Florida Panthers

Let’s play two: Florida Panthers open preseason with doubleheader

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo is expected to start the second game of the preseason doubleheader Tuesday at BB&T Center against the Nashville Predators.
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo is expected to start the second game of the preseason doubleheader Tuesday at BB&T Center against the Nashville Predators. AP

The new-look Panthers hit the ice to open their preseason on Tuesday although a good number of veteran players are going to enjoy a day off.

The Nashville Predators visit BB&T Center for the annual preseason doubleheader with the Panthers expecting to start newcomer James Reimer in net in the opening game which starts at 3:30 p.m.

Roberto Luongo, who has been cleared to play after offseason hip surgery, should start the second game which is scheduled for 7.

The Panthers are offering one ticket for both exhibition games.

"The purpose of [Tuesday] is to just mentally get over the hump of knowing that everything's good, it's a go,'' said Luongo, who spent the past few months rehabbing after having surgery in May.

"Then we can just proceed with the rest of training camp, treat it like any other season. It has been feeling really good over the course of the past week, so I don't even notice it on the ice anymore which is great. I'm excited to be playing a hockey game -- meaningful or not. For me, it's meaningful. It's a little taste.''

Coach Gerard Gallant said he wants to get a good look at Florida's younger players in the doubleheader as the Panthers invited more players than usual what with four players out early because of the World Cup of Hockey.

The Panthers had 52 players on the ice for the opening of training camp with only 40 able to suit up for the two games Tuesday.

"It's definitely better than playing against your own team," said Mark Pysyk, who came to the Panthers in a draft-time trade with Buffalo.

"You want to boost the compete level a little bit. It's exciting. This will be my first game wearing the Panthers uniform. I think that's pretty cool."

Florida also plays preseason games throughout the rest of the week; the Panthers visit Tampa Bay on Thursday and play the Dallas Stars in Canada on Sunday.

"I want to give all the kids a chance to play in games,'' Gallant said. "I'm not worried about wins or losses, we want to give guys an opportunity to play in a game. A lot of veteran guys aren't going to play.''

For Luongo and Reimer, the opportunity to start in game-type situations is welcomed.

Reimer will be playing his first game as a member of the Panthers and wants to get into his groove early.

"I'm just want to get back into it, obviously it has been a long time since we've played in a game,'' Reimer said.

"You just want to get feeling good, get into the game situations -- tips, screens, different plays, you name it. As a goalie, you need to see all the different looks to get sharpen up. In a first game, you should get a lot of work. You want to play well, get things going.''

-- Vincent Trocheck and Aaron Ekblad didn't practice Monday but were back on the ice after playing for Team North America at the World Cup in Toronto.

Ekblad came home a bit early after suffering a concussion and hasn't spoken to the media yet because he hasn't been cleared by doctors.

Gallant did say everything looks normal with Ekblad.

"I've heard nothing but good, everything is moving forward,'' Gallant said. "He's able to skate, is fine. I think if we played [a regular season game] in two days, he would be fine."

Florida Panthers vs. Nashville Predators doubleheader

▪ When, where: Game 1 starts at 3:30, Game 2 at 7; BB&T Center Sunrise

▪ Admission: One price for both games; visit floridapanthers.com

▪ Radio: WQAM 560-AM (Game 2)