A silent offseason could actually be a blessing for the Panthers in this shortened season.
If the team had gone up against a 48-game schedule last season, there might have been a huge concern starting it with over half of a new roster, including a new head coach and system. But thankfully, that's not the case as the majority of players returned from a team that won the Southeast Division Championship.
There will be a few new faces in the lineup with forwards Peter Mueller and George Parros along with defenseman Filip Kuba brought in through summer signings. Toss in the likely addition of super prospect Jonathan Huberdeau and maybe another addition (tryouts Alex Kovalev or Marek Svatos or another young player) and the Panthers may have five new faces. That's a far cry from the 12 from the previous season.
Mueller, Parros and Kuba all took part in their first practice with the team as camp opened on Monday at the JetBlue Practice Facility at the Saveology.com Iceplex. Huberdeau, on the other hand, was kept out for precautionary reasons by GM Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen. He’ll return to the ice on Tuesday.
For the three veteran additions, it was a great feeling to get on the ice as an official member of the Panthers.
"I'm excited for it. It's a fresh start for me," said Mueller who centered a line with Kovalev and Jon Rheault Monday. "I just want to bring to this team what I can do. I know what I'm capable of doing and I'm just trying to help the team win."
"Personally I felt good actually," said Parros. "I was concerned to see how I was going to be getting back on the ice, full practice for the first time but I felt good. I found a little bit of cohesion with my teammates and my line mates so far and I like the way things are going after day one."
While the forwards are getting their first look with the organization, it's a return to roots for Kuba so to speak. Although, a lot of time has passed since Florida drafted in the eighth round in the 1995 draft (192nd overall).
"It was a long time ago. It's a new year," said Kuba who played in just 18 of his 792 career NHL games in a Panther uniform. " I'm very excited. The Panthers wanted to sign me here. There was interest in me so that was great and I'm happy that I'm here."
The three will look to blend in to the dressing room quickly. It will certainly be tough with only five days until Saturday's home opener, but it's something everyone is looking forward to.
"Obviously it takes a little bit more time but I think it's a lot of communication," said Lady Byng winner Brian Campbell who should be paired with Kuba this season to create an offensive force from the blue line similar to last year’s combination of Campbell and Jason Garrison. "I was playing with Kuba today, just trying to talk on the bench after shifts, what I like and hopefully some things that he likes.
"It's a challenge but it was like that last year. I know it's a shorter amount of time going into this season but we have a lot of access to video and everything to get accustomed to each other."
"With the abbreviated schedule, a crunched camp here. A lot of teams have a short amount of time together, even more so for me because I'm not used to playing with these guys," stated Parros. "Maybe that's a little more difficult but I feel good and I feel ready. It's a challenge that I'm willing and ready to accept and I'm looking forward to it."
“Things ended poorly in Colorado. I only put in 40 games last season,” said Mueller. “I'm definitely biting my finger nails a little bit to get going. I'm excited to be here and excited to play some hockey.”
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