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Anthony Stolarz Ready for First Start with the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz, pictured during the preseason against Carolina, is expected to start Tuesday night against the visiting San Jose Sharks. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — Anthony Stolarz checked off a number of boxes when the Florida Panthers were looking to signing a new goalie this past summer.

Stolarz has been through the goalie ringer throughout the course of his career, going from riding the AHL-NHL shuttle with Philadelphia and Anaheim before becoming the primary backup for John Gibson and the Ducks.

Over the past couple of years, Stolarz has figured out being a good NHL backup means being prepared to go at anytime.

That also means having to sit for long stretches of time — as he has through Florida’s first five games this season.

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“I have gotten used to it,’’ Stolarz told FHN on Friday afternoon. “In Lehigh Valley, I was coming back from injury and was the third stringer and then you had the taxi squad during Covid where you would go 2 1/2-3 weeks sometimes. I have become accustomed to it.

“We work real hard in practice, (Robb) Tallas has a plan for us every time we go out there. Working on game situations and working hard will keep you sharp and keep you prepared. When your name is called, you better be ready.”

It does look like his chance to start for the Panthers is coming.

And soon.

Stolarz, 29, is expected to make his first start for Florida on Tuesday night when Anthony Duclair and the San Jose Sharks come to town.

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UPDATE: Paul Maurice confirmed that Stolarz will start Tuesday night.

This allows Sergei Bobrovsky (2-3-0; 2.81/.899) to get an extended break as the Panthers do not play again until Saturday against Seattle.

“Bob has been great, making big saves and keeping us in games,” Stolarz said. “It is up to me to go out there and support him. When the team is winning, well, that is all that matters. I just have to do my part.”

Although the Panthers have not officially announced their starter for Tuesday night, all signs point to Stolarz getting the call.

Stolarz has found his biggest success against the Sharks, going 8-1-0 in 11 games — most against any one opponent — with a 2.56/.929 with one shutout.

“It can be tough (being a backup) and if you haven’t already lived through it, it can be a real challenge,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said on Friday.

“But that is why he is here. He is experienced, he practices hard, is in a great mood and understands this light schedule at the start of a year. We’re getting Sergei into a rhythm and that is clearly a priority. He will be ready. He has done this before and that was a big part of the signing.”

After playing in 47 games with Anaheim last season, Stolarz knew he probably would not get that kind of time in Florida.

But, one never knows.

Last year, Alex Lyon certainly did not expect to be pressed into service with the Panthers as much as he was — yet he ended up playing a very important role as the season wore down.

With Bobrovsky ill and Spencer Knight away from the team, the Panthers called on Lyon and he certainly answered and helped lead his team to the playoffs.

Lyon ended up being Florida’s starter against the Boston Bruins when the postseason began before losing his spot when Bobrovsky spelled him during Game 3 in Sunrise.

The Panthers, looking to upgrade the position, targeted Stolarz once the playoffs ended and signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million.

“My agent called on July 1 and said Florida was very interested,” Stolarz said near the end of training camp.

“They did not guarantee anything, but they told me I would have the opportunity to come in and try and win a job. As a competitor, that’s all you can ask for. Looking at the success they had last year, that was a part of it.

“I wanted to join a winning team with a good culture. This was all I could ask for. The rest was up to me in trying to go out there and win a job.”

Lyon moved on and signed for two years in Detroit and is currently playing for the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Knight is also playing in the AHL for the time being.

“When you have done this for a couple of years, you get used to it and know what you have to do,” Stolarz said. “This is not my first time doing this and I need to just go out and execute.”

As far as getting into that first game, Maurice said Stolarz’s work in practice each day has both the goalie and the team prepared.

“There is confidence from the players because he is in practice, he is stopping pucks and is working hard,’’ Maurice said. “He is a veteran guy who is having some fun out there. You’re not holding your breath. When he goes out there, the guys are going to play for him and be excited for him. He has earned it by his work ethic in practice.’’

PANTHERS ON DECK

SAN JOSE SHARKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7:45 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932; NHL App
  • Last season: Florida won 2-0
  • This season: Tuesday @ Florida; @ San Jose, Nov. 14
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 21-13-1, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Seattle, 6 p.m.

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