In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Dominic Toninato is preparing for his Panthers debut, Mike Matheson is ready to return to the lineup and Riley Stillman heads to the AHL.
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Dominic Toninato is eager to make his Florida Panthers debut.
With Noel Acciari and Vincent Trocheck both currently recovering from lower-body injuries, Toninato was recalled from the AHL on Wednesday and is expected to be in the lineup and centering Florida's fourth line when the Washington Capitals visit BB&T Center on Thursday.
"It's awesome," Toninato said after today's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "I'm glad to finally be here. I'm excited to hopefully get in that first game and hopefully contribute to the team."
Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said both Acciari and Trocheck are considered day-to-day.
"[Acciari] and Troch are in the same place right now, day-to-day," Quenneville said. "They'll both skate tomorrow and then we'll get a better idea on the road trip. They're both out tomorrow."
Acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on June 29, Toninato put himself in position for an early call-up with a strong showing at this summer's training camp. Making an impression on Quenneville, the 25-year-old forward was one of the final few players cut before Opening Night.
In 12 games with AHL Springfield this season, he's posted two goals and six assists.
"Down in Springy, I think he's been doing the same type of things that we're looking for him to do here," Quenneville said. "[His line] played against a lot of [opposing] top lines in more of a checking role. I think he brings pace. Watching him in practice today, I think he's got a real purpose to his game. He's going to get some pretty good assignments tomorrow, a tough test."
No stranger to playing in the NHL, Toninato suited up in 39 games over parts of two seasons with the Avalanche prior to joining the Panthers. In that time, the 6-foot-2, 191-pound native of Duluth, Minn., registered one goal and two assists while averaging 7:50 of ice time per game.
As he prepares for his Panthers debut, Toninato plans to draw from that experience.
"I think it's a huge help," he said. "I know what to expect. I know the type of play and the game-speed and all of that. I'm prepared… I'm a 200-foot reliable centerman. Hopefully I can bring some energy and contribute on the offensive side."
Taking Acciari's spot in the lineup, Toninato will likely center Colton Sceviour and Dryden Hunt.
"I played with Huntsy all through camp, so we developed a little chemistry there," he said when asked about his potential linemates. "Sceves is a great player, too. He's a veteran guy. I can lean on those guys and ask for help when I need it. I think we should be really good."
MATHESON READY TO RETURN
While Trocheck and Acciari remain out, defenseman Mike Matheson is expected to return to action against the Capitals after missing the previous five games with a lower-body injury.
"I feel good, better every day," said Matheson, who has been a full participant the last two practices. "It's good to be out there with the team. It got a little lonely being back here when they were gone on the road trip… It's frustrating when you're not in the lineup and battling an injury. It's tough to stay positive, but the team's being doing really well. That's been great to watch."
Watching the Panthers pull out big wins in Edmonton and Colorado on their recent road trip, Matheson said it was kind of "nerve-wracking" to follow those tight games as he rehabbed.
"I got to watch it from the point of the view of the fans, the ups and downs of the game," he smiled. "You get emotional and get that pit in your stomach. I'd definitely much rather be out there."
In the midst of his fourth full campaign with the Panthers, Matheson has tallied one assist, five hits and 11 blocks in nine games this season. Averaging 21:16 of ice time per contest, the 25-year-old typically plays a top-four role and was paired with Anton Stralman in today's practice.
An important piece of the penalty kill, Matheson's return also comes at a very opportune time, as Washington currently boasts the fourth-ranked power play in the league at 25.9 percent. In 21:03 of shorthanded ice time this year, he's been on the ice for two goals for and two against.
"I think certain guys jumped in and do a good job in his absence," Quenneville said. "I think he was playing good hockey prior to getting hurt. Watching him today, he looks like he's ready to go."
STILLMAN SENT DOWN
With Matheson expected to slide back into the lineup on Thursday, the Panthers announced that rookie defenseman Riley Stillman has been sent back to the AHL to open a spot for him.
A fourth-round pick (114th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Stillman competed in three games with the Panthers after being recalled from AHL Springfield on Oct. 24. During that brief NHL stint, he recorded one fight, one hit and four blocks while averaging 15:56 of ice time per game.
Quenneville said he expects Stillman to keep improving as he adjusts to the professional ranks.
"He's got a physical presence to his game and some presence with the puck," Quenneville said. "Defending will be something that he'll improve on as he gets more experience in those situations. He's got some size and some willingness to him. I think that once he gets a little more familiar with the league, the pace and positioning in his own end, he'll adapt quickly."
Stillman, 21, has posted 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 64 career AHL contests.
THURSDAY'S PRACTICE LINES
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano - Denis Malgin - Mark Pysyk
Dryden Hunt - Dominic Toninato - Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Josh Brown