SUNRISE — On Tuesday, Florida Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette will be coaching against one of the teams he once played for as the Nashville Predators come to town.
It is the third consecutive game Brunette had coached against one of his former teams after Florida played in Minnesota and Chicago.
“I guess I played for too many teams,” he said with a laugh.
Brunette played a nice part in Nashville’s history.
On Oct. 13, 1998, Brunette scored the first goal for the expansion Predators in a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“That first goal was special, being the first one in that building in a hockey-craving market that was growing,” Brunette said.
“To be able to say you’re the first guy to score there was a pretty unique experience and something that is a good accomplishment of my career.”
It came in the second game in franchise history, not the first.
Nashville’s first game came at home — and was a 1-0 shutout loss on Oct. 10, 1998 to the Florida Panthers (who had been rumored to be looking at moving to Nashville before securing a new arena in Sunrise).
Ray Whitney scored the lone goal of that game on a power play 2:26 into the third period and Kirk McLean stopped all 26 Predators shots.
After that game, there was no talk in the Nashville locker room about who was going to get the first goal in franchise history.
“We just wanted anybody to get one,” Brunette said. “Those things, when they snowball, sometimes they really set you back.”
Just over five minutes into their second game, they got that elusive first goal — although it came in a very unorthodox way.
Nashville defender Joel Bouchard loaded up a slapshot, which ex-Panthers goalie Trevor Kidd got a piece of.
The rebound bounced right to Brunette, who skated around a downed Kidd and slid the puck into the empty net.
Only, there was one issue as Hurricanes defender Dave Karpa shoved the net off of its moorings.
A lengthy review ensued to determine if Karpa had done so on purpose and if the puck would have went in had the net stayed intact.
After five minutes on the phone with the league office, referee Dennis LaRue determined that it was a good goal.
Yeah, the Predators had scored their first goal in franchise history.
“We were waiting, we had the build up after game one and we didn’t get one,” Brunette said.
“Game two, it was more of a relief that we could actually score a goal than anything, but it was a special memory for me.”
That was the top of a short list of memories for Brunette in the Music City.
Nashville finished with the fourth-worst record in the league at 28-47-7. Brunette scored 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 77 games that year.
“We aren’t blessed like we are here with offensive prowess,” Brunette joked.
It might have been his only season in Nashville, as he was traded to the expansion Atlanta Thrashers, but he will not forget his time there.
“What I remember most is the excitement level and the passion of the city for having its first major league franchise,” Brunette told The Tennessean.
“I’ll never forget the excitement in the building every night. I’ll never forget maybe the lack of hockey knowledge, but also the appetite the fan base had to learn the game and understand it and to love it.
“It’s something unique to be a part of, even though I was only there one year.”
Morning Skate Updates
- Sergei Bobrovsky will start in net against the Nashville Predators, Jonas Johansson will back him up while Spencer Knight remains in Charlotte for now.
- Maxim Mamin will play on the top line with Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe after being activated from IR on Tuesday afternoon.
- Owen Tippett is no longer on the active roster, meaning he was moved to AHL Charlotte as he is Florida’s only waiver eligible player in the scratched group.
- Noel Acciari, Frank Vatrano and Olli Juolevi will be Florida’s scratched players on Tuesday.
- Joe Thornton continues to skate with the main group after being placed on injured reserve last week. On Sunday, Brunette said Thornton was a little banged up, but will likely return ahead of his return to San Jose on March 15.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS VS NASHVILLE PREDATORS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM, SiriusXM
- Fanduel’s NHL odds — Florida favored: Puck line (-1.5, +112); Money line (-220); Over/Under 6.5 (-122/+100)
- Last season: Florida won 5-2-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 20-11-6, 3 ties
- This season: First meeting