As has been the case through the first week of the season, Panthers defenseman Keaton Ellerby watched Saturday's game while wearing a suit.
Saturday was a little more awkward for the 22-year-old defenseman, however, as he was the first player introduced as the Panthers celebrated their home opener.
Ellerby, who has been a healthy scratch the past three games as rookie Erik Gudbranson has played, is taking it all in stride.
“It's tough because you want to play, but there are seven [defensemen] here,'' said Ellerby, who played in 54 games for the Panthers in his first full NHL season last year. “I'm going to keep practicing and take advantage when I get my shot. I'm going to run with it.''
The Panthers have taken notice of Ellerby's good attitude and strong work ethic despite the disappointment of not playing. A few years ago, even Ellerby admits he would have treated this situation differently. But he's not sulking or pouting.
Ellerby is still upbeat and spends his time after morning skates wisely, working with assistant coach Gord Murphy and trying to keep roommate Jacob Markstrom sharp in net.
“He's in every discussion each day,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “There are players in San Antonio who are going to help us this year, and Keaton is going to help us although he's not in the lineup right now. He's going to find his way in there. I know by the way he's practicing and his character that he'll be ready when given the tap.''
Ellerby is expected to play this week, either Monday at Tampa Bay or Tuesday in Washington. He says he'll be ready – and won't have any rust.
“It sucks not playing, but it's part of the game and the learning experience,'' he said. “I'm behind the team and will do anything I can to help the team win whether it's on or off the ice. I'm getting the bag skates in and am probably in better shape now because of it.''
The Panthers officially unveiled their upgraded arena and new uniform at Saturday's home opener. Florida tweaked its white road jersey – the vertical and horizontal piping was removed – but its home jersey is new.
For the first time since the early 2000s, the Panthers will wear a red jersey primarily at home.
Florida has to wear its light blue alternate jerseys 13 times this season because of contractual obligations to the league. Those jerseys are expected to be retired after this season.
The Panthers also reupholstered the lower bowl of the BankAtlantic Center, going from green seats to red; the scoreboard was repainted red as were many walls throughout the arena. A second LED video ribbon was added to the 400 level facade and a third staggered ribbon was added to the various lower bowl entrances.
The team also added an organist, something that had been missing from the arena for almost a decade.
“The place just looks great,'' said assistant general manager Mike Santos, adding that he has purposely avoided going into the bowl of the arena so he could take it in on opening night.
-- Center Mike Santorelli took part in Saturday's morning skate but still has not been cleared for contact. He is not expected to join the team on its upcoming road trip.
-- Brian Skrudland, the Panthers original captain in 1993, joined team founder Bill Torrey in dropping the ceremonial first puck on Saturday. Skrudland is currently the Panthers director of player development.