The Florida Panthers lineup will have a new look on Thursday, with Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg all making their debut with the team in Montreal against the Canadiens.
“We have [three] new guys on this team, so there’s a lot of excitement in the locker room and guys are excited to get going,” Giroux said.
“It’s definitely going to be weird early on, but when the games go on, I think all of that goes behind you.”
The Panthers swung for the fences at the NHL trade deadline and they knocked it out of the park, dealing two first-round picks, Owen Tippett, Ty Smilanic and a handful of later-round picks to bolster their roster.
“It was like Christmas morning the other day when we got these guys,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time, we have to be patient. My biggest concern is that they’re so talented and they’re such great players that they’re going to try to force-feed things to each other and I just want them to be themselves and play hockey”
For Giroux in particular, this is a whole new experience.
He has spent his entire 15-year NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers — the last 10 of which were as the team’s captain.
“It’s something I’ve never done before, so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I’m very excited,” Giroux said of joining a new organization.
“The practices are high-tempo, our guys are fast, and we’re having fun out there.”
Giroux is set to be featured on one of the NHL’s most talented lines going forward, playing on the right side of Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe in his Florida debut.
“Those guys are fast players and Barkov can do pretty much anything you want a player to do,” Giroux said.
“I’m gonna try to fit on that line, bring some playmaking, go to the net, and just have fun out there.”
Chiarot did not get the chance to practice with the team as Giroux and Hagg did.
He’s been staying in Montreal since being dealt by the Canadiens due to visa issues.
The Habs were nice enough to let him use their facilities to stay sharp while working them out, however.
“Very classy for them to do that,” Brunette said. “Speaks to what he meant to that organization as time has gone on. Nothing but good feelings to let him do that. It’s kind of unheard of to let him do that, so it is pretty cool.’’
He will make his Panthers debut against his former team and join the team from here on out.
His teammates met him for the first time during morning skate on Thursday.
“He’s a big guy and he plays hard,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “He is going to compete every shift and every game and I’m excited to see him tonight.”
The Panthers enter the stretch run of the season with a five-point lead in the Atlantic Division over Toronto with Tampa Bay six points back in third.
But, with 20 games left until the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, Florida’s lead leaves little room for growing pains.
“We’re really excited to get going,” Huberdeau said.
“We only have 20 games to gel together, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem. We have a good team, great character in the room, and we’ll just welcome them in.”
Morning Skate Updates
- Spencer Knight will start his fifth straight game, taking the crease on Thursday in Montreal. “He’s earned it, especially pitching a shutout the other night,” Brunette said. “He had a great road trip, so he earned the start tonight.”
- Giroux, Chiarot, and Hagg will all make their Panthers debuts tonight, per Bruno.
- Ryan Lomberg and Patric Hornqvist both are set to return from injuries and play on Noel Acciari‘s wing, per Jameson Olive.
- Anton Lundell did not make the road trip, he is still dealing with his illness. He has been cleared from his lower-body injury, however.