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Steven Lorentz: A Big Part of Florida Panthers Improved Depth

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Florida Panthers center Steven Lorentz looks for an open teammate during the second period of a preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 29 in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

FORT LAUDERDALE — When Steven Lorentz was traded to the Florida Panthers on July 1 in the Anthony Duclair deal, he was excited to join a contender.

Even if it meant a lesser role.

However, Lorentz probably did not think it would be this big of a cut in playing time.

On Saturday night, the 6-foot-4 center was back in the Florida lineup for the first time since Jan. 22 in Nashville.

After playing in the first 16 games of the season after the free agent day trade, Lorentz has been scratched in 22 of the previous 25 games.

With Kevin Stenlund out Saturday with an illness, Lorentz returned and hoped to make a difference on Florida’s new-look fourth line.

Will Lockwood joined Lorentz on that line, playing in his first game since being concussed Jan. 19.

Lorentz ended up playing 6:11 in the 3-2 overtime win against the Capitals which was more than fellow fourth-liners Jonah Gadjovich and Lockwood got.

“Of course, sitting around can be a little frustrating,” Lorentz said on Saturday morning. “It is tough to feel like you are a part of the group every single day when you watch guys go through wins and losses together, and you are just watching. When you just practice, it is tough some times.

“But we have a great group here, and they do a great job of making us feel like we’re a part of it all. I am excited to get back in there and prove myself. I have stayed in shape and am ready to do my thing.’’

Florida coach Paul Maurice has been very complimentary of Lorentz’s attitude.

Last season, Lorentz played in 80 of San Jose’s 82 games — but with the Sharks finishing in last place, things were not always fun.

Maurice said those who do not make the lineup every night or are scratched more often than not will not get back in with the wrong attitude.

Lorentz and Lockwood have been good teammates, with both players making it a point to help warm up goalie Sergei Bobrovsky before practice.

“We are going to have three, four-game weeks coming up, so we are going into a heavy schedule,” Maurice said. “We are going to get banged up, and we are going to need our whole lineup. We’re going to need all of them.

“When you get into a long stretch, sometimes a guy will come in and say, ‘Hey, you know, maybe it’s time I moved on.’ These guys have been clear that they want to be here; they want to play here. We have had a good run of health, something we did not have last year. I am not a fan of rotating guys in and out. That means if you are healthy, guys can sit for a while. We can’t send them down to the AHL to stay sharp, so we have to deal with it.”

Stenlund and Matthew Tkachuk should be back in the Florida Panthers lineup on Tuesday against Buffalo, which means Lorentz and Lockwood may be scratched again.

Playing time does not come easy with the Panthers; with the NHL Trade Deadline coming on March 8, more does not appear on the horizon.

Still, as long as Lorentz is part of the Florida Panthers — whether he is in the lineup or not — he plans on helping them in any way he can.

“You need real depth to go to the Stanley Cup, and you saw it last year when these guys made it to the Final,” he said. “They were a little depleted at the end; I’m not saying the guys who had to step in didn’t do a good job, but Vegas’ depth was just a little more. They had it at the end.

“We think we have that this year. We have guys who are ready to go, whether they have played in a while or not. We know they can contribute right away.

“I am no spring chicken around here anymore. I know what I have to do, know I can do it well. I am just excited to get out there and prove myself again.’’

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Tuesday; April 13.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 55-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.

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