Although the Panthers picked up a much-needed victory Wednesday night, it cost them their starting goalie for at least the near future.
Roberto Luongo suffered what appears to be a minor arm injury during Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the visiting Hurricanes at BB&T Center.
Luongo was at the team training facility early Thursday for treatment but was unavailable for comment.
Coach Gerard Gallant said that backup Al Montoya would start Friday against Ottawa, with general manager Dale Tallon calling up Dan Ellis from the minors to back him up.
Winger Scottie Upshall was placed on injured reserve to make room for Ellis on the roster.
“He’s day-to-day. It’s not real serious,” Gallant said of Luongo’s injury. “I think he’s better, he felt good [Friday]. It’s not a big concern.”
The good news for Florida is it is deep in goal.
On Wednesday, Montoya came in after Luongo was forced to leave midway through the second and stopped 22 shots to pick up the save.
“He came in cold and came out hot,” said Nick Bjugstad, who scored Florida’s lone goal Wednesday 21 seconds into the game. “We have two really good goaltenders here.”
Well, three, now that Ellis is on his way back.
Acquired for Tim Thomas at last year’s trade deadline, Ellis struggled with the Panthers to close the season but played well in the preseason and has been strong in San Antonio.
Florida is paying Ellis’ NHL salary, even though he’s playing in the minors after signing Montoya to back up Luongo in July.
Ellis has helped the Rampage win a franchise-tying seven straight games (he’s started six of them) and stopped 32 shots in a 3-0 shutout of the Texas Stars in his past start.
“We have options in San Antonio in which we won’t miss a beat. That hasn’t happened for us in a while,” Tallon said. “We have depth in our organization, and that’s what it takes. It takes an army. [Ellis] is a good guy, a classy guy. He understands everyone needs to be ready.”
On Wednesday, Bjugstad gave Florida the only lead it would need 21 seconds into the game when he followed up a Brandon Pirri shot and slammed the puck past Cam Ward.
The Hurricanes, badly outplayed in the opening period, woke up in the second, and Luongo was hurt making a poke save — one of five in his 10:22 of work in the period.
Moments later, Luongo sprawled out and made perhaps his prettiest save of the season by robbing Victor Rask. While on his back, Luongo stretched out and made a terrific glove save on a Rask shot.
Luongo played three-plus minutes after that but came out at the next timeout.
“That was an unbelievable save,” Gallant said. “It was a highlight reel one for sure.”
The Hurricanes outshot Florida 17-5 in the final period, and Montoya was named the game’s top star.
Friday’s game will be Montoya’s fourth start — first since Nov.16 — and seventh appearance of the season.
“Louie has been so good for us, it’s hard to see him go down with an injury,” said Montoya, who is 1-1-1 with a 1.99GAA and a 93percent save rate.
“For me, it was just believing in my game. I’ve been working hard, working with the goalie coach, and it’s knowing what I can do and contributing when I get the chance.”
Said Gallant: “He made a lot of great saves, and I’m sure that’s good for his confidence in the next game. You hate to lose your starting goaltender, but when your backup comes in and plays like that, you know he’ll be ready to go the next time out. You’re happy about that.”
Dave Bolland, Florida’s highest-paid forward, was back on the ice Thursday with Tallon saying he should be back in the lineup next week.
Bolland, who signed a five-year deal with the Panthers worth $27.5 million on July1, has missed the past 16 games with a groin injury. He came off the ice at the end of Florida’s win at Buffalo on Oct.17 and hasn’t played since.
Friday: Senators at Panthers
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM-560.
The series: Ottawa leads 47-30-3.
Noteworthy: The Sens have taken the season series six of the past eight years. Ottawa beat Florida 1-0 in the third game of the season after Clarke MacArthur scored midway through the second and former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson held on for the shutout.