EDMONTON, Alberta – Darcy Hordichuk skated onto the fresh ice at Rexall Place on Saturday morning, a familiar logo on the front of his sweater.
“Welcome back,'' Panthers radio voice Randy Moller shouted from the stands.
Hordichuk smiled and waved. Then it was time for work.
Panthers coach Pete DeBoer put Hordichuk and the rest of the team through a long practice, explaining he wanted to shake off the long flight from South Florida. The Panthers open the 2010-11 season Sunday night against the host Oilers. DeBoer's practice apparently wasn't long enough for Hordichuk; he kept everyone waiting for him as he kept going for a good 20 minutes after DeBoer left the ice.
“Anytime you can play for an organization that's headed in the right direction, that's a good thing,'' said Hordichuk, who played parts of two seasons with the Panthers from 2003-04 before being traded back to Florida from Vancouver on Wednesday. “We have a lot of good young guys here and some really good older ones. I think we can be a team that is an underdog that has success this year.''
Hordichuk may have just joined the team, but the Panthers plan on throwing him right into the mix. Hordichuk met the team in Edmonton and will apparently start on the fourth line against the Oilers alongside center Marty Reasoner and winger Steve Bernier.
If DeBoer keeps the same lines for Sunday's game, Steven Reinprecht and Kenndal McArdle will sit as healthy scratches.
“He's a physical presence and for a young team, we haven't had that on a consistent basis in our lineup since I've been here,'' said DeBoer. “He keeps other teams honest. He can skate, he can forecheck and that's how we have to play. Hopefully he can become a valuable player for us.''
Hordichuk has spent the past two seasons battling the Oilers as a member of the Canucks will see many familiar faces on Sunday. One, however, is an old pal. Edmonton enforcer Steve MacIntyre and Hordichuk go all the way back to juniors, and if MacIntyre plays on Sunday, they may revive some bloody memories.
“We played together and probably fought each other five or six times,'' said MacIntyre, who played in 18 games for the Panthers last season. “He says I knocked all his teeth out. He has new veneers in the front and says I'm the one who did that. I don't know. It's been a war between us. He's a good friend. He can afford the teeth now.''
Said Hordichuk: “He definitely chipped these teeth right here and he was the same size back then that he is now. It's good to see him get another shot. He's a good ol' Saskatchewan boy. He just gets stronger and stronger.''
Reinprecht went from being the Panthers second line center last season to being moved to the wing during training camp. Now, for the first time since joining Florida in 2009, it appears that he'll miss his first game. Reinprecht played in all 82 games last year but it looks like he'll start this season in the press box.
“There's definitely going to be a couple guys who are not going to be happy about not being in the lineup,'' said DeBoer, saying who will be scratched hasn't officially been decided. “It's a luxury we have this year that we didn't have last year. Last year, everyone played regardless of the situation. They were all put on notice at the end of last year in that was going to change. I expect them to handle it professionally. When they get in, make it so I can't take them out.''
TALLON CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF THE CANUCKS IN VANCOUVER
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon missed Saturday's practice as he was in Vancouver taking part in that team's 40th anniversary celebration prior to the Canucks game against Los Angeles. The Canucks first game came against the Kings on Oct. 9, 1970.
Tallon was the Canucks' first-ever draft pick in 1970. Tallon, a defenseman, spent three seasons in Vancouver before being traded to Chicago. Tallon has a morning flight scheduled to rejoin the Panthers on Sunday.
SUNDAY: PANTHERS AT OILERS
Where, When: Rexall Place, Edmonton; 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: FS Florida/560-AM
The Series: Edmonton leads 9-8-3
The Game: The Panthers are 7-6-2 with a tie all-time in season openers and have lost two of their past three. Florida beat Chicago 4-3 in a shootout in last year's opener in Helsinki, Finland. The Oilers opened their season Thursday with a rousing 4-0 win over rival Calgary. .-.-. Edmonton will don its throwback uniforms from the glory days of the franchise on Sunday. .-.-. Florida will start Tomas Vokoun in net. .-.-. The Panthers won their previous meeting in Edmonton on Dec. 11, 2008.