SUNRISE – When the Panthers take the ice tonight at BankAtlantic Center against the red-hot New York Islanders, leading scorer David Booth and goalie Tomas Vokoun will be back in uniform.
The Panthers, 8-2-3 since Jan. 3, have been without Booth the past two games due to the flu while Vokoun missed Tuesday’s game in Toronto also with the bug.
But after Booth and Vokoun participated in Thursday morning’s skate, coach Peter DeBoer announced the two were healthy and both would play this evening.
Booth, who skated for roughly an hour Wednesday when the team arrived back in South Florida from Toronto, said after Thursday’s morning skate; “Maybe my endurance is not where it was, but my speed felt fine.”
DeBoer said Vokoun will start in goal. He also said he’s happy that Booth is ready to return to the lineup.
“We’re a forechecking, puck pressure team and nobody closes on people faster than David Booth,” DeBoer said. “His speed out there is something we miss and he’s a welcome addition back.”
The Panthers enter tonight’s 7:30 p.m., game eighth in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind seventh-place Buffalo and five behind sixth-place Philadelphia.
While the Panthers shutout the Islanders here in October, they’ve dropped their last two games on Long Island, including a 3-1 loss Saturday.
“These two huge points are huge and they’re points you need,” Booth said.
“We played a real good game against them here early in the year,” DeBoer said. “We can’t dwell on (Saturday).”
Defenseman Bryan McCabe, who scored the dramatic, game-winning goal in Toronto, said; “We just keep climbing (up the standings), keep building, and things are going well.”
DeBoer said he hopes the Panthers can build on the success and the good karma from Tuesday in Toronto.
“It was a great win on a lot of different fronts,” DeBoer said. “Obviously, getting the two points. Obviously, Bryan McCabe scoring. But you can just see when we do things like that our confidence grows.” NOTES
The Islanders enter tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak and are undefeated in regulation in their last five games. Goalie Yann Danis has been a major reason for the Islanders recent run of success. Danis is 4-0-1 in his last five games with a .957 save percentage and 1.99 goals against…The Islanders did not skate Thursday morning. Their trip through South Florida and Saturday in Tampa is their annual Father/Son Road Trip. Stan Hunter, father of forward Trent, told NewYorkIslanders.com, “We just try not to get in any trouble or embarrass the kids.”