BY BILL VAN SMITH
Miami Herald Writer
Scott Clemmensen has been spending too much time sitting around this season, and it definitely is not to his liking.
The Florida Panthers goalie, plagued by a series of injuries for almost the entire season, is finally feeling healthy and is ready to quit watching and start playing.
There’s only one catch. Clemmensen’s family – wife Vanessa and daughters 3-year-old Olivia and 3-month old Julia – have very much enjoyed having Daddy around. Now he’s leaving to join the team full-time, starting with him getting on a plane Monday afternoon after the Panthers’ morning workout at their Coral Springs training facility.
“It’s tough to leave them,” Clemmensen said. “Especially when the 3-year-old gives you a little guilt trip.”
Clemmensen, working out in goal rather than just skating, had a full practice Monday in preparation for the trip and tonight’s game against Carolina.
“For the first time in a long time, I feel good,” Clemmensen said. “I feel good about feeling good.”
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen is also feeling good about Clemmensen’s return. “He’s going to play,” Dineen said of the upcoming road trip. “The question is when. He’s a big part of our mix…a big part.”
Clemmensen, 34, started the year by needing knee surgery during training camp, followed by sitting out five weeks. With rehab over, he came back and played one game, and a grand game it was. He shut out Dallas 6-0 on Nov. 15.
Unfortunately, he unwillingly turned into a one-game wonder.
Before he could suit up again, he suffered a groin injury and hasn’t played since. It was frustration after frustration for the 6-2, 201-pounder. Now he’s determined to take a hockey stick to that frustration.
“It’s been that kind of year for me,” Clemmensen said. “Thus far, it has been real stop and go and I want more go.”
The injuries might have taken away Clemmensen’s mobility, but not his desire – particularly the desire to join his teammates in a meaningful way other than watching.
“The season is a quarter of the way done, so I want to get going,” Clemmensen said.
“The most frustrating part was the excitement generated during the offseason going into this year,” he said. “A lot of new faces on the team, and we were excited about moving forward. The start that we have so far has been great. It’s been frustrating for me to not contribute to that.
“I’ve gotten to know all these guys and want to play with them and contribute to the success that they’ve had so far and hopefully will continue to have.”
Clemmensen was jokingly told he might ruin his 0.00 goals-against-average by playing.
“I’ll put it on the line anytime,” he fired back quickly with a smile.
Any worries about injury recurrence.
“I took enough time off to let it [the groin] heal properly so that when I get back I don’t have to worry about it or baby it,” he said. “If I baby it, then I’m not ready to be back. It was one of those things that we made sure we took time to let it heal. Hockey in general, especially the goalie position, you can’t think at times, you’re just going to react. And at some point in the game your ability will take over, and if you have to think about things like an injury, you’re dead.
“I wanted to be sure everything was all set before I returned to the team. The way it has felt the past couple of days, I think we did a good job – we meaning me and the training staff.”
The Panthers are in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule in which they play seven of eight games on the road. That means Clemmensen will be away from home for a substantial time.
However, he knows one thing for sure. When he gets home, there will be a very happy family waiting for him. Particularly one certain 3-year-old.
--Forward Mikael Samuelsson skated Monday and will make the road trip.
--Rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Michael Repik were sent back down to San Antonio. Joining the team was center Mark Cullen, who is expected to play Tuesday night against Carolina as long as he clears waivers.
--Forward Tomas Kopecky did not skate at practice Monday, his second day off. Dineen said he was giving Kopecky “maintenance days.” He will be with the team in Raleigh.
--Forwards Matt Bradley (upper body) and Marcel Gol (head injury) will not make the trip. They will miss at least three games