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Panthers evaluating lineup options for Game 5

Status of Trocheck, Kampfer may influence decisions against Islanders

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' decision to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders was based on having three days between games and seeking more offense from the third line, coach Gerard Gallant said Thursday.

Gallant was pleased with the results after the Panthers' 2-1 victory Wednesday, but wasn't sure whether he'd use the same strategy for Game 5 at BB&T Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, TVA Sports, SN, SUN, MSG+). 

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

The Panthers were off Thursday when they traveled home, but Gallant said he would meet with his coaches sometime during the day to formulate a game plan. Gallant termed the idea of going back to 12 forwards and six defensemen for Game 5 "very possible."

With 11 forwards, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen and Derek MacKenzie took turns double shifting. Barkov led all Panthers players in ice time at 24:10.

"I think it worked out pretty good last night with [Barkov] playing 24 minutes," Gallant said. "It's not a big deal. He's a young kid. The biggest thing was we had a few days off. We played three games in four nights and we had two full days off before we played again. So you basically had three days off and I thought between rotating Barkov and Bjugstad and MacKenzie and Jokinen on that so-called third line, it would give us some different options there. I wanted to get a little more offense on that third line with those guys going in and back."

Defenseman Jakub Kindl returned to the lineup in Game 4 after being scratched the previous two games, but did not play. Gallant said the switch to 11 forwards was a last-minute decision and not the result of an injury.

The decision to do it again in Game 5 would become simpler if center Vincent Trocheck were available, but Gallant said that determination will not be made until after morning skate Friday.

Trocheck was expected to skate on his own Thursday. Defenseman Steven Kampfer, who missed the start of the series with a lower-body injury, has been cleared to return.

The Panthers evened the series Wednesday by bouncing back after a disappointing loss in Game 3, when they had a goal overturned and squandered two two-goal leads before losing in overtime.

Gallant said his team's resiliency was something he's familiar with.

"Everybody is going to lose hockey games, but it's the way you respond after you lose hockey games," Gallant said. "I think our team has responded really well all season long. It's not like it's a big surprise for us. We had a tough game the other night. We lost a real tough game. I knew our team was going to be good last night. I didn't know we were going to win the game, but I knew we were going to play a good, solid hockey game. I knew we weren't going to crumble."

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