Summer officially came to a close for the Florida Panthers on Tuesday morning as the team held its final informal workout.
Wednesday might as well constitute the team’s first day of school.
The Panthers report for the start of training camp Wednesday morning with physicals and meetings with the front office and coaching staff at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Florida’s first on-ice practice is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. The Panthers are expecting close to 60 players, who will be split into groups.
One team will likely stick together and play Nashville in the preseason opener in Sunrise on Monday afternoon with the other group playing the Predators in the doubleheader nightcap.
Florida will play five more exhibition games before the season opens Oct. 3 in Dallas.
The Panthers are ready to put last year’s nightmare behind them. Florida finished last in the 30-team league for the first time in franchise history during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
“Personally, I’m excited to be starting out fresh with a whole new season,” said forward Tomas Fleischmann, Florida’s leading scorer in 2013. “We have a lot of young guys who look pretty good on the ice. It’s going to be good to get the camp started.
“Everyone has been here for a couple of weeks already, and I think that really shows how much everyone wants to do a better job than last year. It starts now.”
Perhaps Wednesday’s biggest news will be the progress of Florida’s many injured players from last season.
Although players such as Kris Versteeg (knee surgery in March) and Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery in April) have been skating, they haven’t been cleared by the medical staff.
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov spent all but about two weeks in South Florida this summer after shoulder surgery. Kulikov said he has been skating for about six weeks, but he also needs to be cleared by the Panthers.
"I honestly can’t wait. This has been a long summer and I have worked myself into great shape,’’ Kulikov said on Tuesday. "I’m excited for training camp to start, for the games to start. I’m seeing the doctor [Wednesday] and we’ll see. I feel good but we’ll see where I’m at.’’
Other players who had offseason surgery reportedly include Drew Shore (wrist) and rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau (abdominal).
Huberdeau at least used his long offseason to good use. For the first time in a long time, Huberdeau was able to concentrate on off-ice activity and add some bulk to his lanky 6-foot-1 frame. Huberdeau says he put on 10 pounds of what looks like nothing but muscle.
"This has been my longest summer since I started playing hockey,’’ Huberdeau said.
"I think everyone worked hard, is rested and healthy. We’re all looking forward to get camp started. I used the summer to get stronger. With my injury, I slowed things down but I rehabbed well and did other things. I feel good. I’m ready for the season.’’