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Roberto Luongo Returns, Helps Florida Panthers at Practice

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Florida Panthers ‘practice goalie’ Roberto Luongo prepares to make a save at the Iceplex at War Memorial in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

FORT LAUDERDALE — Roberto Luongo made a guest appearance at the Florida Panthers practice at the new War Memorial Iceplex on Thursday afternoon.

With Sergei Bobrovsky getting a day off — from practice, anyway — the Panthers called on their Hall of Fame netminder to fill in.

Luongo, 44, filled in for the Panthers for the first time last March.

After playing in a charity event with his fellow Florida alums last Saturday afternoon, Luongo looked loose and, as coach Paul Maurice said, looked like he had not lost a step.

“If you walked in off the street and had no idea who was in net, you would say that’s an NHL goalie,’’ Maurice said. “There’s a little more gray in the beard, but he looked pretty good.”

Luongo continues to wear the customized pads which were gifted to him upon his retirement, ones which capsulate the entirety of his career — from the Islanders, Panthers and Canucks to winning Gold with Team Canada.

One of the first players to score on Luongo in the practice was Will Lockwood, who followed up a rebound and popped the loose puck into the empty net.

Luongo was not exactly going to go post-to-post — and Lockwood appeared to be stifling a grin as he skated away.

Luongo panthers

The custom CCM pads gifted to Roberto Luongo upon his retirement from the NHL.

“It was great,” Lockwood said afterward. “I know I caught him at the perfect time because it was early and he really was not warmed up. But it was still fun. I did get to warm him up before and that was really cool. It was just great to be out there with a Hall of Famer. That was incredible.”

Luongo, who works with the Panthers as a special advisor to GM Bill Zito and heads the team’s Goaltending Excellence Department with former goalie coach Francois Allaire, has been in net more and more since deciding to put on the pads back on last year.

Upon retirement in 2019, Luongo said he never wanted to go back in net and played center at the alumni game on All-Star Week.

But, in training for the NHL All-Star Skills Competition where he was tabbed as a celebrity goalie, Luongo appears to have caught the bug once more.

The Panthers were happy to see him out there.

“I think I scored on him at one point, but he still has it. He looked great out there,” said Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

“He has not missed a beat. It was fun having a legend on the ice out there. When you shoot on him, you see how well he reads the game. That is something he probably will never lose.”

ON DECK

NEW YORK RANGERS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • 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: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season — At Florida: Friday. At MSG: March 4; March 24.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 60-32-8, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.

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