Forward Cory Stillman practiced for the second straight day and could make his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with an ankle injury. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
ATLANTA – A short, optional practice here Monday afternoon at Philips Arena seemed to yield some positive news for two Panther players, but not so much for another.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun and forward Cory Stillman both practiced and could be ready to play Tuesday evening when the Panthers end a five-game road trip here against the Thrashers and play their last game before the trade deadline.
Unfortunately, leading goal scorer David Booth will miss the game due to an upper-body injury he suffered late in the second period of Sunday’s 6-2 victory in Washington over the Capitals.
Panther coach Peter DeBoer said Booth was “pretty sore” Tuesday and would take Tuesday off. “He’ll be day-to-day after that,” added DeBoer of Booth, who collided mid-ice Sunday with Capitals defenseman Mike Green.
DeBoer said both Stillman and Vokoun were probable.
Stillman, recovering from a bruised foot he suffered during the morning skate Feb. 26 at Madison Square Garden, is progressing and has skated two consecutive days. “If Cory makes as much progress today to (Tuesday) as he did from (Sunday) to today, I’m pretty sure he’ll play. We still have to give him another 24 hours to make sure.”
Vokoun, who’s missed the past four games with the flu then an ear infection, drove from Washington to Atlanta by car. Due to a snow storm blanketing the east coast, Vokoun arrived here Monday morning before quickly jumping on the ice for practice.
DeBoer said he was “non-committal” about whether he would play Vokoun or Craig Anderson against the Thrashers.
“I want to see how Tomas feels after the skate today,” he said. “When he wakes up tomorrow morning we’ll make a decision.”
The Panthers go into Tuesday’s game off a huge victory against the Capitals. It couldn’t have come at a better time after losing Saturday in New Jersey 7-2. Goalie Craig Anderson also rebounded, stopping 32 shots against the Capitals.
“I thought he was solid, I thought he bounced back with a real good game. We needed a solid performance and he gave us that.
The Panthers can close out this five-game road trip with a 3-2 record with a victory Tuesday against the Thrashers, who come into the game having scored four, third period goals Saturday to beat the Hurricanes 5-3. It was only the Thrashers six victory at home in 22 games.
Kovalchuk, named the NHL’s No. 1 star for the month of February after scoring 13 goals (21 points), is paired on the first line with Vyacheslav Kozlov and Rich Peverley. In 41 games against the Panthers, Kovalchuk has 27 goals and 27 assists.
Defenseman Bryan McCabe, who had a goal and three assists against Washington, has a three-game point scoring streak…DeBoer said the Panthers will meet with defenseman Nick Boynton (sent home during this trip for disciplinary reasons) when the Panthers return Wednesday to South Florida and “go from there.”…Vokoun is second in the league in save percentage (.927) and Anderson sixth (.923)…Michael Frolik is now fifth among rookies in scoring with 31 points (15 goals)…