When it comes to which goaltender he’s going to play each night, Florida coach Gerard Gallant is in an enviable position.
It’s nice to be able to choose between Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, especially lately.
“Montoya has been great all year. It has been great to see him go in there and battle and play hard,’’ said Gallant, whose team is ranked third in the league by allowing 2.3 goals per game. He has stepped up every time he has played for us.”
Over the past few weeks, the Panthers have won nine of their past 12 games.
Florida’s goalies — Luongo has made nine of the starts — have surrendered just two goals or fewer in its wins.
In eight of the wins, the Panthers have given up a goal or less.
Of Florida’s past three wins, Luongo and Montoya have given up two goals — one each to the Islanders and Devils. Luongo notched his second shutout of the season Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“The guys are playing well in front of us and that makes our jobs easier,’’ said Luongo, who has given up 12 goals in seven games this month.
“Montoya has done an unreal job for us this year which makes my job easier. I know I can take a few more breaks and know he’ll play big for us. Things are going well right now, but we have a long road ahead of us. It’s fun playing hockey now.’’
On Sunday, Luongo faces Vancouver — the team Florida traded Luongo to in 2006 before getting him back from the Canucks in 2014 — at BB&T Center.
“We just have to find a way to be ready to play,’’ Luongo said. “It’s always special, I played with a lot of those guys for many years. It’s always a fun game. At the end of the day, it’s a game we want to win.’’
Montoya had an inconsistent season last year with the Panthers but has been strong in his second season.
In his past four starts, Montoya has given up one goal in each.
“I like my game, I’ve worked for this and I’ve had a lot of help surrounding me,’’ Montoya said. “I feed off of Luongo, feed off this team. I try to give us a chance to win every time I’m in net.’’
▪ When they return home Sunday — where they play their next six games — the Panthers hope to continue playing as they have on the road. Florida does not return to the road until Jan. 5 when they visit Buffalo.
In their previous long stay at home last month, the Panthers won three of seven. With wins in nine of their past 12 — including eight of 10 on the road — the Panthers feel they are in a much better place now.
“We’re playing much better hockey,’’ captain Willie Mitchell said. “If you look at our body of work, the games we lost, we could have won. I think we’re playing well and our group knows that and knows what it takes. We have a better idea of what our identity is.’’
Sunday: Canucks at Panthers
When/where: 4 p.m.; BB&T Center.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMNA 1210.
Series: Vancouver leads 13-8-6.
Scouting report: Roberto Luongo is 1-1-1 in three starts against the Canucks since rejoining the Panthers in 2014. His only win in that stretch came in Vancouver last January.