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Alex Lyon Savored His First Championship, Wants Another with Florida

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Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Lyon blocks the shot of Frank Vatrano during the third period of a game against the Panthers in Raleigh on Jan. 8. — AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

SUNRISE — When the final horn sounded and the Chicago Wolves began celebrating their Calder Cup championship victory on June 25, goalie Alex Lyon tossed his gloves and threw up the No. 1 sign.

Not long later during his team’s postgame photo op, Lyon saluted what had been a derisive Springfield crowd with a different digit — the old double-bird — which earned him a rare celebratory suspension from the American Hockey League.

When the Charlotte Checkers open their AHL season Friday night against Hartford, Lyon will not be in net as he serves the first of a two-game suspension for the hand gestures made as he and his teammates piled together on the ice around the trophy they fought so hard for.

It was a funny moment then, and one Lyon — who made 28 saves in the 4-0 Game 5 victory against the Thunderbirds — can joke about now.

Lyon should make his Charlotte debut Oct. 21 at home against Hershey.

”I am trying to keep that as under the radar as much as I can,” said Lyon, who remains in Florida Panthers camp as the No. 3 goalie and is expected to back up Spencer Knight in today’s preseason finale in Tampa.

”I never won anything in my life so … I would probably flip three next time. Honestly, it was 30 years of psychotic pent-up energy built up in my soul. That’s how it came to fruition. I don’t want anyone to think it was aimed at them because it genuinely wasn’t. That was the perception.”

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Lyon, 29, may laugh about his middle finger salute in the throes of celebration, but he is real serious when it comes to his career — and where it is now with the Panthers.

A veteran of six professional seasons following a very successful collegiate career at Yale, Lyon — who owns most of the Bulldogs’ career goaltending records — knows where he stands with his new team.

One does not sign with a team which features Sergei Bobrovsky and Knight in net and not know the situation.

“I have been through situations like in Philly where we were rotating through eight goalies and that is not an enjoyable way to spend your season,” said Lyon, who has played in 24 NHL games — all but two of which came with the Flyers.

The other two came with the Hurricanes last season including a 4-3 overtime loss to Bobrovsky and the Panthers on Jan. 8 in which he earned third star honors.

”The two guys here are extremely good. I have found myself learning a lot just being around them. That has elevated my game in some capacity. If they are successful, it makes my job easier and makes my life more successful. I would love to be in the NHL and have that opportunity. Everyone wants that.

“But I just want a good solid situation. And winning the Calder last year, I invested a lot into the American League team and it paid off. I enjoyed that. Winning championships is a a little like (a drug): You want to win again. I have high hopes for the team down there and we’ll see how that goes.”

Last season, the Panthers brought in Christopher Gibson from Tampa Bay to be their No. 3 goalie only injuries kept him from joining Florida during the season leading the team to claim Jonas Johansson off waivers.

Lyon knows NHL teams often need more than the two goalies they start the season with and he says he will answer the call if he is needed.

“At this point in my career, I wanted to be with a high-quality organization with high quality people who I can trust,” he said. “I want to sink my teeth into a place and Bill Zito is as good a guy as they come. This was an easy decision for me. They do a great job here.

“Mack Guzda, who is in Charlotte right now, is really going to benefit from having such a comprehensive (goalie) team. For me, just having Roberto Luongo in the building is like learning through osmosis. He was in my top three favorite guys growing up. His track record as a person goes a long way.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice has said numerous times during the preseason that he leaves the goalies to coach Robb Tallas and Florida’s goaltending department which features Luongo. He adds he has been impressed with the work Lyon has done in camp.

Although Lyon will be heading to Charlotte in the coming days, Maurice said the Panthers may need him down the road.

“Most teams get to the third (goalie) and usually it’s a really young guy,’’ Maurice said. “When they come up, you’re hopeful for them. But we have our young guy (Knight) here. So we bring in a veteran guy who has lots of experience and stops pucks in our practices, so he fits right in. If he ever gets into the net, we’ll play our game and we have lots of confidence in him.”

— Matthew Tkachuk did not practice again on Friday and Maurice said he would not play on Saturday.

While Maurice said Tkachuk did not skate, he would be be in the lineup for Opening Night Thursday against the Islanders.

— The Panthers will make a number of changes from Thursday’s lineup including the addition of Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Justin Sourdif, Nick Cousins and Colin White.

Ryan Lomberg and Patric Hornqvist will not play Saturday.

Sasha Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Gus Forsling will also have the afternoon off.

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Where, When: Amalie Arena, Tampa; Today, 4 p.m.

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2022 Preseason — Sept. 26: Florida 4, Nashville 3 (OT); Nashville 4, Florida 0. Sept. 29: Carolina 5, Florida 2. Oct. 1: Carolina 4, Florida 3. Thursday: Florida 3, Tampa Bay 2. Today: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m

Regular Season Opener: Oct. 13 at New York Islanders

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