With both of their primary goalies injured, the Panthers quickly got to work and brought up replacements.
Whether this is a long-term solution or just a quick fix remains to be seen.
If Florida still wants to make the playoffs, it better hope this is nothing too serious.
Roberto Luongo injured his shoulder in the first period of Florida’s 3-2 loss to Toronto on Tuesday night after being struck by a puck.
Luongo exited the game after the period and left the arena to get a CT scan at Cleveland Clinic in Weston. When he heard backup Al Montoya got injured trying to make a save early in the third, Luongo raced back to BB&T Center and eventually returned to the game with nine minutes left.
The extent of Luongo’s injury isn’t known, as he continued to seek treatment by specialists Wednesday.
Luongo and Montoya weren’t available for comment Wednesday.
“He’s day-to-day right now and don't think it's as serious as we thought [Tuesday],” coach Gerard Gallant said.
Montoya appeared to injure his groin and was limited upon his return. Gallant said “I don't think it’s too serious, but I don’t know a whole lot.”
The Panthers didn’t have many options Tuesday with 41-year-old goalie coach Robb Tallas (99 games over six NHL seasons) eventually signing a pro-tryout contract to be eligible to play if needed.
Tallas was back on the ice Wednesday in a coaching capacity with veteran Dan Ellis recalled from AHL San Antonio and rookie Sam Brittain brought up from ECHL Cincinnati.
Ellis starts Thursday against Dallas — coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of Florida acquiring Ellis in a trade with the Stars for Tim Thomas.
“This [Florida] team has shocked the league a little bit and they haven’t gotten the credit for what they’ve done,” Ellis said.
“People have written the Panthers off, yet here they are, competing night after night against the best teams in the league and winning. They’ve proved a lot of people wrong and it’s great for the city because they want to see playoff hockey.”
If Luongo’s injury is long-term, the Panthers do have some options — none of which are as good as having a healthy Luongo.
Florida is two points behind Boston for the final playoff spot and can’t afford to have its MVP on the shelf for the final 18 games.
If they don’t want to go with Ellis full-time, general manager Dale Tallon could sign a free agent goalie although the cupboard is quite bare.
Ellis, who struggled with Florida at the end of last year, lost his backup job when Tallon signed Montoya to a two-year deal in July.
Ellis, 34, has gone 22-11-3 with the Rampage. He has played in 204 games over seven NHL seasons.
“Dan Ellis is an NHL goalie, we know that,” Gallant said. “He’s played a lot of games in the league and he’s won a lot of games. He’s a good player, a good person. He’ll work hard and give us a chance to win. That’s all we ask.”
With much confusion over whom the Panthers could bring in to play goalie Tuesday, center Derek MacKenzie was tabbed as the player who would do so if needed.
When Montoya got injured, Tallas was ready to go in. Problem was, he wasn’t cleared by the NHL to be an eligible player and wasn’t allowed to enter the game by the on-ice officials.
That led the officials to tell the Panthers they needed to replace Montoya with someone who was on the active roster and currently in the game.
MacKenzie, who said his only goalie experience was goofing around during informal practices during the 2012 lockout, went into the locker room to change. “I was down to putting on the chest protector when they changed their minds again,” MacKenzie joked.
Tallas was finally cleared by the NHL and was on the bench as the backup for the final 16-plus minutes of game time. MacKenzie put on his regular gear and returned to the ice.
“Loungo came out and stood up for us,” MacKenzie said. “He did us a big favor. Seeing both guys go out in a game is hard to process.”
▪ Tallas previously suited up for a game in 2013, when Jacob Markstrom’s equipment was delayed coming into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Tallas took warmups and backed up Scott Clemmensen for the first period.
Thursday: Panthers vs. Stars
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Florida leads 13-12-3
Noteworthy: Dallas won the first meeting 2-0 on Feb. 13. The Stars are without leading scorer Tyler Seguin who was hurt on a low hit from Florida's Dmitry Kulikov. Dallas has lost seven of nine since to drop out of the playoff race.