Last season’s training camp was a complete rush job as practices were jammed in to accommodate a tight schedule after the NHL’s lockout ended.
There is no such hurry this season, although it sure doesn’t look that way.
The Panthers will open their preseason Monday afternoon with a pair of exhibition games against Nashville at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
One group will play the Predators at 2:30 p.m., with a second group taking on a different batch of Nashville players at 7.
The Panthers, who didn’t play a single preseason game last seasons because of the work stoppage, will play five games this week.
After the two games Monday, Florida travels to Texas and will play the Dallas Stars twice. The hectic week ends Saturday night in Tampa against the Lightning.
“We want to win them all, especially the ones at home, but we know there are reasons why we put things together,” coach Kevin Dineen said.
“The first ones are easy because this is a great opportunity to get some kids in the game who may not have the opportunity to play in a preseason game. It’s a little hard on us as coaches, sure, but we have a wide range of players in these games.”
Having two games in one day — and three in three with Wednesday’s game in Dallas — affords Dineen a chance to give players fighting for a roster spot an opportunity to shine against an opposing team.
For players whose spot on the team is secure, these exhibitions are a chance to get back into game speed, to go all out and get used to the tempo of the game once things count for real.
That’s an experience the Panthers, and the other 29 teams in the league, didn’t get last year.
“You are getting your bearings in the first couple of games, so I like to play in as many as possible,” Shawn Matthias said. “Your timing is a little off and you can work out as much as you want.
“But games are at a different level. It’s good we have a lot of games. Guys can get their legs.”
The Panthers currently have four goalies in camp with Jacob Markstrom being the only one with NHL experience.
Although Markstrom is expected to split time in net during his one game Monday, the Panthers are likely to give him extended minutes as the preseason winds down.
“You get to see the speed get in. I love the preseason because it’s great practice and it tells you the real season is around the corner,” said Markstrom, who will play in the second game.
Huberdeau and Jovanovski took part in Sunday’s full workout.
“We’ll see how he reacts after a test like that,” Dineen said of Jovanovski.
Defenseman Seth Jones, whom the Panthers passed to take Barkov, also will play in that game as he makes his debut for the Predators.
Bill Murphy is back as the team’s public-address announcer at BB&T Center and will be behind the mike for Monday’s preseason doubleheader.
Murphy had been replaced by Jay Rokeach, who made his name at the University of Miami and with the Marlins, two seasons ago.
Murphy, who remained with the team as an in-game host, had been the PA voice of the team before Rokeach was hired.
Murphy had not missed a Panthers home game since 2002 before being forced to miss last year’s season finale after breaking his collarbone while playing a pick-up game at the arena.