Despite an impressive second-half run – 19-7-2 since February 1st – the Florida Panthers are still fighting for their playoff lives in each and every game. They face a major test this afternoon against the Boston Bruins and will do so without two offensive weapons. According to Panthers play-by-play man Steve Goldstein, both Denis Malgin and trade deadline acquisition and former Bruin Frank Vatrano are too “banged up” to go today. Vatrano has four points in eleven games since joining Florida, while Malgin has 11 goals and 20 points in 49 games for the Cats thus far. Their replacements, unproven Maxim Mamin and grinder Micheal Haley, have been far less productive in 2017-18. Given the importance of the match-up and the fact that Boston is getting Jake DeBrusk back in the lineup makes the absences of Malgin and Vatrano a stroke of bad luck for the playoff-hungry Panthers.
- A postseason-bound club getting healthier is the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets will welcome defenseman Jacob Trouba back into the lineup tonight, reports Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Trouba has missed the past two weeks while battling concussions symptoms. He suffered that head injury in just his second game back after missing 20 games due to a lower-body injury. If Trouba is really back at 100% and ready to return to his major role on the Winnipeg blue line, it will be a major boost for the Jets.
- Making his long-awaited debut for the Nashville Predators today is 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen finished up his KHL season last week and joined the Preds on Wednesday, but head coach Peter Laviolette confirmed that he will be in the lineup today against the Buffalo Sabres. While Tolvanen found instant success in Europe and looks poised to be a big-time player for a long time in Nashville, it’s no surprise that he makes his debut in a relatively meaningless game against the lowly Sabres. Tolvanen may need an adjustment period to get used to the North American game and it remains to be seen how he will be used down the stretch and in the postseason.