Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers have deep ties with playoff opponent

Bill Torrey, right, with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, helped build the Islanders’ dynasty in the 1980s.
Bill Torrey, right, with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, helped build the Islanders’ dynasty in the 1980s. AP

Many in South Florida have deep ties to New York.

The Florida Panthers do as well, as the New York Islanders — the team they’re playing in the opening round of the playoffs — are part of their DNA.

When Wayne Huizenga was granted an NHL expansion team in 1992, he searched out Bill Torrey, the Islanders’ architect who helped build them from birth to dynasty, to try to do the same thing in Miami.

Although Huizenga sold the Panthers in 2000, Torrey is still around the Panthers. His official title is alternate governor and advisor as he shares his knowledge and opinions with the team’s ownership and hockey operations department.

While having his two teams (even though Torrey was fired by the Islanders in 1992 he still has quite the fondness for them) square off in the playoffs isn’t exactly ideal, there’s little question where Torrey’s heart resides.

The Islanders haven’t won a postseason series since 1993; Florida since 1996. The series is tied at 1 with Sunday’s Game 3 at 8 p.m.

“Let’s make it clear,” Torrey said. “I know where my allegiances are and have been for a good, long time. No doubt about that.

“I want to win a series, and that’s the most important thing. They’ve had some rough times; we both have.

“But once the puck drops and this series starts, you don’t think about what has been. You think about today and tomorrow.”

Torrey helped build that first Florida team from scratch, bringing in Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke from Philadelphia to serve as general manager and Hall of Famer Roger Neilson to coach.

Torrey also brought one of his famed Islanders to South Florida, hiring captain and four-time Stanley Cup champion Denis Potvin to work the games on TV.

Aside of a three-year stint when he called games in Ottawa after being fired by the team’s former president, Potvin — like Torrey — has been around the Panthers ever since.

Potvin and Torrey will be in New York for Sunday’s Game 3, but the background will be much different from what they fondly remember.

This is the first season the Islanders have played away from their longtime Long Island home, as they moved to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after 42 years at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.

It was there where Torrey and Potvin ran things either from the front office or on the ice in a building which is truly home to both.

Playing in Barclays Center — a basketball arena built for the Nets with an ice sheet jammed in — has removed much of the reminiscing on this trip for Potvin and Torrey.

The last time the Panthers visited Brooklyn, Potvin was initially denied access at the front door despite having a large banner with his name on it hanging from the rafters.

Something like that would never have happened at the Nassau Coliseum. Potvin never needed proof of I.D. there.

“It’s just not going to be the same,” said Potvin, who was brought back by Florida’s new owners in 2014. “I am, in a way, very happy this is going to be in Brooklyn and not in the old Coliseum — ‘Fort Neverlose.’

“I think the emotional strain would have been too much on me, just seeing the banners, feeling the building, having the fans all there. The Coliseum would have made things more difficult on me.

“Brooklyn just isn’t the same as the Coliseum.”

Said Torrey: “Brooklyn means nothing to me, other than I used to be a Dodger fan.”

▪ Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Vincent Trocheck skated for the first time on Saturday since fracturing a bone in his foot on March 29.

Trocheck traveled with the team to New York and could be available for Wednesday’s Game 4, although Gallant was noncommittal.

Defenseman Steven Kampfer (ankle) skated for a third consecutive day on Saturday, also traveling to New York. He could play this week.

▪ After being replaced by Derek MacKenzie on Florida’s third line during Friday’s game, Rocco Grimaldi was sent back to the Panthers’ AHL team in Portland, Maine.

Logan Shaw was recalled and could center the fourth line in Game 3 on Sunday night.

Game 3: Panthers at Islanders

When/where: 8 p.m. Sunday; Barclays Center, Brooklyn.

TV/radio: FSFL, NBCSN; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WNMA 1210.

Playoff series: Tied 1-1.

Regular-season series: This season — Florida won 2-1; All-time — Florida leads 43-36-8.

Scouting report: Through Friday’s games, Reilly Smith’s five points, including three goals, was second in the playoffs only to the six accumulated by Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and matched his total in his previous 12 postseason games. … The Panthers are expected to start Roberto Luongo for a third consecutive game after he made 41 saves in Friday’s 3-1 victory.

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