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Josh Mahura Is Ready When the Florida Panthers Call

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Florida defenseman Josh Mahura takes Carolina’s Sebastian Aho off the puck and to the ice during the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 20 in Raleigh. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

FORT LAUDERDALE — After dressing in every game the Florida Panthers played last season en route to the Stanley Cup Final, Josh Mahura has found himself playing the seventh-defenseman role again.

Even after scoring four goals and 16 points in all 82 regular season games and adding three assists in all 21 postseason games, Mahura is no longer a regular in the Panthers’ lineup.

And he has not complained once about it.

“Obviously, it’s tough when you’re not playing, and I know every single guy in the league wants to be playing every single night; that’s just the competitive nature of me as an individual,” Mahura told FHN.

”But, at the same time, we’ve got a great team here. We’re playing great hockey, we have a great group of guys, especially on the back end here, and it’s still fun to come to the rink and get better with everyone every single day.”

Coach Paul Maurice’s decision was not made due to a slip in performance from Mahura.

He played the same reliable style of game he brought last season when the Florida Panthers found themselves without Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour for the first month of the regular season.

Only offseason additions Dmitry Kulikov and Oliver Ekman-Larsson carved out significant roles on the penalty kill and power play.

Mahura found himself on the outside looking in.

But he has played well when the Panthers have called his number, notching six assists in 20 games, and has done so with an attitude the team respects.

“It says a lot about his character and it also says a lot about how much he wants to be here,” Maurice said.

“He wants to be a part of it. So it’s been long stretches and he understands it because we’re a pretty good defensive team. But for him that’s a hard thing to do to keep your passion when you are staying extra every day, you get skated by yourself with two other guys, it’s not too much fun, right?”

Mahura still has fun with it no matter how much work he puts in.

After every practice, he walks into the locker room with a big smile despite the sweat pouring down his face from the intense skate he had just put himself through.

Why?

“This is still one of the most fun times I’ve had coming to the rink,” Mahura said.

“I just think it’s the group of guys we have here and our team nature wanting to win every game and every day, and it doesn’t change whether I know I’m in the lineup or out of the lineup.”

He has had a lot of fun watching — and playing with, when called upon — this Panthers team.

They play a tough, physical grind of a game that excites the players and fans alike as they look to build a style to win games in the playoffs.

Mahura puts himself through a lot of extra work to be prepared for the days he gets his chance in the lineup.

”I mean, it’s honestly not hard,” Mahura said. “I think it’s just being a professional and doing your job every day you come to the rink.

“I love going on the ice and trying to get better right now. And if I know I can focus on that, it’s a key for me. But realistically, it’s not hard. Regardless, we are all professionals in this room and I’m going to come in and give 100 percent every day to try to get better.”

Mahura has gone through a lot of growth this season as well.

Last year, he was stapled to the always-reliable Radko Gudas and had a lot of continuity throughout the season with the exception to the 10 games Gudas missed last year.

This season, the 25-year-old blueliner has had to step in and play with different guys depending on who was out of the lineup at the time, and it was a big step for him.

“Of course it’s been different,” Mahura said. “You get used to playing with a guy every single night and you kind of start learning tendencies that don’t even need to be said.

“I think once it changes up, there is a little bit of an adjustment period, but at the same time, we got a great, deep core here and I think one of the best in the league for sure. Each guy can play with anyone on any given night.”

Mahura could get a chance to slot into the Panthers’ lineup again on Tuesday.

Ekblad left Saturday’s game with an apparent knee injury after colliding with Vladimir Tarasenko in the first period and did not return to his game.

While his status is unclear, Mahura is doing all he can be ready, as always.

“I think it’s just the mindset of, wherever I am in the lineup, I’m ready to go,” Mahura said. “I’ve one a great job with the coaches here and the trainers in the gym to prepare me for that, so I’m just staying positive every day.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DALLAS STARS

  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Dallas won 2-0
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Stars 4 (Dec. 6)At Dallas: Tuesday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 25-21-2, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday @ Carolina, 7 p.m.

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