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Florida Panthers Pregame: Anton Lundell gets shot at big minutes

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Florida Panthers rookie Anton Lundell will get a chance at some big minutes Tuesday as he centers the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — Florida Panthers rookie Anton Lundell has been playing big minutes all year as he is a key piece on the penalty kill.

Tuesday, he will get one of the biggest chances of his young career in Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

With Sam Bennett serving a three-game suspension and Sam Reinhart on the Covid protocol list, Lundell will get a chance to center Florida’s second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair.

“He’s young, he’s such a smart player and he can play in every situation,” Huberdeau said of his new linemate. “He can make some plays and whatever we do is going to be interesting and fun.”

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The 20-year-old is tied for sixth among rookies in goals (seven) and ranks seventh in points despite missing four of Florida’s 32 games thus far.

He has picked up the pace over the past five games as well, scoring five points (two goals, three assists) in that span.

“I get more confidence, more motivation for the goals,” Lundell said. “But overall, goals are not the only thing in my game. I just try to play a good all-around game and do anything to help the team win. But I want to be a player that can help the team with goals and I want them to come the right way”

Lundell ranks second among rookie forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice — just behind Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot, who had played five more games than him — has been a natural in the defensive zone ever since he made his NHL debut.

He trailed only Sasha Barkov among Panthers forwards in penalty kill time in his NHL debut, where the Panthers went to the penalty kill nine times in an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It’s always something that I’ve been interested in, even from juniors, I always want to be one step ahead of the player I’m playing against,” Lundell said of his defensive style of play.

“I want to be smarter, I think about what I would do if I was him and usually I’m on the right side and I get the puck, so that’s something I’ve been working on, I want to be a step ahead of the other guy.”

Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette has been particularly impressed with the rookie’s performance.

“It’s very impressive, he’s been tremendous up and down the lineup,” he said. “You can move him anywhere and he’ll fit right in, he does his job and it speaks a lot to his hockey IQ, which he possesses a lot of.”

Even with the progress he has already made in his rookie year, Lundell still thinks there is another level he can hit.

“It’s about getting better all the time,” Lundell said. “I know I’m not where I want to be someday, but it’s a long process and I need to trust the process.”

Morning Skate Updates

  • Carter Verhaeghe is a game-time decision with what Brunette called a “minor nick” following Florida’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Aleksi Heponiemi was called up from AHL Charlotte to Florida’s taxi squad. He will draw into the lineup if Verhaeghe is unable to play.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky will be Florida’s starting goaltender in Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames.
  • When it comes to the Calgary Flames, the Panthers are going to have to keep a close eye on Johnny Gaudreau. Check out CalgaryHockeyNow.com for more.

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