As it turns out, old rivalries aren’t forgotten at the start of new seasons.
Florida kicked off its 2014-15 campaign Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime loss at Tampa Bay, and left wing Scottie Upshall ended the night with a few more aches and pains than usual.
Upshall took a hit from Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Gudas at the end of the second period Thursday. Gudas’ elbow hit Upshall’s mouth as the left wing was working the puck with his head down.
Gudas was not assessed a penalty as the refs said they missed the blow, and Upshall returned to the game after being down on the ice for a while.
Upshall practiced with a sore jaw and teeth Friday.
“I saw it, I probably got about 100 calls from people saying it was pretty dirty and what-not, but I’m sure the league’s looking at it,” Upshall said. “They’re trying to keep the game a skilled game and take away the guys that are just running around, they don’t even know there’s a puck on the ice.”
The NHL Department of Player Safety did not suspend Gudas, and cited Rule 48 in a tweet Friday afternoon and wrote, “Upshall assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full-body check unavoidable,” and that “contact was in immediate aftermath of Gudas playing puck.”
Upshall said Gudas made it clear after the game the thrown elbow was retaliation for a skirmish last season, in which Upshall squirted Gatorade in Gudas’ face and Gudas was ejected from the game after going for the Panthers’ bench.
“Yeah, that’s what he said after, he mentioned to me, ‘That’s what you get for squirting me with Gatorade,’” Upshall said, “so I guess if you squirt a guy with Gatorade you get a blind-side elbow to the lips.
“You play with your head up, but yeah, if he aims for your head — I was just fortunate enough … just to be able to get up,” Upshall said. “You see some guys get hit like that and they’re on the wrong side of things, so I’m feeling fortunate [Friday]. I’m feeling pretty good.”
EKBLAD’S FIRST POINT
Aaron Ekblad notched his first point as a pro Thursday night, on an assist to Jonathan Huberdeau for the Panthers’ second goal against Tampa Bay.
Ekblad, this year’s No.1 draft pick, recorded two shots in addition to his assist.
“I think Eks had a good game, his first NHL game, so I was really impressed by the way he played,” goaltender Roberto Luongo said. “Very poised back there, he didn’t look like a guy that was playing his first game, so that’s a good thing.”
The defenseman partnered with league veteran but Panthers newcomer Willie Mitchell during his impressive debut.
All three of Tampa Bay’s goals came on the power play Thursday night, and Luongo said Florida’s penalty kill has all the tools to be successful, players just need to be on the same page.
Coach Gerard Gallant was more forgiving.
“I thought the PK is great,” Gallant said. “Like I said, it’s hard to say that when the other team goes 3for7 on their power play, but two of the goals, one was a 4on3 and the other was a 5on3, and they did a good job killing [that one] up until the goal. And then the last goal was just a freak goal.
“Overall, the PK — if they had 15 minutes of power-play time I think they did a great job for 14 minutes. But they’ll get better, and we’ll rebound from that.”
Saturday: Devils at Panthers
When/where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSNF; WQAM 560.
The series: Devils lead 49-27-7.
Notes: The Panthers have won 11 of their 20 home openers (11-7-2), including four in a row and five of the past six. Florida’s most recent home-opener loss came in 2009 — to the Devils.