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Panthers without Bjugstad for Game 6 at Islanders

Florida looks to stay alive with center absent from lineup

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer


Eastern Conference First Round

Islanders lead best-of-7 series 3-2

TV: 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, SUN, MSG+

NEW YORK -- Center Nick Bjugstad will not be in the lineup when the Florida Panthers play against the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Barclays Center on Sunday.

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant called Bjugstad day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

"[Bjugstad] is doing really well but he didn't travel with us [to Brooklyn]," Gallant said.

Bjugstad, who has two goals and four points in five games in the series, was hurt in the first overtime of a 2-1 loss in Game 5 at BB&T Center on Friday when he lost his footing after contact from Islanders forward Shane Prince and went face-first into the boards.

"It's tough missing key guys but throughout the year we've been able to overcome some tough losses; Teddy Purcell and [Aleksander] Barkov have been out, Jaromir Jagr has been out and we missed our captain (Willie Mitchell) half the season," Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen said. "We have lots of good players here who have stepped up."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm3: Hickey lights the lamp for OT winner

The last time Florida trailed a series 3-2 was in the 1996 Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Panthers won that series in seven games.

"We like how we've been playing this series and we want to keep playing the same way," Jokinen said. "We have to try and do a better job staying out the penalty box and maybe get a couple of power plays ourselves, too."

"We don't feel as though we deserve to go home yet. We're too good a team to go down right now so we have to do everything we can to keep this series going."

The Islanders are 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) on the power play in the series and the Panthers are 2-of-12 (16.7 percent).

The Islanders, who were 25-11-5 at home in the regular season, have an opportunity to win a playoff series for the first time since 1993, when they won two rounds before being defeated by the Montreal Canadiens in the Wales Conference Final.

"We haven't won a playoff series since I've been here but they say it's one of the hardest things to do and I think we're well aware of that so we have a huge challenge ahead," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "We know they're going to come out with their best and we have to come out with ours. It's been a hard-fought series and I can't imagine it being any different [Sunday]."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm5: Quine wins game with PPG in double OT

Islanders captain John Tavares, who will likely begin the game centering left wing Alan Quine and right wing Kyle Okposo, is looking forward to channeling the energy that the fans will provide from the outset.

"We're excited but at the same time you have to stay in the moment and approach each game as we have because it's been an incredibly tight series," Tavares said.

This is the Islanders' third trip to the playoffs in the past four seasons. They lost to the Washington Capitals in seven games last season and a six-game series to the Penguins in 2013.

"We've played in some great environments that our fans have provided in three playoff series so far," Tavares said. "Obviously [the fans] will be excited and for us it's just staying in the moment and staying composed and don't try to do too much or let the emotions get the best of you."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Jiri Hudler - Derek MacKenzie - Teddy Purcell

Garrett Wilson - Logan Shaw - Shawn Thornton

Michael Matheson - Aaron Ekblad

Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson

Brian Campbell - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Dave Bolland (lower body), Willie Mitchell (concussion), Steven Kampfer (lower body)

Scratched: Greg McKegg, Quinton Howden, Jakub Kindl


Alan Quine - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey

Shane Prince - Brock Nelson - Steve Bernier

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Anders Lee (broken fibula), Ryan Pulock (upper body), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Brian Strait (upper body), Jaroslav Halak (lower body)

Scratched: Ryan Strome, Adam Pelech, Eric Boulton, Christopher Gibson

Status report: Trocheck, who returned to the Panthers lineup in Game 5 after sitting out the previous 10 games with a foot injury, will play between Jokinen and Smith on Florida's second line. … In Bjugstad's absence, MacKenzie could move to third-line center between Hudler and Purcell, and Shaw could be shifted to fourth-line center between Wilson and Thornton. Thornton returned to practice Sunday after missing the past two days with the flu. … Quine, who scored the game-winner in the second overtime of Game 5, will likely begin the game alongside Tavares and Okposo. "I'm still getting to know him a little bit," Tavares said of Quine. "We obviously think we can still be better but he created opportunities and he's a smart, tenacious player with a great shot so I'm sure he'll feel more comfortable being on the wing." … Nielsen will likely remain at second-line center with Kulemin and Bailey.

Who's hot: Smith is tied for first in scoring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight points (four goals, four assists), and Barkov is sixth in faceoff winning percentage (55.6) among players with at least 100 draws taken. … Tavares is tied for fifth in playoff scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists), and second in faceoff winning percentage (58.9).

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