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Dmitry Kulikov: ‘I Never Wanted to Leave’ the Florida Panthers

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Dmitry Kulikov is back with the Florida Panthers after being traded to Buffalo in 2016. Florida’s first-round pick in 2009, Kulikov played for seven teams before returning this summer on a one-year deal. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

CORAL SPRINGS — On his first official day back with the Florida Panthers, Dmitry Kulikov strolled through a dark hallway in the bowels of the team’s arena wearing a new game jersey.

With a big smile on his face, Kulikov looked down as he patted the logo.

“It looks a little different than the one I am used to,’’ Kulikov said.

Yeah, much has changed since the last time the defenseman played for the Panthers — not the least of which is the team’s logo.

It has been 14 years since Kulikov made his NHL debut in Helsinki with the Panthers as a fresh-faced 18-year-old rookie and seven years since the team traded him to Buffalo.

Now, Kulikov is back where he belongs — and the constant smile on his face shows this is where he always wanted to be.

“To be honest, I never wanted to leave in the first place,” Kulikov told Florida Hockey Now last weekend.

“I always wanted to come back here, it just did not work out. When the opportunity opened up this summer, I did not want to go anywhere else. I am happy. I am really happy.”

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