Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Dan Ellis embraces the competition to be backup goalie

<cutline_leadin>Protecting the net:</cutline_leadin> Panthers goalie Dan Ellis gave up two goals in the first period of Wednesday night’s preseason opener, but stopped all five shots he faced in the second period.
<cutline_leadin>Protecting the net:</cutline_leadin> Panthers goalie Dan Ellis gave up two goals in the first period of Wednesday night’s preseason opener, but stopped all five shots he faced in the second period. Sun Sentinel

Backup goalie Dan Ellis’ position with the Florida Panthers was compromised the day general manager Dale Tallon signed Al Montoya.

Ellis says he has no plans to go anywhere. Montoya doesn’t, either.

With Roberto Luongo firmly entrenched as Florida’s starting goalie, Ellis and Montoya are in camp vying to be the Panthers’ backup, although Tallon made it clear on July 1 that Montoya was signed to do the job.

“It’s not a concern of mine,” Ellis said before starting Wednesday’s preseason opener against Dallas at BB&T Center.

“It was a decision made by Dale and you have to respect that. But if I can lose my job in 20 days, I don’t see why I can’t win it back in 20 days. That’s my focus and I don’t worry about anything else.”

With Montoya and Luongo taking the night off, Ellis played the first two periods of Florida’s eventual 4-3 shootout loss.

Things didn’t start well for Ellis against his former teammates — Ellis came to the Panthers from Dallas at the March trade deadline — as the Stars scored twice in the first period.

Ellis stopped all five shots faced in the second and left with the score tied at 2.

Ellis’ play at the end of last season all but forced Tallon to go out and get another goalie off the free agency market. When he played in place of Luongo last spring, Ellis struggled to stop the puck.

Ellis ended the year going 0-5-1 with Florida, stopping just 84 percent of the shots he faced.

On Wednesday, Ellis said he wasn’t surprised Florida went after Montoya — who had two pretty good years in Winnipeg — and suggested the competition is going to be good for him.

“Them signing Montoya has been the best thing for me,” Ellis said. “I’ve really dove into myself, critiqued myself and things I need to improve on.”

If all three of Florida’s top goalies make it through training camp unscathed, Ellis is expected to be sent to Florida’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Coach Gerard Gallant said it’s too early to begin speculating what the team will do in the coming weeks.

Both Montoya and Ellis would be paid their NHL salary if sent to the minors.

“This is what competition is all about,” Gallant said. “We have three goaltenders with NHL experience and no one has said Montoya was brought in to backup anyone. It’s about who wins the spot. You have to be fair to all your players.”

Ellis said he has been through goalie battles in the past and he is ready for this one.

So, too, is Montoya.

Right now, he most definitely has the edge.

“Nothing has changed for me,” Montoya said. “This is where I want to be, this is the team I want to play for. I take it as my job. I’m here to push [Luongo], here to push myself and here to help this team out.”

Wednesday’s game

▪ Dallas 4, Panthers 3 (SO): Ales Hemsky beat Michael Houser in the fourth round to lead the Stars to a shootout win.

Defenseman Shane O’Brien, in camp on a tryout, got the Panthers on the board in the second with a nice shot from the slot before center Dave Bolland made it 2-2 with 49.2 seconds left in the period.

The Panthers got a goal from Brandon Pirri early in the third before Alex Goligoski tied it off a pass from Tyler Seguin midway through the period.

coming UP

▪ Thursday: Off

▪ Friday: Practice at Coral Springs IceDen, 10 a.m.

▪ Saturday: Preseason doubleheader at Nashville, 4 and 8 p.m.

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