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WELCOME BACK LOUIE: Roberto Luongo Returns to Florida Panthers Practice for First Time Since 2006

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Roberto Luongo spoke of "returning to normalcy" when he practiced with the Panthers for the first time since 2006 on Thursday afternoon.

Aside from his Vancouver-themed green-and-blue protective pads underneath his black practice jersey, it looked like Luongo had never left.

He even dug up his old Pink Panther-themed hockey mask with palm trees painted on it from his closet.

"I'm not used to wearing the red but it was nice to get on the ice and just do what I do,'' said Luongo, whom the Panthers re-acquired in a trade with the Canucks on Tuesday.

"I stopped some pucks, moved around there and had a good time trying to get to know my new teammates.''

Florida originally traded Luongo to Vancouver in a lopsided deal on the eve of the 2006 NHL Draft conveniently held in the Canadian city.

And although Luongo spent countless hours practicing at the Panthers' training facility -- he paid the team out of his own pocket for the privilege -- during the offseason and 2012 lockout, he'd not been allowed inside the locked doors leading to the team's headquarters.

On Thursday, Luongo was finally given access to all the good stuff which included Tim Thomas' old locker stall. The Panthers didn't have a nameplate ready for Luongo yet but that will be ready soon.

"I work out here during the summer but not in this locker room,'' said Luongo, wearing a red Panthers dri-fit practice t-shirt.

"This is very nice over here, beautiful stuff. I've never been over here. It's great. I couldn't believe how nice it was when I walked in [Thursday] morning. I didn't know they had all these amenities in here.''

On Wednesday, the Panthers sent Thomas to Dallas bringing backup goalie Dan Ellis in return. Florida then sent Scott Clemmensen, Thomas' backup here, to its AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Since Ellis has never played with the Panthers, he didn't have any old gear to bring in as Luongo did. He practiced in his green Dallas pads with matching helmet.

Ellis is signed through next season so he'll be getting some Florida-themed equipment very soon.

"This is a team that has been putting in pieces for the longest time,'' said Ellis, who has a 4-2-3 record against the Panthers in his seven-year NHL career.

"There have been great people around here, great veterans. I think with the new ownership gives stability. In Dallas, new ownership stabilized the team, same in Tampa. That does a lot for you and gives you the ability to grow out. We have some great young players, really good veterans, just picked up a world-class goalie. It's a good place to be.''

-- Dan Ellis photo by KELSEY HINDS/@Kelsey1344

 

FRIDAY: SABRES AT PANTHERS

When. Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Buffalo leads 44-30-4

Scouting report: Both teams will have new looks following the trading deadline. Florida has won two of three with its only loss to the Sabres this year coming at home on Oct. 25.

 

 

 

 

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