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Matt Kiersted Still Fighting for a Roster Spot with Florida Panthers



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Florida Panthers defenseman Matt Kiersted, pictured here last October against Ottawa, is once again in a battle for one of the final roster spots coming out of training camp. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

CORAL SPRINGS — Matt Kiersted did not play in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Lightning, but Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice warned not to read too much into those kind of things.

The Panthers made their first big round of roster cuts on Monday.

Those still with the team, Maurice said, still have a shot to make the roster when final cuts come after Saturday’s preseason finale in Sunrise.

Kiersted said while that is good to hear, he is not sweating things.

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“I come to work every day. Trying to control what you can control is something I have leaned on in this camp,’’ said Kiersted, one of nine defensemen with seven spots available.

“I’m not trying to get stressed out or have anxiety about playing well. If I am going to make this team or whether I am not, I just have to come in every day and work as hard as I can. When I leave for the day, I know I left it all out there.”

This is Kiersted’s third training camp since signing with the Panthers as a free agent out of North Dakota in 2021.

He has been part of the final cuts in his first two camps and is down to the final run once more.

Getting in 20 games with Florida last season certainly helps his cause.

“I think camp has gone well,” Kiersted said. “It is a hard camp but after going through it last year, mentally, I kind of knew what I was getting into and there is familiarity with the coaches and the drills. There is more comfortability. There are a lot of good players here and competition is good.

“Last year, playing 20 games up here and having a lot of guys here means I have relationships built. Being able to say you have gone through so many different situations whether it is getting called up or being here for a while and getting into a routine, there are a lot of things which happen. Being comfortable for whatever is thrown at you is important.’’

The Panthers, who will start this season without Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, appear to have six of their blueline spots filled for Opening Night next Thursday in Minnesota.

On the first day of free agency, knowing Ekblad and Montour would be missing for a while, general manager Bill Zito went shopping for d-men.

Zito signed Niko Mikkola to a three-year deal; veterans Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Reilly all got one year contracts. Even free agents Lucas Carlsson and Casey Fitzgerald were re-signed.

Carlsson was waived on Monday and cleared on Tuesday.

With Josh Mahura considered Florida’s sixth defenseman, that means Kiersted is battling with Fitzgerald and Uvis Balinskis for that coveted seventh spot.

At least, for right now.

Not only do injuries happen, but Ekblad and Montour will be back in the coming weeks or months.

That means this battle will likely continue past Florida’s next round of cuts.

Just because you are on the Opening Night roster does not mean you will be there all season.

Kiersted knows that pretty well.

“There is definitely opportunity here and that is all you can ask for when you are in a spot like I am and are trying to make the team,” Kiersted said. “Knowing there is a chance to make this roster is huge.’’




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