The Panthers are scheduled to have their first on-ice session of training camp on Friday morning in Coral Springs. That means just about everyone is in town now getting ready.
The team held its biggest informal skate of the offseason today with just about everyone taking part save, it seemed, for Dave Bolland. His gear is in his locker, however, so I would expect to see him out there tomorrow.
If you want to come out to the IceDen in Coral Springs to see the practice, Tuesday will likely be the final one before camp opens.
Roberto Luongo and a few guys usually come out around 9 a.m. with the majority taking the ice around 10.
I spoke with a few players today -- Luongo, Al Montoya (who has a sparkly new mask) and Brian Campbell among others -- and there seems to be genuine excitement about the upcoming season.
Big change from this time last year when everyone was looking around wondering what was going on.
-- The Panthers are 2-0 at the Nashville Prospect Camp after beating the Preds on Sunday night. Florida isn't playing today but play the finale on Tuesday against the Lightning.
Here is a recap with quotes from the first two games courtesy of the Panthers and Preds PR departments:
Sunday -- Panthers 3, Nashville 1: With the win, the Cats rookies now own a 2-0 mark in the prospects tournament.
Vincent Trocheck scored the game-winner for the Panthers in the third period, when he picked up the puck along the boards and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.
After a scoreless first period of play, the Panthers prospects took an early lead after F Logan Shaw redirected D Aaron Ekblad’s shot from the blueline past Nashville netminder Rob Madore.
Late in the middle frame, Nashville tied the game at 1-1 on goal from F Colton Sissons. F Stephen Hodges picked up his third point (2-1-3) of the tournament with an empty net goal with just under one-minute to play in regulation.
Panthers G Sam Brittain stopped 19 of 20 shots in 40 minutes of action, while G Clarke Saunders made 11 saves in the final frame.
Nashville Predators vs. Florida Panthers
Goalie Clarke Saunders
On tonight’s shootout…
It was fun, I haven’t done a shootout since junior hockey, so it’s been five years! We practiced in college all the time the day before a game, so I got some practice there. I really enjoyed it.
On playing with this team…
They’re great. They were so supportive today, especially since I didn’t play much last year I haven’t really had a game in some time. I felt a little rusty going in, especially not starting and going in during the third period, but the guys were awesome and made me feel comfortable out there and did a great job on the ice.
On the upcoming season…
It’s a fun time entering my first year of pro hockey; I’m looking forward to it. I’m not too sure where I’m going to end up yet, but I’m just working hard everyday.
Forward Vincent Trocheck
On tonight’s game…
It felt good, like a start to the season. I’m very excited, everybody’s dream is to play in the NHL and that’s what I’m fighting to do here so I’m excited to see what happens.
On the rookie tournament…
It’s been fun. The last couple of years we haven’t been winning as much as we have been in this rookie tournament, and now we are 2-0, so that’s definitely more fun than losing. We have a great group of guys and I’m just trying to be a leader.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad
On tonight’s game…
I felt really good. It’s about the team, it’s about the win, and that’s what is most important here. I’m very happy to have gotten that win and we are on the right track to finish this tournament in a winning style.
On staying positive…
You always want to feel good and put yourself in the right mindset before you go into a game like that. It’s a last ditch effort for everyone to show their stuff and prove that they are ready to play.
On playing with this team…
It’s been good to build new relationships and friendships; it’s always huge in the game of hockey. It’s very easy to step into a room of 25 guys and build a strong bond. It’s important since these are the guys coming up in the organization like myself and I’m getting to know them and become familiar with faces. When you are nice and respectful, a lot of people give you support along the way if you do those things.
Saturday - Florida 2, Boston 0: Rookie netminders Sam Brittain and Jacob DeSerres combined for a 30-save shutout, while F Steven Hodges and F Cody Payne scored goals for the Cats prospects.
After a scoreless first period of action, Hodges put the Panthers prospects on the scoreboard first when he slipped a shot inside the pipes past Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban.
The Cats prospects took a two-goal lead late in the second period when the South Florida native Payne banged a puck past Subban. Neither team would score in the final 20 minutes of action.
Brittain made 13 saves on 13 shots, before being replaced by DeSerres, who stopped all 17 regulation shots that he faced. Hodges finished the game with a goal and an assist, while F Jayce Hawryluk and D Mackenzie Weegar notched assists.
Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers
Goaltender Sam Brittain
Thoughts on the game…
It was a good game. It’s the first time we’ve been out there as a group. We’ve been together the past couple of days, but it felt good and it was a lot of fun. It was great.
On his strategy going into the game…
I just wanted to take it one shot, one minute at a time. I didn’t want to look ahead. I just wanted to do what I could do, show everyone where I belong and help the team win. I think that’s the biggest thing in these things. You want to do well individually, but you also want to do well as a team.
On what he hopes to bring to the team this season…
I think no matter where I end up playing and what I do, I have to make sure I give my team the best chance to win at every level. I’ve just got to do my best and keep progressing as a player.
Center Steven Hodges
Thoughts on the team’s performance...
I thought we did pretty well. We got better as the team went on. The first half of the game, we didn’t get as many shots as we wanted to. Once we started to get the puck towards it, we got more success and that’s something we can build on next game.
On his mindset when scoring the goal…
I just got a great pass from Weegar. He did a great play. Rocco [Grimaldi] did a great play driving right down the middle and gave Weegar a lot of room, gave myself a lot of room. Leger gave me a nice soft pass right on my tape and I had plenty of time to put it away.
Thoughts on team improvement during the pre-season…
I think just getting our intensity up. You can tell Boston is a pretty physical team, and we were okay to play with that. We are a fast-skilled hockey team, but we have a lot of grit and a lot of spark with the guys on our team as well. And that’s something we can incorporate into our team as well that will definitely make us a stronger competitor.