Patric Hornqvist, one of the Florida Panthers big offseason acquisitions, finally joined the team at training camp this weekend as he took the ice for the first time Saturday morning.
Hornqvist, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins, said he hated to miss the first week of camp but he was here now and is not looking backward.
“Obviously it was not ideal but I have tried to put that behind me, look forward and try to get better every time I come to the rink from now on,” Hornqvist said on Sunday.
“I can’t take that time back, so I may as well focus on what is in front of us. Obviously when you (hold informal) practice on your own, you only have 10 guys in your group and now we’re back to normal skates, normal practices.
“It’s great to see the boys out there and get to know them on the ice. The scrimmages are good so hopefully we can have a few more of those to get ready for Sunday.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Hornqvist “looked good coming off that absence.”
Quenneville added that he and the coaches were going to keep an eye on the 34-year-old power forward but no need. Hornqvist ran through all the drills and looked sharp.
“He was fine,” Quenneville said. “He’s going to really help our team in a lot of ways.”
Hornqvist is working with an all-new second line, one featuring Jonathan huberdeau on the left and newcomer Alexander Wennberg at center.
Florida’s top line now consists of Sasha Barkov at center with Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair on the wings.
“Right now we just have to get together as a group and improve and get better every day in practice,” Hornqvist said after his second official workout with the Panthers on Sunday.
“So far, so good. Both of them are very creative with the puck so I am going to try to create space for them, get open and go to the net for them.”
Florida Panthers camp news
How excited was Gustav Forsling to get to his new team?
Well, not long after he found out that the Panthers claimed him off waivers at noon on Saturday, he loaded up his car and started heading south.
Forsling, who was in Carolina Hurricanes, said he arrived in South Florida from Raleigh at around 1:30 on Sunday morning.
“It (was) pretty tough because I had never driven that far before,” Forsling said. “This would be like driving all of Sweden.”
He was then on the ice with his new teammates — and was paired up with former Charlotte Checkers defensive partner Chase Priskie — for Sunday’s 10 a.m. workout.
“I found out and headed down here straight away. It was a little stressful but it’s all good,” said Forsling, who played for Quenneville and new defensive coach Ulf Samuelsson in Chicago.
“I am really excited, it feels good to be with a new team with a new opportunity. I am ready to go. It was good to see (Quenneville), it has been a few years. It was very nice.”
Quenneville said he feels the 24-year-old Forsling looked to be in really good shape and said he looked sharp for being in his first practice with a new team.
New Florida assistant GM Paul Krepelka also knows Forsling after serving as the general manager of the Checkers last season while with the Hurricanes.
“When we had him in Chicago, he had outstanding training camps and great starts to the season,” Quenneville said.
“He looks a lot fitter than we have seen him. I think he put on some good weight, added some strength. He has good ability on both sides of the puck and in a shot amount of time, I really liked his practice.”
— On Saturday, the Panthers practiced together as a full unit — well, the 30 players who were left after cuts and were not on the ‘unfit to play’ list.
Sunday, Quenneville split things up a bit.
On the ice for the morning session appeared to be the team Florida could go into its opener with.
In the later session were nine players who, with one large exception, seem to be on the fringe of making the team.
Quenneville said he was going to look at the two groups “every day” and there could be changes to them as the team continues preparing for its season-opener Sunday night.
Here were the line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday:
— Carter Verhaeghe / Sasha Barkov / Anthony Duclair
— Jonathan Huberdeau / Alexander Wennberg / Patric Hornqvist
— Frank Vatrano / Eetu Luostarinen / Owen Tippett
— Ryan Lomberg / Noel Acciari / Brett Connolly
— MacKenzie Weegar / Aaron Ekblad
— Riley Stillman / Anton Stralman
— Brady Keeper / Radko Gudas
— Chase Priskie / Gustav Forsling
— Chris Driedger / Sam Montembeault
In Group 2: Keith Yandle, Vinnie Hinostroza, Mason Marchment, Scott Wilson, Kevin Connauton, Aleksi Heponiemi, Cole Schwindt, Grigori Denisenko and Philippe Desrosiers.
The Panthers have to make their final cuts this week with the season-opener coming Sunday against Chicago.
Florida has 34 players in camp with three — Sergei Bobrovsky, Markus Nutivaara and Juho Lammikko — still on the UPL.
As far as having Yandle in with the second group, Quenneville said the Panthers wanted eight defensemen in the top group and he wanted to see some of the younger players.
The two defensemen in the later group were NHL veterans Yandle and Connauton.
“Like I said, we could be moving guys around so we will see how that goes,” Quenneville said.
“We have some younger guys on the back end that we want to see.”
— The Panthers will have a few extra days to prepare for the 2021 season after the two opening games against the Dallas Stars were postponed until later.
Quenneville had planned to have the Panthers practice all the way into the Thursday opener, but now may throw in another off day — as well as more scrimmages to try and keep things fresh.
“We will deal with it,” Quenneville said. “As players, you want to start playing for keeps because practicing can slow down your excitement in coming to the rink.
“Games are entertaining and fun, gives an extra flavor and some fun every day. It is what it is. We want to be ready, come out of the gate flying.
“We have to be flexible and adapt throughout the season, whomever handles it the best will probably going to find success.”