Skip to Main Content

X-Factor: Getting Trocheck healthy key for Panthers

Injured forward missed final six games of regular season

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. - Before the Florida Panthers clinched their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2011-12 season and before they clinched the Atlantic Division title, forward Jaromir Jagr wasn't necessarily concerned about the lack of playoff experience on their roster.

Jagr believed it was too early to tell whether a lack of a playoff-tested roster would be a factor, and said matchups might be more significant.

But the third-leading scorer in NHL history was sure about one thing: He'd like to have a healthy Vincent Trocheck on his side to start the playoffs.

"The worst thing that happened to us, Vincent got injured," Jagr said. "That's a big loss for us. I would feel a lot more confident if he would be in the lineup, I'll tell you that."

When Trocheck sustained a foot injury March 29 blocking a shot against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jagr said the Panthers just lost their best player.

Video: COL@FLA: Trocheck scores a pair of power-play goals

Trocheck's status for the playoffs is unclear after he missed the final six games of the regular season because of the injury. His injury was considered similar to those sustained by center Derek MacKenzie and defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who each were out between two and three weeks.

Based on that timeline, the Panthers could be without the 22-year-old forward for at least their first couple of playoff games. Once Trocheck does return, the concern is whether he will be limited, especially his speed, which is a major part of his game.

That speed, along with an aggressive offensive approach, is what helped Trocheck finish the season with 25 goals and 28 assists in 76 games. Trocheck, who hadn't missed a game before the injury, was tied for the team lead in goals with Jagr and led the team in shots.

Video: FLA@BOS: Trocheck rips in a shorthanded goal

His emergence centering the Panthers' second line this season was critical because it gave them a second productive unit to complement the top trio of Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

General Manager Dale Tallon emphasized Trocheck's importance when the Panthers visited Madison Square Garden in March.

"He saved our team this year," Tallon said. "We knew he had some warts as far as the defensive side, but now he's making better decisions, not turning the puck over and trying to beat guys one-on-one. He's just been better and better every game. He's been terrific."

Video: FLA@MTL: Trocheck opens the scoring for the Panthers

Trocheck had a goal in each of the four games before he was injured and had 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his previous 11 games.

In his absence, Nick Bjugstad moved from the third line between Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen, and Rocco Grimaldi was recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League to center the third line in Bjugstad's place.

"It's a big loss with Trocheck out and he's such a good player and has had a really great season for us and has been one of the leaders out there," Huberdeau said. "It for sure (stinks), but it's part of hockey. We have to do it without him, but we are looking forward to getting him back."

View More