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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Evan Rodrigues is the Swiss Army Knife of the Florida Panthers

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Evan Rodrigues is pictured here celebrating a goal with teammate Brandon Montour in Montreal earlier this season. (Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire)

NEW YORK — It has not been a full year since Evan Rodrigues joined the Florida Panthers, but it feels as if he has been around forever.

Rodrigues has played with nearly every forward on the roster, has taken a leadership role in some cases, and is in on almost every joke told in the locker room.

Rodrigues’ versatility on the ice and his outgoing nature off of it made that happen.

“I think I’ve always prided myself on a 200-foot game and I’ve always prided myself on work ethic,” Rodrigues said. “That’s what got me into the league: my smarts, my work ethic. And I think that’s what this team has. It’s a hard-working, smart team and we play a team game. That’s something I think fits in really well with myself.”

Rodrigues has worn many hats throughout his nine-year NHL career.

The shifty 5-foot-11 forward started out as a speedy, gritty fourth-liner before carving out a role as a key supporting option for top-line centers like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.

And he has stepped in to do just about everything in between at different points.

“He’s obviously a positive, guy. He’s an older guy, a family guy and he kind of brings it to the locker room as well,” Brandon Montour said. “He has a positive attitude no matter what. I think this year, he’s been up and down the lineup: First, second, third [line], power play, no power play, he always brings a positive attitude.

“He is obviously one heck of a player. He brings good speed, good depth for us, and obviously off the ice he’s been around big-time players in this league He’s played with a lot of good players and I think that experience helps for sure.”

When he got to South Florida, his experience next to stars like MacKinnon and Crosby was noted and he helped create one of the NHL’s most dangerous lines next to Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart.

Once the Panthers traded for Vladimir Tarasenko, he shuffled between several different linemates before landing with Sam Bennett and Eetu Luostarinen to start the Eastern Conference final.

No matter who he plays with, they feel comfortable.

“He can basically do it all,” Barkov said. “He can play defense really well, he plays offense really well, he takes face-offs, you can put him in any situation on the ice. Off the ice, he’s a great guy. He can hang out with anyone and be a great guy with anyone, so that’s a really good thing to have as a person and I’m really impressed by him ever since Day 1.”

At the end of the day, every single player on the Panthers plays with the same mindset, which makes it easy for Rodrigues to slide up and down the lineup.

“I think all of our forwards are smart,” Rodrigues said. “It’s a high IQ team. The way we play is taxing, but it’s rewarding, and every guy buys into it. Instant chemistry isn’t always there right away, but I think with the amount we talk to each other on and off the ice, it’s easy to gain chemistry and I think whoever I’ve played with, we’ve done a really good job of doing that.”

He has gotten used to the quirks of each of his teammates, too.

“It’s such a welcoming room,” Rodrigues said. “Sometimes, when you join a new team, it takes a couple weeks to really fit in and be yourself. It felt like after a couple days I’d known them for a year already, and then after that, I think every player is different. Every person is different.

“When you play with someone new, you got to learn their personality, you got to learn where they want to puck, if they are more of a shooter, that type of stuff. For me, personally, I just try to play a game that benefits the players that I’m playing with.

“If I play with guys like Barkov and Reinhart, I want to get in on the forecheck, get pucks off the other team and give it to them, just make their life easier. With Bennett and Luostarinen, we want to use our speed, we want to come at the other team in waves.”

His best work of the season came when he moved from Barkov’s line down to a line with Luostarinen and Anton Lundell.

At that point of the regular season, Lundell was on a cold streak offensively and was making some uncharacteristic plays to try and remedy that.

Rodrigues took Lundell under his wing when the move was made and helped him finish the regular season on a high note an start the playoffs with two goals and 10 points in 13 games.

The overall message from Rodrigues at that point: Simplify and let the offense come to you.

“He’s a great guy,” Lundell said. “Smart player, smart person as well. But I always have to adjust. I know I have everything I need to be great but I’m just trying to do everything as good as I can on a daily basis and trust that the results are going to come. And now we’re playing big games and I am going to try to do the same thing.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)

Best-of-7 Series Tied 1-1

GAME 3
  • When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; 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
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Florida 3, @New York 0; Game 2: @New York 2, Florida 1 OT; Game 3: New York at Florida, Sunday 3 (ABC); Game 4: New York at Florida, Tuesday 8 (ESPN): Game 5: Florida at New York, Thursday 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: New York at Florida, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Florida at New York, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

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