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Panthers' Trocheck back 'in the near future': Gallant

Center skates again Tuesday, has missed past nine games with ankle injury

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck is getting close to returning to the lineup but won't play in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, SUN, MSG+).

The Islanders lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Trocheck, who has missed the past nine games with an ankle injury, skated on his own prior to practice at Prudential Center on Tuesday and took a few line rushes with his teammates before leaving the ice. He had 25 goals and 28 assists in 76 games before he was injured blocking a shot March 29 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Trocheck's on schedule; he's doing well," coach Gerard Gallant said. "In the near future, he'll be back. He was one of, if not our best forward before he got hurt. He played great hockey and was a big part of our team. He's not there right now, but I still like the way our team is playing for the most part.

"Our top lines are getting chances and scoring some goals. The Islanders have a real good team, and it's a battle right now; there's not a big difference between the two teams."

Video: Panthers Prepare in Newark

Trocheck, who began skating Saturday, centered one of the most productive lines in the NHL with left wing Jussi Jokinen and right wing Reilly Smith. His spot has been taken by Nick Bjugstad, who has two goals and four points in three games in the first-round series.

One area the Panthers need to improve is specialty teams. Florida is 1-for-7 on the power play and 6-for-9 on the penalty kill in the series.

"We'll watch some video and do the right things," Gallant said. "The Islanders move the puck well and have some really skilled guys; they made some good plays. On their 5-against-3 goal (in Game 3), they got a good shot from the point (by Ryan Pulock) with a good screen. Simple is good, and that's what we need to be."

Defenseman Steven Kampfer returned to practice Tuesday but is doubtful for Game 4.

Kampfer took regular line rushes but said a decision on his availability for Game 4 wouldn't be made until Wednesday. The 27-year-old, who won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, has missed the past four games since injuring his ankle April 7 against the Ottawa Senators.

"I feel great," Kampfer said. "I had a talk with the trainers after skating the past four days, and it's the coach's call. He'll put the best lineup out there. You respect that because at this time of the year, you need to win hockey games."

Gallant said Kampfer is unlikely to play Wednesday.

"The trainers haven't told me he's cleared to go, but (judging) by the practice, it looks like he's ready," Gallant said. "I don't think [he'll be in the lineup], but I do think he would be available."

Three Florida defensemen (Aaron Ekblad, Michael Matheson and Alex Petrovic) made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in this series.

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