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Florida Panthers Pregame: Sam Bennett excited for Calgary homecoming

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Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett plays in his first home game at BB&T Center after being acquired at the trade deadline from Calgary on April 18, 2021. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

Sam Bennett lived in Calgary a long time yet it took his return with the Florida Panthers for him to try his hand at dogsledding for the first time.

On Tuesday night, Bennett plays his first game at the Saddledome as a member of a visiting team.

Monday afternoon, however, he was on a dogsled with teammate Mason Marchment near the team’s resort in Banff for a team building outing.

“That was actually my first time and it was a great experience,” Bennett said in his pregame media availability from the Saddledome on Tuesday night. “We had a blast out there. The dogs were great, the weather was great and it was a lot of fun.”

Bennett, Calgary’s fourth overall selection of the 2014 NHL Draft, was traded to the Panthers at the deadline last season and has become close to a point-a-game player with Florida since coming over.

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The way Bennett and the Panthers are playing right now perhaps had him walking into the building with his head held higher than usual.

”It’s great. Our team is rolling right now and we’re having a lot of success right now and a lot of fun,’’ Bennett said. “It’s a great time to be back in Calgary and we’re going to try and keep it rolling.”

The Saddledome is not that big but he may have had to been told to turn right when he came into the building and not “left” as he is accustomed to.

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“It was exciting (walking in) and it was definitely different going to the away dressing room for the first time but it’s a cool feeling,” Bennett said.

“I have a lot of great memories in this building, was here for a long time.

“It’s pretty cool to be back here again. … It’s kind of weird coming here on the opposite team after playing here six or seven years. Lot of great memories. Think back to being 18 or so and coming here to play in the playoffs. Those are probably some of my favorite memories of this building and playing for Calgary.’’

The Flames are expected to have a video tribute for Bennett — and perhaps something for Ryan Lomberg as well — during the first period of the game.

Bennett says he likes to watch what goes on during breaks in the action so it is not likely that he will miss whatever the Flames have in store.

“I haven’t thought about it at all, but I am sure I will watch it,” he said. “I usually watch the JumboTron a lot and that will neat to see.

“I think it’s cool. I’m excited to see it. I don’t know what my emotions will be after it. I guess we’ll see.”

SUTTER LIKES PANTHERS

Calgary coach Darryl Sutter was very complimentary of the Panthers two weeks ago following Florida’s 6-2 win in Sunrise.

On Tuesday morning, he told reporters that Florida’s tough playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring has been beneficial to this year’s version.

“They came really close to beating out Tampa last year,” said Sutter, a two-time Cup champ with the Los Angeles Kings.

“Rivalries are created between good teams and not proximity. Tampa is the two-time champ and Florida built its team with a new general manager coming in to beat Tampa.

”If you look at the depth of their organization and who they can move in-and-out and not miss a beat. That’s what you need come playoff time, that’s what you need to beat the champion.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS PREGAME NOTES

The Panthers called up Owen Tippett and Aleksi Heponiemi from AHL Charlotte on Monday and the two are with the team in Calgary.

Mason Marchment, who has played just three games since Nov. 8, replaces Maxim Mamin — who joins Heponiemi on the team’s taxi squad — tonight.

”He played two really good games after the break and then he got Covid,” Andrew Brunette said of Marchment. “So we’re expecting him to come in. He looked really good at practice today and last week. We’re expecting the same old Marchy.”

Spencer Knight will start in net with Sergei Bobrovsky backing up.

”I think Bob has carried it for a while now,” Brunette said on the goalie decision. “We have to get Spencer in. He needs some games, obviously went through Covid. He played a really good game against Tampa and we have a lot of games on deck here. We need to get him back into the flow. We’re going to need both goalies.”

Jonas Johansson has cleared Covid protocol but because of Canadian border rules, did not travel with the team.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT CALGARY FLAMES

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