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Goalie nods: Luongo gets surprise start after Reimer’s wife goes into labor

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James Reimer was supposed to start for the Florida Panthers tonight at home to Ottawa, but it will be Roberto Luongo instead after Reimer’s wife went into labor.

Interim coach Tom Rowe got a call from Reimer at 4 a.m. this morning informing him of the news.

“The baby is on the way I guess and he’s home,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald.

The baby has since arrived:

Rowe had been hoping to ride the hot hand before the plan changed. Reimer was named first star in Thursday’s 2-1 OT victory over Tampa Bay, the Panthers’ last game before the All-Star break.

Not that Luongo has been playing all that poorly; he just hasn’t been getting the wins. The 37-year-old has an impressive .925 save percentage in January, but his record is a modest 2-4-1.

Who else but Mike Condon will start for the Senators.

Elsewhere…

Thomas Greiss, with a new contract extension, will start for the Islanders at home to Washington. Philipp Grubauer gets the assignment for the Caps, after Braden Holtby spent the weekend at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Henrik Lundqvist will try to stay hot for the Rangers against the visitors from Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo gets the nod for the Blue Jackets, after Sergei Bobrovsky represented the club in L.A.

Matt Murray and Pekka Rinne are expected in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Predators.

Tuukka Rask was in L.A. this weekend, but he’s expected to play anyway when the Bruins take on the Lightning tonight in Tampa. Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

— It’ll be Steve Mason versus Cam Ward when the Flyers and Hurricanes meet in Carolina.

— In Detroit, Cory Schneider for the Devils versus Jared Coreau for the Red Wings.

— Even though Connor Hellebuyck went into the break with a winning performance in Chicago, Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Winnipeg Jets tonight in St. Louis. For the Blues, it’ll be Jake Allen making his first start in two weeks.

Carey Price for the Canadiens versus Robin Lehner for the Sabres in Montreal.

— Frederik Anderson for the Maple Leafs versus Kari Lehtonen for the Stars in Dallas.

— Darcy Kuemper has allowed at least three goals in each of his last four starts. He’ll get the nod for the Wild in Edmonton, where Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers.

— Skills competition hero Mike Smith will start for the Coyotes in Glendale. No official word on a starter for the Kings, but bet on Peter Budaj.

Calvin Pickard for the Avalanche versus John Gibson for the Ducks in Anaheim.

— A couple of All Stars square off in San Jose, where it’ll be Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks versus Martin Jones for the Sharks.

Leafs ruin Reimer’s return to Toronto with rout

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In more than 200 regular season games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, James Reimer enjoyed some great moments. Even so, many look back at his time with mostly bad memories.

His first game against the Maple Leafs with the Florida Panthers did little to erase such thoughts in Toronto.

Reimer absorbed all six Leafs goals as his former team ruined his Toronto reunion 6-1 on Thursday. With that, Reimer is now 2-3-1 as Roberto Luongo‘s highly paid understudy in Florida.

Connor Brown scored twice and flirted with a hat trick. Mitch Marner‘s tremendous “triple-deke” goal can be seen here, his seventh of 2016-17. James van Riemsdyk might be on an even hotter streak, connecting for his eighth of the season.

On the other end of the ice, Frederik Andersen continues to get his bearings in Toronto’s net, only allowing a single tally.

If Maple Leafs fans wonder what could have been with Reimer, they at least likely weren’t daydreaming about that too wistfully on Thursday.

Goalie nods: Reimer returns to Toronto, but he won’t start and the Leafs (reportedly) won’t recognize him

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James Reimer was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2006, made his NHL debut four years later and, all told, spent six seasons wearing the blue-and-white, playing in over 200 games.

And tonight, he might get the spotlight on him for a couple seconds.

Reimer will back up Roberto Luongo when the Panthers visit Toronto, and it sounds like he’ll do so with minimal fanfare.

Per the Sun, the Leafs are “unlikely to officially recognize Remier” during the game, opting instead to “put the in-house camera on him for a few moments.”

(Now feels like a good time to mention Edmonton had a video tribute for Nail Yakupov.)

Reimer — dealt to San Jose at the deadline before joining the Panthers this offseason — has only played twice this year, making 25 saves in a shootout loss to Tampa in his debut, then allowing three goals on 22 shots in a loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

And while he’s likely to receive little attention this evening, Reimer did play to a large media contingent on Wednesday, and had a pretty good quip about Auston Matthews taking his old No. 34 (“that’s brutal… I can’t believe he did that.”)

His former teammates, meanwhile, recalled a guy that battled hard and provided some good memories — specifically, backstopping the Leafs to the playoffs in 2013.

That, of course, led to a not-so-good memory:

For the Leafs, Frederik Andersen starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

Devan Dubnyk starts again as the Wild visit Buffalo. The Sabres will counter with Anders Nilsson, who continues to play with Robin Lehner (illness) sidelined.

Louis Domingue, who was called out by his head coach recently, goes back in goal for the Coyotes after Justin Peters started last game. He’ll go up against Steve Mason, who starts for Philly.

Jaroslav Halak returns to the Isles net after Thomas Greiss started the last two games. Marc-Andre Fleury is likely to go for the Pens.

— Tantalizing matchup in Montreal as Ben Bishop at the Bolts take on Carey Price and the Canadiens.

Petr Mrazek and the red-hot Red Wings — winners of five straight — look for No. 6 in St. Louis. Jake Allen is the likely starter for the Blues.

— It’s Antti Niemi versus Connor Hellebuyck as the Stars and Jets play in the second of a home-and-home series.

— Nashville used both Pekka Rinne and Marek Mazanec in last night’s 6-1 blowout loss to Anaheim, so no word yet on who goes tonight in Los Angeles. The Kings will continue to ride Peter Budaj.

Sergei Bobrovsky, he of the .929 save percentage, gets the start for Columbus. He’ll be up against Martin Jones in the Sharks goal.

With Reimer signed, Panthers won’t rush Luongo back after hip surgery

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Signing James Reimer as an unrestricted free agent (five years, $17 million) seems prudent for the long-term future of the Florida Panthers. The move could also pay off in the short-term, as well.

It was revealed during Friday’s free agent frenzy that 37-year-old goalie Roberto Luongo underwent off-season hip surgery and, according to Panthers GM Tom Rowe, may not be able to start the 2016-17 season.

That means Reimer could begin the season as the starter in Florida, with recently acquired Reto Berra as the back-up — at least until Luongo gets back to full health.

“We’ll probably end up starting the season with Berra and obviously, Reimer,” said Rowe, as per the Sun Sentinel.

“We’ll see where Luongo is. Everything will be determined by how Lou gets through the offseason with his rehabilitation. Right now, it’s going really well. We’ll take it one day at a time. We don’t want to rush him back. We want him to come back on his schedule and just make sure we’re doing everything the right way.”

Luongo, who hit 37 years of age in April, appeared in 62 games in the regular season — he started 60 of them — and posted impressive numbers, including a 2.35 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage, which is three points higher than his career average.

Related: ‘Exhausted’ Luongo: ‘I need the rest’ after three games in four nights

Reimer is ‘excited to learn from’ Luongo in Florida

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Aaron Ekblad will not be a free agent for a long time. That alone made this free-agency day for the Florida Panthers an overwhelming success.

The Panthers have locked up their star 20-year-old defenseman for eight additional years, the sides formally completing the work Friday on what will be a $60 million extension that keeps him in Florida through the 2024-25 season. The deal was announced on the first day of the NHL’s free-agent signing period, though Ekblad was still under contract to Florida for the coming season.

“I don’t think it’s any secret,” Panthers general manager Tom Rowe said. “He’s a guy we want in the fold for a long time to come.”

Ekblad was an All-Star in each of his first two years with Florida, and now clearly becomes a face of a franchise that believes it is getting closer to finally hoisting the Stanley Cup.

“Couldn’t be happier,” Ekblad wrote on Instagram as he posed in a Florida jersey.

He was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and already is Florida’s franchise leader with eight career game-winning goals.

“An exceptionally skilled, intelligent and mature young player that is a difference maker for our team both on and off the ice,” Rowe said.

The Panthers won the Atlantic Division last year, reaching the playoffs for just the second time in 15 seasons. The ownership group led by Vincent Viola has made no secret that it is driven by winning a championship, and Florida is starting to look like a real potential contender.

“He bought the team to win a Stanley Cup and the players that we’ve got here all want to win a Stanley Cup,” Rowe said. “We felt what we did today gives us a better chance of doing that.”

There were other moves, including the signing of goaltender James Reimer to a five-year, $17 million deal to share the workload with starter Roberto Luongo.

Reimer has spent six seasons in the NHL, mostly with Toronto. He also appeared in nine games – eight regular-season, one playoff – with Stanley Cup finalist San Jose this past season.

Reimer came to South Florida to see the Panthers’ facilities Friday and was quickly convinced he was making the right decision.

“We’ve got a great team and great management and ownership, they’re passionate about winning,” Reimer said. “As a player, that’s the organization you want to be a part of.”

Luongo is still one of the best in the NHL, but the Panthers have been mindful of not overusing their 37-year-old goalie. He’s sat out roughly one of every four Florida regular-season games in each of the last two years and had offseason hip surgery. The Panthers made a trade for former Colorado backup Reto Berra late last month. If Luongo isn’t ready for opening night, Berra would begin as Reimer’s backup.

“We really targeted Reimer as a guy we see long term,” Rowe said.

So Reimer’s role will hardly be a limited one, and he’s looking forward to being with Luongo.

“He’s a heck of a goalie, he’s an elite goalie and I think his personality is known across the league,” Reimer said. “He’s just a great guy. For me, I’m excited to learn from him.”

Reimer’s arrival means Al Montoya‘s time as Luongo’s backup is over, and longtime Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell is gone as well, as was expected, particularly after the team landed Keith Yandle late last month. Campbell is going back to the Chicago Blackhawks for next season.

Florida also added a pair of forwards Friday, signing Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault to two-year contracts.

Sceviour had 11 goals and 12 assists with Dallas last season, then added five more points for the Stars in 11 playoff games. Marchessault had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season.

Rowe coached against Sceviour in the AHL and sees him as a third-line option right away for Florida.

“It’s a young league and the game’s getting faster every year and we felt the guys we picked up today, it gave us more skill and definitely gave us some quicker guys at that third-line position,” Rowe said. “It gives (coach Gerard Gallant) some options, more options than we had last year.”