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Florida Panthers offered opportunity. Chase Priskie grabbed it

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Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Chase Priskie (22) lines up alongside Patric Hornqvist during Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — Chase Priskie had been called up to the Florida Panthers from the minors in the past, but this time was much, much different.

In previous call-ups, only the possibility of playing was offered.

One time, he did play. Other times, he did not.

On Thursday morning, he and three teammates from the Charlotte Checkers gathered at the airport for a familiar flight to Fort Lauderdale.

All four of them knew they were going to be playing in the NHL later that night.

Earlier in the day, interim coach Andrew Brunette talked about the opportunity being offered to the young players coming to town from Charlotte.

The Panthers are paused, but we’re not!

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Even though they had just played back-to-back games for the Checkers and this would be their third consecutive night of playing high-end hockey, the chance to do so under the bright lights of the NHL gave them plenty of jump.

Priskie may not have received all the glory in what turned out to be an ho-hum 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Cole Schwindt got to take the rookie solo lap prior to warmups, something Priskie did last month when he made his NHL debut becoming the first South Florida product to play for his hometown Panthers.

Matt Kiersted scored Florida’s lone goal — his first in 12 NHL games.

But it was Priskie who was the one who impressed.

With the Panthers playing a defenseman short, everyone knew MacKenzie Weegar was going to log some serious minutes. He did just that, leading all skaters with 31:32 off 34 shifts.

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Second? Priskie with 25:29 on 32 shifts.

The Panthers threw the rookie out in all situations, having him kill penalties as well as get a little power play time.

It was a pretty good night for the former Jr. Panther who grew up playing on teams all over South Florida.

“He played exceptional,” Brunette said after the game. “He used his feet, managed the game very well. He played great. Another guy I am so happy for. I am sure it feels good, at home, to play that kind of game here in front of friends and family. Great story. But he earned every minute he got tonight.”

Chase Priskie first to make NHL debut with hometown Florida Panthers

Life with the NHL team, as is the case a lot for those playing for a minor league team, did not last long this time.

But it certainly was not Priskie’s fault he was heading back to Charlotte after just one game back on home turf.

On Friday afternoon, the NHL put the Panthers’ season on pause.

Due to the Covid outbreak on the team — seven players were in the protocol hence why the Charlotte guys were here in the first place — the Panthers will not play until after Christmas.

Three games have been postponed.

Priskie, and the other four players in from Charlotte, headed back and are expected to be in the lineup for the Checkers tonight against the visiting Bridgeport Islanders.

Before the Covid pause was announced, Priskie spoke following Florida’s practice at the IceDen.

Priskie said he did not think about playing the previous two nights as he went out there shift after shift.

“I was obviously thrilled, any time you get the call up and I knew we were coming in a little shorthanded,” Priskie said. “I just wanted to come in, put my best foot forward and in my first game, I kind of got a taste for how the league was with the pace.

“This time I wanted to make my mark and I was pleased in how I played, Obviously, you want to come up and do anything to help the team win.”

Priskie talked about playing with confidence on Thursday night and being around the Panthers for the past two years has apparently helped with that.

After being acquired from Carolina in the Vincent Trocheck deal, Priskie was part of Florida’s extended roster during the postseason Toronto bubble.

He spent part of last season with AHL Syracuse but also spent a large part of 2021 with the Panthers on the taxi squad.

He did not get into a game — his NHL debut came Nov. 4 — but he learned a lot.

That showed in training camp where Priskie definitely impressed.

He and Kiersted were the final defensive cuts of camp and were quickly recalled when Markus Nutivaara got hurt just before the opener.

Kiersted played in the opening night game but Priskie kept his head level and continued to work.

”Going back to camp, I wanted to come in and show them I should be here every day,” Priskie said. “Even though you may earn the respect of a lot of guys in the room, going on the ice and showing you belong on the team earns the respect in a different way.

“Training camp was huge for my confidence and getting called up at the start of the year kind of reinforced that confidence. I was playing well. When I got the call yesterday morning, I knew it was time to put on my big-boy pants and play hard hockey.”

The work he put in, as well as his play both in the preseason and with the Checkers, has been noticed by coaches both in Florida and in Charlotte.

His game Thursday was as well.

Raised on Florida hockey, Chase Priskie giving back to his community

Even though he is back in the minors, when the time comes for another recall, that will be remembered.

“I think getting that first game under my belt was huge,” Priskie said. “I didn’t play with any jitters last night, I had my bearings in the locker room. … For me, it was coming in and doing a job. We were missing some big-time d-men out there. I just came in to do my best. …

”I know I can be an everyday player at this level. It’s just about having the confidence, playing with confidence, having a little swagger. I kind of felt that last night. I had some quality minutes last night and this was another step in the process of being an NHL player.”

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