey Crabbe skated in Matthias' place at the morning skate and likely will make his season debut against the Lightning.
Here are the likely lines for both clubs:
Injured: Tom Pyatt