Colby Robak sat out the first eight games of the season, so when he was told he might get to play Saturday night, he didn’t care how it came about.
Robak, Florida’s seventh defenseman, was called into service Saturday when Jonathan Huberdeau couldn’t play against the Flyers because he was sick.
So, by Robak’s estimation, he went in and played on a forward line for the first time since he was a youngster.
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“Things are going to happen. Guys are going to get hurt, guys are going to get sick. It’s part of the game,’’ said Robak, who played eight shifts for 5:45 in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia in Sunrise.
“You just go out there and do what you’re told and just embrace it. I had a lot of fun out there. I probably haven’t played forward since I was 8 or 9 — and I don’t even know if I did it then. But I just went out there and worked, see what happens.’’
Robak didn’t look all that out of place Saturday as he and linemates Rocco Grimaldi and Vinny Trocheck created chances and did a good job defensively.
“I thought he was great, did a heck of a job,’’ Grimaldi said of Robak, who ended with two shots on goal. “It’s tough moving from a D to a forward. It’s really tough. He had to learn a lot of new things in a really short period of time. He did a great job.’’
Said goalie Roberto Luongo: “[Robak] had a couple scoring chances there that could have put the game away. I think I’ll have to have a little chat with him.’’
Coach Gerard Gallant said Robak did a good job despite his limited time on the ice. Robak was held to one shift in the third period, but Gallant said Robak probably should have played more.
With Huberdeau expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday at Boston, the Robak forward experiment is likely over for now. But that doesn’t mean a similar situation won’t pop up again. If it does, Robak said he will be ready.
“We knew [Huberdeau] was sick at the game-day skate, so I just waited until I was called upon,’’ he said. “I wasn’t super-shocked when I came to the rink, I kind of knew what was going on.’’
NEARLY A SHUTOUT
Luongo is the NHL’s active leader with 67 shutouts, although that could change if former New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur finds work this season. Brodeur is the NHL’s all-time leader with 124 shutouts.
On Saturday, Luongo came within a few seconds of No.68, but old pal Vinny Lecavalier scored with 7.4 seconds left.
Luongo took the near-shutout in stride.
“I would probably have more shutouts than [Brodeur] if you counted all the ones I lost in the final minute during my career,’’ he said. “It happens, but we’re just happy to get the win.’’
With five forwards out of the lineup Saturday, Gallant didn’t have to do some serious line shifting.
Florida’s top line had Jussi Jokinen starting at center for the first time this season in replacing Aleksander Barkov (lower body). Jokinen was joined by Tomas Fleischmann and Brad Boyes.
Jimmy Hayes, who had been a healthy scratch, was bumped all the way up to the second line and played with Scottie Upshall and Nick Bjugstad.
“You don’t worry about who isn’t in your lineup but who is in your lineup,’’ Gallant said. “I thought the guys who came in played real well, they competed.’’
▪ Grimaldi was up on the first line to start Saturday’s game as he made his NHL debut on the opening faceoff. Grimaldi’s first NHL shift was quite brief as he came off on the first stoppage just 16 seconds in.
“Coach is the boss, so whenever he calls my number, I have to be ready,’’ Grimaldi said.
▪ The 17 goals surrendered by the Panthers are fewest in the league with Minnesota second at 18.
Florida also has given up the fewest goals during five-on-five play with six. Anaheim is next with nine.
▪ The Panthers will hold an open practice Monday at 11 a.m. at the Coral Springs IceDen before flying to Boston.