The Florida Panthers were on the ice Thursday for the first time since losing Game 6 of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning as the team opened training camp at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Coach Joel Quenneville, entering his third season with the Panthers, led both groups through various drills and situational workouts.
What we saw was not all that surprising and, as veteran-laden a team as the Panthers are, that’s a good thing and should have been expected.
The Panthers are only missing a handful of players from last season — Keith Yandle, Anton Stralman, Alex Wennberg and Chris Driedger the most notable — and made only a handful of additions.
The biggest offseason acquisition was Sam Reinhart who came over from Buffalo. As expected, he opened camp up on the top line with center Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
The Panthers also ran Barkov on the left side at times with Verhaeghe and Reinhart alternating in the middle.
Good to have some versatility there.
Florida kept its second line intact from the Lightning series (Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett, Owen Tippett) with the third line consisting of Joe Thornton centering Mason Marchment and Anthony Duclair.
”He’s the biggest legend,” Duclair said of working with Thornton. “I was telling my trainer yesterday that I remember going to to the Bell Center as a kid and they were playing the Bruins. He was their captain and my eyes just lit up.
“That’s Jumbo. He’s been in the league forever and now he’s my stallmate and my linemate. He’s an unbelievable guy. … We’re really lucky to have him and I want to do anything I can to help him. It’ll be real special playing with him for sure.”
Florida was missing rookie center Anton Lundell whom Quenneville said did something in the team’s prospect tournament up in Tampa this past weekend.
Quenneville said Lundell’s injury wasn’t anything serious and he could be on the ice Saturday.
”We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Quenneville said.
The Panthers, Quenneville said, are also fully vaccinated against Covid-19 so no players are going to have to deal with the league’s harsh protocols for those who chose against getting the shot.
Quenneville said it was nice being able to skate onto the ice without a mask on as he had to last season although he wasn’t complaining.
“We don’t have to worry about any of that stuff,” Quenneville said when asked about the vaccinations. “I noticed it walking out onto the ice as coaches and doing so without a mask. It felt different in the meetings and it’s one of those little things. I have plenty of masks and we’ll probably be using them at some point. I’m sure they’re not gone. … It was different but everyone was in the same boat.”
The Panthers will return to the ice Friday with the possibility of a scrimmage between the two sides.
Training camp, since it is being held at the arena, is again closed to the public this season.