The team’s leading goal-scorer from last season takes the ice for the first time in more than three months as the Panthers try for a seventh consecutive home win over the New York Islanders on Sunday.
After posting a career-high 31 goals last season, Booth had two in nine games before suffering a concussion in a 5-1 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 24.
Florida (23-22-9) went 21-16-8 without Booth, but having him back should deliver a boost to a team that’s within a point of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers haven’t reached the postseason since 1999-2000.
“I know we’re in a tight race right now,” Booth told the Panthers’ official Web site. “So coming back and giving some other guys some rest or whatever, but (really just) help the team and get in a playoff spot.”
It’s uncertain how much ice time Booth will see as he continues to get back in playing shape.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Booth, who has two goals and five assists in eight games against New York. “I can’t put too much pressure on it. If I stay to my basics and not try to do too much, I think I’ll be fine.”
The Panthers might not need extended minutes from Booth as they welcome New York while looking to extend their season-high home winning streak to five games.
In the teams’ most recent meeting on Jan. 21, the Panthers lost for the first time in three games against New York (23-24-8) this season, 2-1 in a shootout. The Islanders, though, have been outscored 25-13 during a 0-5-1 stretch at Florida since winning 4-1 there Nov. 18, 2006.
Tomas Vokoun(notes) has been dominant throughout his career at home against New York, going 8-0-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average. Five of those wins came after joining the Panthers from Nashville in 2007.
The likely starter for the Czech Republic Olympic team has a 0.75 GAA and two shutouts during the Panthers’ current four-game home winning stretch.
Vokoun likely will have a chance to bounce back after making 36 saves in a 4-1 loss to Washington on Friday as the Panthers dropped their third straight road contest.
New York, a point behind Florida in the East, looks to avoid a fifth straight loss after falling 2-1 at Philadelphia on Saturday—the Islanders’ 14th consecutive setback against the Flyers.
New York’s Rick DiPietro(notes) was rested Saturday, but could be back in net for this contest. He’s 2-3-0 with a 2.62 GAA since returning earlier this month from September knee surgery. DiPietro has a 2.77 GAA during a current 0-3-1 stretch against Florida.