The Panthers will be without goalie Roberto Luongo for Saturday night’s game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, coach Peter Horachek said on Friday morning.
Luongo sustained a sore neck after colliding with veteran forward Radek Dvorak during the first period of Florida’s 3-0 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. Dvorak was ejected from the game with Luongo leaving following the first period.
Horachek said Luongo was looked at by team medical personnel during Thursday’s game and came in for treatment on Friday morning. Luongo did not participate in Friday’s optional workout.
“It’s not long term at this point,’’ Horachek said. “He’s just out for [Saturday], and we’re going to leave it at day-by-day.’’
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With Luongo out, Horachek said backup Dan Ellis would start against Montreal at BB&T Center with Scott Clemmensen coming up from AHL San Antonio to serve as Ellis’ backup.
Ellis made 18 saves on 20 shots in relief of Luongo and has yet to record a win in two starts since coming over from Dallas on March 5.
Saturday’s game will be part of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.
“It’s always exciting to be playing against Montreal,’’ Ellis said. “They have so much history and tradition. Everywhere they go, they bring a large fan base. It’s a good challenge for us.’’
Ellis said he didn’t think there would be an awkwardness in having Clemmensen back with the Panthers.
Clemmensen had been Florida’s backup goalie since signing here in 2009. On March 4, hours before the Luongo deal was completed, Clemmensen was placed on waivers. The next day, Florida traded Tim Thomas to Dallas for Ellis and sent Clemmensen to the minors.
Despite his recent success against Montreal, Clemmensen won’t start Saturday. Clemmensen was scheduled to be the backup goaltender in San Antonio on Friday night and fly to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning.
If Luongo isn’t cleared for Florida’s upcoming road trip, Clemmensen would likely at least get one more start for the Panthers as they play back-to-back games in New Jersey and on Long Island.
“We’ve both been in this position before and we’re both professionals,’’ Ellis said. “We’re teammates; you’re supportive of each other. You do your best when you’re out there and you support the other guy so he can do his best.’’
Dvorak and Florida captain Ed Jovanovski are the last remaining active players from the Panthers’ 1996 Stanley Cup Finals team.
On Thursday, the two may have shared NHL ice for the final time.
Although both say they want to return next year, there are questions whether both — or either — will. Dvorak earned a spot on the Hurricanes with a good training camp; Jovanovski is coming off serious hip surgery and will be 38 at training camp next fall.
Both were rookies when the Panthers made their run to the Eastern Conference championship in 1995-96. The two were teammates in Florida until Jovanovski was traded to Vancouver in the Pavel Bure deal in 1999.
“I’m taking things game by game, day by day, and we’ll see what happens in the summer,’’ Dvorak said.