Tomas Vokoun will be a game-time decision for the Cats against the Rangers. He is 5-2 in his last seven games played but missed Tuesday's game in Boston due to the flu. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
NEW YORK – The Panthers skated Thursday morning at Madison Square Garden to prepare for tonight’s game against the Rangers with at least one change to their lineup and possibly two.
Coach Peter DeBoer said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who missed Tuesday’s game with the flu, has an ear infection and will be a game-time decision. Vokoun is 5-2 since Feb. 10 with a 1.56 goals against average. If Vokoun can’t start in goal, the job will go to Craig Anderson, who made 37 saves here Nov. 30 in a 4-0 victory and was in goal Tuesday at Boston.
“(Vokoun) is going to spend the afternoon here and get some rest,” DeBoer said. “We’ll decide at five if he’s going to go.”
The other change to the Panther lineup will be Brett McLean playing in place of Nick Tarnasky on the fourth line along with Anthony Stewart and Kamil Kreps.
“We’re getting through a tough stretch of games, there’s travel, we’re on a five-game road trip, and we want to keep the lineup fresh and keep people energized,” DeBoer added.
The Rangers played their first game Wednesday under new coach John Tortorella and lost in Toronto 2-1 in the shootout. Tortorella wondered about his team’s conditioning after the game. The Rangers have scored two or fewer goals in 11 of their last 13 games and are averaging 1.7 goals over that stretch.
“I don’t think the conditioning is the issue in why we’re not scoring,” Tortorella said. “I think that’s a lack of confidence. We’re just not able to make the play to score the goal.”
DeBoer was asked what he saw in the Rangers first game under Tortorella.
“They were more aggressive,” he said. “You could see they’re trying to put more pressure on the puck in different zones. But I didn’t notice a whole lot different. He’s been there 24 hours so he’s not going to change the world in 24 hours. But anytime a new coach comes in guys are going to try and make an impression. You’re going to get a different energy level, maybe a different battle level than a few days before. That’s natural and we have to be prepared for that.”
The Panthers, coming off a 6-1 loss in Boston, have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Dec. 29-31. The reason? “We expect to win games and we’re disappointed when we don’t,” DeBoer said.
“We have a crystal clear idea as a group on how we have to play to be successful and we know when we stray off that path what happened and what went wrong and how to fix it,” he added. “I think it’s a matter of the group realizing when we get away from our game plan. They fix it pretty quickly the next night and we’re hoping for the same tonight.”
Cory Stillman took a shot off the leg during the morning skate and left practice early. DeBoer said he expected him to be fine…Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 7-3-1 in 11 career starts against the Panthers with a 2.02 goals against and three shutouts…The Rangers are 18-9-4 at MSG, the Panthers 13-14-3 on the road…The Rangers power play, which Tortorella will oversee, is ranked 27th, the Panthers 26th…The Rangers penalty kill is second best in the league, the Panthers are ranked 10th…Key game this evening: The two teams chasing the Panthers in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Sabres and Hurricanes, meet in Carolina…