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Panthers' Matheson may face Islanders in Game 2

Rookie defenseman could make playoff debut; New York trying for 2-0 series lead

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent


Eastern Conference First Round

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, MSG+, FS-F

New York leads best-of-7 series 1-0

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Michael Matheson could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Friday in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Islanders.

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said he would make lineup changes for Game 2, but decline to provide specifics. But veteran defenseman Jakub Kindl was the only Panthers skater who appeared in Game 1 to participate in an optional morning skate Friday. Kindl's 12:30 of ice time Thursday was the lowest for any Panthers defenseman.

"I wouldn't read into it," Gallant said of Kindl skating Friday morning. "He might be not playing, but I wouldn't read that into that."

Matheson, selected by Florida in the first round (No. 23) of the 2012 NHL Draft, played his first three NHL games this season. He didn't record a point and had a plus-1 rating.

"Young kid, skates very well, moves the puck very well," Gallant said. "Good young player. He's going to be a real good player for us for a long time. He played two or three games this season and we really like what we saw. If he's playing tonight, we really like him a lot."

Goaltender Roberto Luongo will start. Luongo allowed five goals on 26 shots in the Panthers' 5-4 loss Thursday.

Gallant objected when he was asked whether the Panthers needed more from Luongo in Game 2.

"No, we need more from our team," Gallant said. "Those turnovers killed us. Do you wish a couple of pucks would have hit him? Yeah, but they were great shots. There were a couple of great shots there. No, [Luongo] was fine."

Luongo started both ends of back-to-back sets twice during the regular season. The first time was Jan. 22-23 when the Panthers defeated the Stanley Cup Final teams from last season, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. He didn't have much success in his second back-to-back set Feb. 12-13, getting pulled after one period of a 5-3 loss against the St. Louis Blues before losing 5-0 against the Nashville Predators.

Goaltender Thomas Greiss will start for the Islanders.

Greiss, who made 42 saves Thursday in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs start, had one set of starts in back-to-back games. He was pulled after allowing four goals in a 5-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 2 and played the entire game Jan. 3 in a 6-5 victory against the Dallas Stars.

During the regular season, the Islanders were 9-3-3 in the second half of back-to-backs, and the Panthers were 8-4-2.

"We're a better team when we don't sit around and we wait, we just get right back in there," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We want to use our speed. We didn't play well last night. We know that. We were fortunate on a few occasions that Thomas really came up big for us and made some big saves, but we want to get right back in there. I think guys are comfortable with that."

Here are the projected lineups:


Frans Nielsen  - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Nikolay Kulemin - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Shane Prince  - Alan Quine - Ryan Strome  
Matt Martin  - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck  

Nick Leddy  - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan  - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock  
Thomas Greiss
Jean-Francois Berube  
Injured: Anders Lee (broken fibula), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Brian Strait  (upper body), Jaroslav Halak (lower body)
Scratched: Marek Zidlicky , Adam Pelech, Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Christopher Gibson


Jonathan Huberdeau  - Aleksander Barkov  - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen  - Nick Bjugstad  - Reilly Smith
Jiri Hudler - Rocco Grimaldi  - Teddy Purcell

Garrett Wilson - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Dmitry Kulikov  - Aaron Ekblad

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Michael Matheson - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Injured: Vincent Trocheck (foot), Dave Bolland  (lower body), Willie Mitchell (concussion), Steven Kampfer (lower body)
Scratched: Quinton Howden, Greg McKegg, Jakub Kindl

Status report: The only Islanders who skated Friday morning were the four healthy scratches from Game 1 (Boulton, Zidlicky, Bernier and Pelech), as well as backup goalies Berube and Christopher Gibson. Capuano said he would have to check on the health of his players in the afternoon to determine his lineup, but didn't anticipate significant changes. … Trocheck, who has been out since March 29 when he was injured blocking a shot against the Toronto Maple Leafs, might resume skating Saturday, Gallant said. … Kampfer joined Mitchell and the scratches from Game 1 (Howden, McKegg and Matheson) on the ice for the Panthers Friday morning.

Who's hot: Including his one-goal, two-assist performance in Game 1, Tavares has eight goals and nine assists over his past 11 games, including a goal in each of his past five games. Okposo has three goals and seven assists over his past nine games. … Jokinen's goal in Game 1 gave him eight in his past 14 playoff games.

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