Patric Hornqvist has been out of the Florida Panthers lineup since April 24 but on the eve of the playoffs starting against the Lightning, says he “feels great” and is ready for the next season to begin.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins, Hornqvist says this is the only time of the year that matters to him.
“In my mind, this is all I play for: The playoffs,” Hornqvist said. “I don’t care about the regular season, I want to win a Cup and I want to be successful. You have a long road ahead of you when you start on Game 1.
“You never know how many cracks you’re going to get at it. That’s my mindset. You have to have the mindset that this could be the last playoff you ever get. I have been fortunate to play in a lot of playoff games and had a few good runs. I am proud of that and happy about it. I learned from it; don’t take anything for granted. Do everything in your power to take advantage of the opportunity in front of you.”
Hornqvist has played in 90 NHL playoff games with Nashville and Pittsburgh but will be in No. 1 with the Panthers on Sunday.
At practice Saturday, he was on Florida’s third line with Alex Wennberg and Owen Tippett while also returning to the top power play unit.
Having the past three weeks off may be beneficial to the 34-year-old power forward.
“I have had a lot of rest and my body feels really good,” Hornqvist said Saturday.
“I am super excited for the opportunity in front of us. We have been waiting the whole year for the fun to start and we’re playing a really good team. But we’re a really good team. This is going to be a fun series to watch and a fun series to play.”
Florida has already played Tampa Bay eight times this season and has won the past three but none of that matters anymore.
The Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions and know when to turn up the heat.
Getting two of its best players in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos after long stays on the long-term injured list in part to keep the team cap compliant will only change the look of the champs coming into Sunrise.
Game 1 in Sunday at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN, BS-FLA).
“The mentality has to be next-shift and you will play the same team seven times,” Hornqvist said.
“The intensity will go up, the refs will let the players decide things a little more and we can only think about the next shift. Don’t go any further than that.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
GAME 1: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS (BEST OF 7)
- When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise
- Tickets: AVAILABLE HERE
- Regular season series: Florida won 5-2-1
- TV: NBCSN, BS-FLA
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM