Reto Berra was acquired by the Panthers in June as, what general manager Tom Rowe would later say, an insurance policy in case Roberto Luongo couldn’t start the season after having hip surgery.
Well, Luongo started training camp and Florida’s opening night game against the Devils leaving Berra as the third wheel in a two-man rotation.
After spending the season down on the farm, the acquisition of Berra is proving fruitful for the Panthers.
With Luongo out for the time being with a lower body injury believed to be somewhat related to his offseason surgery, Berra is back in the NHL and back with the Panthers for the first time since training camp.
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A former NHL goalie with 64 games played over five seasons with Calgary and Colorado, Berra said he is ready to help the Panthers when needed.
Although Reimer is expected to carry the load until Luongo gets back — Rowe said Tuesday he hoped that would be next week although “we can’t worry about Lou right now” — Berra is ready when called.
“I don’t really know what’s going on here, so you just try and control the moment every day, work hard and be a good teammate,” said Berra, who will back up Reimer again Tuesday when the New York Rangers visit BB&T Center (7 p.m., FSFL).
“I’m 30-years-old and you don’t know when this will be your last chance at the NHL. I’m trying to embrace this, enjoy it and have fun.”
Berra came to the Panthers in a deal prior to the draft with Rocco Grimaldi going to the Colorado Avalanche.
At the time, it was thought Berra would simply be replacing Al Montoya as Luongo’s backup yet the plan all along was for Florida to sign Reimer long-term when the free agency market opened July 1.
Reimer signed with Florida for five years leaving the Panthers with three NHL-tested goalies going into camp. Berra knew where he stood in the rotation.
“We like him a lot, that’s why we didn’t trade him,” Rowe said, referring to last week’s trade deadline.
“He never asked for a trade, but I’m sure like anyone who is 30, he would want to go somewhere else for an opportunity. But we thought, for the Florida Panthers, it was best to keep him in the organization in case we needed him.
“And look what happened. We needed him to come out.”
Goalie coach Robb Tallas has been working with Berra since he was recalled after Luongo left Thursday’s game in Philadelphia after one period.
Tallas agrees with Berra’s assessment that getting plenty of playing time in Springfield has been beneficial and helped get him comfortable if called upon.
Berra was had a goals-against average of 2.53 and stopped 91 percent of shots faced in 31 games at Springfield this season.
“One thing you know is he has NHL experience so he can handle the pressure,” Tallas said.
“He has been playing a lot, so he’s fresh. This time of year, he knows the importance of being called up. He knows what this means to his career. It’s a great opportunity for him to make a statement he can play in this league.
“If he gets the chance, I feel confident he will take advantage of the opportunity.”
▪ Jaromir Jagr took a rare morning off Tuesday as he was one of a handful of players who didn’t take the ice for Florida’s morning skate. Rowe said he, like other coaches around the league, is downplaying the importance of the game-day workout.
“I think they’re a waste of time,” Rowe said. “I would rather have them get ready for the game. ... [Jagr] is always out there, but he knows the importance of tonight’s game.”
▪ Rowe was a little critical of Florida’s top line of Jagr, Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
After a hot start a few weeks ago upon Barkov and Huberdeau’s return from injury, the trio has four goals and five assists as the Panthers have averaged less than two goals per game over the past six (1-4-1).
“They have been OK,” Rowe said. “I told them [Monday] they need to be our best players. ... I told them ‘get going. We need you’.”
▪ Rowe on Florida’s struggles over the past six games coming into Tuesday’s date with the Rangers: “If we play the right way, we’re as good an anybody in the league. We have to play the same way at home as we do on the road. We’re too fancy, too cute.”
TUESDAY: RANGERS AT PANTHERS
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
Series: New York leads 50-34-6.
Scouting report: The Rangers shutout the host Lightning 1-0 on Monday night after coming into Tampa with losses in three of their past four. ... Florida won the previous meeting at Madison Square Garden in a shootout as James Reimer made 33 saves. ... Reimer is expected to face Rangers’ all-star Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday.