Florida Panthers

Eight-year hiatus is over as Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant conducts an NHL practice

Back in charge: Gerard Gallant, an NHL head coach for the first time since 2003-06 with Columbus, leads the Panthers’ first full-team practice.
Back in charge: Gerard Gallant, an NHL head coach for the first time since 2003-06 with Columbus, leads the Panthers’ first full-team practice. Sun Sentinel

It had been eight years since Gerard Gallant stepped onto the ice to run an NHL practice before he led a Panthers workout Friday morning.

Florida’s new coach said there were no nerves before his first practice of training camp even if it felt like the first day of school.

“We haven’t met all the players,so you introduce yourself, get to know some faces,’’ said Gallant, who previously coached the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2003-06.

“There’s a good buzz right now. The guys feel pretty good about themselves. Everyone is excited to get back, see each other. You watch tape all summer, see what guys do best. They have three weeks to show us. Everything happens pretty quick.’’

Gallant has 51 players in camp and instead of going through a split-quad practice, the Panthers are picking 40 players a day for a scrimmage with the remainder taking part in a full workout with Gallant and his coaching staff.

On Friday, goalie Roberto Luongo was part of the initial practice group,but there will be a different grouping of players going through the drills on Saturday.

“We had the small group and then the scrimmage,’’ Gallant said.

“We’re doing some different things. We’ll work with 10 different guys every day on systems and things like that.’’

NEW CAPTAIN?

When Ed Jovanovski was bought out of the final year of his contract in June, it left the Panthers without a captain.

On Friday, Gallant said the issue hasn’t been talked about much,although he expected to name a new captain by the end of training camp. Gallant, however, said the Panthers could do what Montreal recently did in naming four alternate captains instead of one singular team captain.

“We’ll wait for a while,’’ Gallant said. “We haven’t talked about it a whole lot, but there are a lot of great people here.’’

▪ Rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad found himself playing alongside veteran Willie Mitchell during Friday’s morning scrimmage.

Expect to see that pairing quite a bit as the season goes along. In 2011-12, the Panthers paired up then-rookie Erik Gudbranson with Jovanovski.

“It was awesome,’’ Ekblad said. “I found myself looking over to see where he was a lot of times. I’m trying to pick up some tricks he has to offer out there.’’

Said Mitchell: “Obviously you’re not taken first overall in the draft if you’re not talented. But he’s playing with men now,and there’s going to be a natural adjustment. I’m going to try and be there and help that out as much as I can.’’

Panthers training camp

All practices at the Coral Springs IceDen:

Saturday: 10-11:15 a.m.; scrimmage 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Sunday: 10-11:15 a.m.; scrimmage 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Monday: 10-11:15 a.m.; scrimmage 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

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