Florida starter Roberto Luongo will sit again on Thursday when the Panthers take on the Jets in Sunrise, head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed today.
Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage), who suffered a shoulder injury during a wild game against Toronto last week — the same game in which second-stringer Al Montoya hurt his groin — will watch as journeyman Dan Ellis makes his third consecutive start for the Panthers, with ECHL recall Sam Brittain backing up.
It’s a tough blow for the Panthers.
Following a 4-3 shootout win over the Isles on Saturday, the Panthers were just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But since then, Florida hasn’t played — Boston has, however, scoring big wins against Detroit and Ottawa to boost its lead to six points (the Bruins and Panthers are also now even in games played, with 66 each.)
If there is a silver lining for the Panthers, it’s that they still have three more cracks at the Bruins this season, the first of which comes in two weeks time at the BB&T Center (on Saturday, Mar. 21).
From there, the two will face each other two more times: in Boston on Mar. 31, and then back in Florida on Apr. 9.
Roberto Luongo returned to the ice on Monday for the first time since injuring his shoulder, and sounded hopeful he’d be back in goal when the Panthers host the Jets three days from now.
“I would love to [play Thursday] but right now it’s too early to tell,” Luongo said, per NHL.com. “There’s been some improvement over the past 24 hours but the next two days will be key to see if I’m able to play on Thursday.
“It’s not comfortable but it has gotten better over the past 24 hours so that’s encouraging.”
Luongo was hurt during a crazy game against Toronto last week, during which backup netminder Al Montoya was also lost to a groin injury (that will sideline him for the next few weeks). The situation forced Luongo to return to the game while still smarting from a Leo Komarov shot — “it caught me in a spot at a weird angle,” he explained — and, since then, goaltending duties have been turned over to veteran Dan Ellis, who’s up from AHL San Antonio.
Ellis, 34, has fared reasonably well in his two-game stint, helping Florida gain three of a possible four points. But it’s clear the club needs Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage) back in goal, especially with the playoff chase alive and well — Florida sits just four points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s no more than day-to-day,” Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said of Luongo’s injury. “[Thursday] is the goal and the hope but we’ll see how he gets along.”
The Boston Bruins pulled off a dramatic comeback against the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon, putting the pressure on the Florida Panthers to beat the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders just to keep pace. The Panthers didn’t make it look easy, but they got two points in a 4-3 shootout victory.
Without defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Tomas Kopecky (both flu), the Panthers leaned heavily on 35-year-old Brian Campbell and 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr, giving them 26:18 and 21:12 minutes of ice time respective. However, it was ultimately Jonathan Huberdeau, 21, that proved to be the hero tonight.
He netted a key goal for the Panthers in the third period and accounted for the only marker in the shootout.
The Panthers also had Dan Ellis playing between the pipes as goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya are both sidelined. Ellis kicked out 25 of 28 shots before out dueling Frans Nielsen, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey in the skills competition.
Florida improved to 29-23-14 to remain two points shy of the Bruins in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. It’s worth noting though that Boston has a huge lead in ROW (30 to 22), so any tie is projected to go to the Bruins.