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Florida Panthers Pregame: Gabriel Landeskog returns for Avalanche

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Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will be back in the lineup Thursday against the Florida Panthers after serving a two-game suspension. // @GeorgeRichards

The Florida Panthers will be without veteran Joe Thornton Thursday night but the visiting Colorado Avalanche will get captain Gabriel Landeskog back after a two-game suspension.

Both players have faced NHL discipline in the past week: Thornton was fined the max $1,875 for slashing Tampa Bay’s Boris Katchouk. Landeskog sat for the Avs’ past two games after boarding Kirby Dach in the team’s season-opener against the Blackhawks.

Although Thornton did not face any sort of suspension, the Panthers had him running with Ryan Lomberg in Thursday’s morning skate with Joel Quenneville confirming the Eetu Luostarinen will center the fourth line on Thursday and Thornton would take the night off.

This could be simply the Panthers wanting to manage Thornton’s time as much as it is a chance to get Luostarinen back in the lineup after he was scratched in the first three.

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Luostarinen centered Florida’s third line throughout camp what with Anton Lundell out with injury. When Lundell came back, Luostarinen dropped to the fourth line — and then was scratched when the season started.

“I thought he had a great start to last season, but wasn’t at the same pace at the end,” Quenneville said. “His camp was comparable to last year and he missed the past couple of (games). He has practiced well and put himself in position to go out and play tonight. He is useful in a lot of ways.”

Said Luostarinen: “Obviously I am really excited to get back into the lineup. I am full of energy, so that’s good.”

Colorado, which lost its past two games without Landeskog, had a high-energy morning skate Thursday and the return of its captain may have had something to do with it.

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That, or having Wednesday off to enjoy Fort Lauderdale Beach.

The Avs are coming off a 6-3 loss to Washington on Tuesday night so expect a focused team in Sunrise.

“When we discussed the Washington game, they did not like it at all — for a lot of reasons,’’ coach Jared Bednar said. “We know we have to be better in a lot of different areas. It starts with me because our skating and competitiveness just wasn’t at the level where it needed to be. …

“The guys are excited to get Gabe back in the lineup. It’ll give some of the structure we thought we would have coming into the season back together with our lineup. This is a good opportunity against a real good team here in Florida. We have to come back and rebound after the last game.”

Landeskog said he was ready to get back at it after taking the past few games off.

“You never like to be outside the lineup, whatever it is for,” he said. “We’ve got another level to get to as a team. I’m excited to play and feel like I have worked on my game, felt good about my first game of the season. …

“There’s a lot of things we can get better at as a team. As a group, we just haven’t found the level of play that we need to be at. We end up playing from behind quite a bit and that’s something we have to correct.”

Landeskog and Bednar were very complimentary of the undefeated Panthers and with Tampa Bay up next, this is quite a challenging road trip for the Avs.

“We know how good the Panthers are,” Landeskog said. “They’re going to be a top team in the east, they were last year as well. They are a highly potent offensive team.

“It’s going to be a fun test. This is a good test for our group, especially this early on in the year. I’m a fan of going on the road early in the season, especially with some young guys.”

— Bednar said Jonas Johansson would be in net for the Avs tonight as he makes his first start of the season. He’ll go against Sergei Bobrovsky. 

QUENNEVILLE FOUGHT THE RATS

Quenneville was an assistant coach on the Colorado staff when the Avs beat the Panthers in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

It was Quenneville’s first Cup championship.

Thursday, he was asked what he remembered from the series.

”I remember the ending, triple overtime with Uwe Krup,” Quenneville said. “The first game was tight, a couple games were really tight. We didn’t want to go back and play Game 5. That team had a heck of a run and that series wasn’t as easy as a (sweep) looked.

“Winning a championship is what it’s all about. As a coach or a player, it means everything. Until it happens again, that’s what it is all about and it’s why we’re all here. Once you do it once, you can’t wait to do it again.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

COLORADO AVALANCHE (1-2) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (3-0)

  • WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TICKETS: CLICK HERE
  • TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
  • RADIO: 560-AM
  • 2021 regular season series: Did not play
  • All-time regular season series: Colorado leads 24-10-5, 3 ties
  • Odds via Bovada.lv: Florida (PL -1.5 +200) — (ML -115) — U/O 6.5
  • Up next: Florida at Philadelphia Flyers, 7; Colorado at Tampa Bay, Saturday, 7

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