In the matter of minutes, Tyson Strachan went from one playoff team to another.
With the Panthers losing defensemen Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby to injury on Thursday, Strachan was Florida's first choice as a replacement. Strachan was told to get ready for come to South Florida soon after his San Antonio Rampage won the opener of its AHL playoff round.
“Sure there are mixed emotions,'' said Strachan, who had a few complications in flying to Fort Lauderdale on Friday but made his NHL postseason debut on Saturday.
“I want [the Rampage] to win but at the same time, it's hard to pass up being in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I'm just excited to be here and want to help if I can.''
Strachan had more than a cup of coffee with the Panthers this season, filling in quite well when the Panthers were without Ed Jovanovski and Dmitry Kulikov because of injuries from Jan. 24-March 9.
In 15 games, Strachan had a goal and two assists.
It's very possible Strachan replaces Garrison in more than just Saturday's game. Garrison, who has an undisclosed lower body injury, is a free agent after this season and may not be back. Strachan signed a two-way contract before this season started but was given a one-way deal for next season in February.
That means he's more than likely to be one of Florida's defensemen when the 2012-13 season starts.
Without Garrison, Florida has five defensemen under contract for next season – seven if you count restricted free agents Kulikov and Ellerby.
“This is why you have organizational depth,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “Tyson comes up and he’s played some really strong stretches of hockey. He can go in and certainly do the job for us. He signed a new contract and the organization has faith in him. I think that was very deserving.''
Dineen was asked if Ellerby's lower body injury – he was rammed hard into the boards on the New Jersey bench and got trapped between the open door – was a long-term deal. “No, I wouldn't say that,'' Dineen said. “He is out [Saturday] though.''
Garrison was said to be an option for Saturday's game. After missing the morning skate, Garrison missed warm-ups and the game as well. Strachan was paired with Ed Jovanovski.
“We’ll see where he’s at. He’s questionable,'' Dineen said of Garrison. “We’re cautious and we’ll see where we end up.”
Jose Theodore was back in net for the Panthers after being pulled in the first period of Tuesday's third game. Scott Clemmensen came on and made 19 saves as Florida rallied for a 4-3 win. Clemmensen started Game 4 and gave up four goals.
“We’re beyond worrying about our goalie’s state of mind,’’ Dineen said. “They understand the situation. We expect them to go out and do the job like they have their whole careers. We have two goalies who have seen so many scenarios over their career they react and are ready to respond as needed.’’
() Aside from adding Theodore and Strachan, the lineup remained the same from Thursday. Florida scratched Krys Barch, Mike Santorelli and Wotjek Wolski.
() Saturday's opening period was as even as it could get. With the series tied at two games each, neither team scored and both took 11 shots on goal.
() The start time for Tuesday's Game 6 in Newark, N.J., has not been determined nor has whether it will be televised by local carrier Fox Sports Florida or Sun Sports. Fox has a Marlins game scheduled for that time slot and Sun has the Heat-Celtics.
NBC Sports Network or CNBC will carry the game nationally and it will be available in the South Florida market if Florida's rightsholder decides against carrying it by opening an alternate channel.