Tom Rowe’s first real day on the job as the new coach of the Florida Panthers was a game day.
His second was a work day.
Rowe, named Florida’s interim coach on Sunday night after Gerard Gallant was fired, held his first full practice at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
The Panthers held a long video meeting prior to the practice in which Rowe and coaches Dave Barr and Scott Allen went over new strategies the Panthers want to implement on the ice.
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Although some of Florida’s changes were put into place in Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the host Chicago Blackhawks, more came Wednesday as the Panthers worked on new defensive looks and changed up their power play personnel a bit.
As goalie Roberto Luongo noted, there were a lot of “stopping and coaching” breaks during the practice.
“We went over a lot of details in our video meeting on [defensive] zone coverages and neutral zone assignments and this was a good day to do that,” Rowe said.
Said Luongo: “It’s a bit of a different style than [Gallant] was and it’s going to take some time to implement what they want to show us. In the long run, it will be beneficial to our club to play a game where we are more structured and give us fewer scoring chances.”
Nick Bjugstad, who played in his fourth game after missing the start of the season with a wrist injury, worked on the power play for the first time Wednesday.
Barr said last week that Bjugstad would likely be worked into the rotation as he got more games in.
On Wednesday, Bjugstad said the nature of his injury – and the type of protection he had to wear on his wrist – prohibited him from doing much in way of shooting prior to this week.
“I didn’t expect much, just trying to get back into it, trying to get my legs and the pack back,” Bjugstad said. “I think they’re going to rotate me in a little bit and now I have to prove myself. It has been a while and coming back from a wrist injury, you’re not shooting 100 percent.”
Rowe’s first game behind the Florida bench brought a point in the standings in a building the Panthers usually doesn’t succeed in.
Florida trailed 1-0 after the first period but tied the score in the third on Jaromir Jagr’s fourth goal of the season. The Panthers threw up 39 shots at Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and had numerous chances to score yet ended with just that one.
Crawford stopped both Vincent Trocheck and Sasha Barkov in the shootout while the Blackhawks scored on two of their three shots.
“We earned a point and actually, I thought we deserved two points,” Rowe said after his NHL head coaching debut.
“It didn’t work in our favor, but we have a lot to build on.”
▪ Although the Panthers haven’t fared well at Chicago’s United Center, they have enjoyed recent success in Detroit and have won six of the past seven at Joe Louis Arena including a 5-2 victory here on Oct. 30.
Thursday marks Florida’s final regular season game at ‘The Joe’ as the Red Wings move to a new downtown arena next season.
The Panthers go into Thursday’s game 8-7-3 all-time in Detroit.
“When you come in here, there’s an awful lot of history,” said Rowe, who played for the Red Wings during the 1982-83 season.
“If you’re a player or coach, and you can’t get motivated playing in this building, you probably shouldn’t be in the game. We have had success here, but they are still a great hockey team who want to come out and send us a message.”
▪ Derek MacKenzie missed Wednesday’s practice after playing with the flu on Tuesday.
MacKenzie had a great scoring chance go off the post late in the third as Crawford had been tripped up by a teammate and was out of position and without his stick yet was saved by the iron. MacKenzie also made a key block of a shot in overtime.
“The guy had the flu an no one even knew about it,” Rowe said. “The guy is playing his heart out, blocking shots. He would block a shot with his head if he had to. He plays with a heart that analytics don’t show. You can never have enough of that.”
Thursday: Panthers at Red Wings
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.
Series: Detroit leads 19-14-5.
Scouting report: The Red Wings have come on of late, winning three of their past four including a 3-1 victory over visiting Dallas on Tuesday. Detroit had lost four consecutive games before winning at Buffalo before Thanksgiving.