Panthers mixing it up for tonight’s game versus the Flyers

Boughner to roll new lines in Philly

After the stubborn antics of Tom Rowe, who refused to shake things up even in the wake of dismal performance last season, coach Bob Boughner continues to be a breath of fresh air for the Panthers. Following Saturday's loss to the Penguins, Boughner is shaking up the line combinations for Tonight’s’s game in Philadelphia. Here's a look at the lines Boogie will be rolling out and some first glance impressions as the Cats look to get back in the win column before heading home.


With Evgenii Dadonov struggling to find chemistry with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers moved Radim Vrbata to the first line during their last home game with the Blues and it produced immediate results. Though the line did not get on the score sheet (though they should have), Vrbata exhibited the same type of play-making ability that made him a 50+ point man in three of his last four seasons, making educated decisions with the puck via his quick soft hands. Vrbata does his best work on the breakout, where he utilizes active skates and good vision to find stick tape through traffic. However, he also knows when passes aren't there and isn't afraid to try to snipe at the corners of the net with a hard snapper which has forced some tough saves and even tougher to handle rebounds. Moreover, Vrbata isn't scared to go to dirty areas to try to sneak in a greasy chance on a rebound or contested possession. Skating with the two most skilled forwards on the team and working on the second power play unit, Vrbata will have a prime opportunity to post another 50 points this season.


It's been a bit of a rough start for Dadonov in his return to the Panthers as he's failed to get in sync with the team's two most skilled forwards on the top line. Clearly, there is great ability in the Russian’s stick. You don't do what he did in the KHL this past season in any league (30/36/66) without it. However, the 28-year-old has looked a bit lost at times on the number one pairing, failing to hit his younger counterparts Huberdeau and Barkov on rushes and failing to notice the former completely covering opposing goaltenders and instead attempting to get too fancy with his passing, which has often led to a turnover or in the very least, a much less quality scoring chance. The problem doesn't seem to be in Dadonov’s speed which he has plenty of. It seems to be in his vision of the rapid pace of a smaller NHL ice, something which should be helped along by the fastest guy on the squad, Vincent Trocheck and the towering Nick Bjugstad who has been active in both ends opening the ice more. On this extremely quick line, expect more odd man chances and for Dadonov’s flashy dangles to make an appearance on a regular basis. One thing Dadonov has shown through his first four games is the ability to backcheck and help out the defense in his own zone, something the Panthers won't miss by not having Jamie McGinn in the top six and demoting him to his more deserved bottom six role. Dadonov has also proven he's plenty fast on his skates. Combine his speed with Trocheck who is the fastest skater on the team and the long-limbed Bjugstad who has been the best finisher on the squad and this line should find plenty of room to operate in open ice and make things extremely difficult on opposing defenses.


Alright, I'll be the first one to admit, yes, it hurts seeing the third line that has had so much success through the first four games disbanded. However, since Owen Tippett cracked the NHL roster, fans and players alike knew he was eventually going to get into a game or two (and considering who he could one day become, there could be worse things in the world). This right here is the best case scenario for him to do so. With Conner Brickley appearing to be nursing a wrist injury he first sustained at the end of the Cats' final practice at Ice Den before the Blues' game and aggravated even more in the final minutes of their last game against the Penguins, he will be scratched for maintenance in favor of the 18-year-old first round draft pick. Surrounding Tippett will be the physical, dirty area covering, forechecking Jamie McGinn who has done a great job prolonging possessions by competing for pucks and the hottest thing in a Florida jersey since preseason, the two-way Jared McCann who has done just about everything right this year. A good mix of size and speed, the 6'2", 200 pound Tippett has a world class skill set, including a natural scoring touch and strength on the puck. His best asset is probably his skating, as he explodes to get to open areas, finding space to work. As he proved in preseason though, Tippett is still VERY raw. In training camp, he was noticeable for all the wrong reasons, watching more plays than he got in on and simply floating around waiting for the puck to bounce his way. It's doubtful Tippett is ready for the speed and pace of the NHL so the chance at him pulling an Auston Matthews circa 2016-17 is very slim. However, it will be intriguing to see how the kid reacts to the environment of a regular season game and to gauge exactly where he is in his development. Skating with McCann and McGinn, Tippett will get good experience skating with two completely different skaters, a skill stick and a physical greaser. Because of how well McCann and McGinn balance each other out, Tippett could run into his first NHL point tonight. However, I'd temper expectations. For now.


With the minor injury to Brickley, Michael Haley stays in the lineup. Haley has under-performed so far this year even for a checking line forward but the one thing he has done is shown he isn't afraid to stick up for his teammates (even if all of his fights have been hugfests). The Panthers will need that presence as they match up against Radko Gudas. Colton Sceviour, who went through concussion protocol after the high hit from Patrick Hornqvist in the Pittsburgh game Friday but passed all necessary steps, is back in there tonight. Sceviour has been the bright spot on this line, picking up right where he left off last year on the penalty kill and getting on the scorecard twice. Don't be surprised if he has a chip on his shoulder in this one after being cheap-shotted out of his last game. Then of course there's our captain. What Derek MacKenzie lacks in scoring prowess, he more than makes up for by finishing every single check he starts and keeping the puck in deep for his teammates. Also a big member of the PK, he's done his job as a fourth liner this year.