On Frozen Pond

Roberto Luongo back on the ice after season-ending injury with Florida Panthers

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo deflects a shot as Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds looks for the rebound during the first period of a game at Wells Fargo Center on March 1. Luongo was injured during this game, left after the first and missed the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo deflects a shot as Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds looks for the rebound during the first period of a game at Wells Fargo Center on March 1. Luongo was injured during this game, left after the first and missed the remainder of the 2016-17 season. AP

Roberto Luongo just wants to get things back to normal.

Whether his new normal is anything like his old one remains to be seen.

The Florida Panthers' star goalie has been back on the ice the past few weeks preparing for the upcoming season as he always has.

Luongo missed the final six weeks of last season due to injury issues stemming from hip surgery in May of 2016 but has returned to the ice to start preparing for the opening of training camp in September.

"I was rehabbing until late May and I was released to have my regular summer routine," Luongo said after a Friday morning workout in Coral Springs with former teammate Steven Kampfer and Florida goalie coach Robb Tallas.

"It's good to be able to get back to my regular summer training program. This is my second week ... everything feels great and I haven't had any issues. That's good.

"It's comforting mentally to know I can go through a rigorous workout and go all out and not have any issues nor think about it. That's a big first step for me after going through the ups-and-downs of having to deal with my issue last year. It's nice to have that piece of mind."

While Luongo has returned to his normal August workouts, the 38-year-old admits things may not be once they once were.

The surgery to repair a torn labrum has brought concerns Luongo will have deal with for the remainder of his career.

Last season, Luongo says he felt great — until he didn't.

He partially blames the complications in his core popping up during the season to perhaps not being as diligent in his off-ice physical therapy as he needed to.

Now that he knows his problem isn't going away, he says he's not going to let things get away from him.

Luongo apparently began to feel tightness in December, appeared to injure himself in February and played through pain before leaving a game in Philadelphia on March 1 and not returning.

"I'm going to come in earlier than everyone else every day," Luongo said.

"I have to stay on top of this, manage it. It's going to be important for me to stay on top of it and sometimes last year, I was feeling and good and wasn't on top of things as much as I should have been. That was a mistake on my part. After what I went through last year, I know I have to stay strong do the exercises to make sure the muscles around [the hip] are strong.

"Last year those muscles started to weaken and everything started to tighten up. I want to make sure that doesn't happen again. I have to remember I'm not 25 any more. Once I started feeling better, I thought I was good to go. I've never had an operation like that before. I acted like nothing was ever wrong. Again, a mistake."

Tallas and former team athletic trainer Dave Zenobi spent countless hours working with Luongo after last summer's surgery -- Zenobi handling the off-ice stuff and Tallas supervising Luongo when he came back on it.

When Luongo returned, Tallas had a new set of drills to bring him back physically.

This summer, Tallas reached back to his 2015 set of workouts to get Luongo ready for the rigors of the upcoming season.

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Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo works out at the IceDen in Coral Springs on Monday morning. Luongo missed the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season due to injury stemming from his hip surgery last summer. George Richards/Miami Herald Staff grichards@miamiherald.com

"Last summer we changed everything because it was a rehab summer," Tallas said. "He was ready at the start of the season, felt good, had a great start. Then, all of a sudden, he tweaked it and it sort of blew up on him. This summer, having the rest of seven months off, was huge for him physically and mentally.

"We're not even talking about it, not making it an issue. We started this summer like any other summer. We're not in rehab mode. We're just starting fresh as if nothing happened. That's better for his mindset but we're watching him. He looks great."

As for the future workload, neither Luongo nor Tallas know how much he'll play.

James Reimer had a strong first season with the Panthers and took over full-time duties as Florida's starter with Luongo out.

Last summer, the Panthers signed Reimer to a five-year deal with the idea Luongo needed to be well-rested for a playoff run which never transpired in a lost season.

If Luongo is healthy, the thought is he may still be considered Florida's starter.

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The Florida Panthers’ equipment staff creates a new game sweater for Roberto Luongo after he was re-aquired in a deal with Vancouver on March 6, 2014. George Richards/Miami Herald staff grichards@miamiherald.com

"Listen, this has always been his team," Tallas said. "But everyone these days has to manage time better, not just us. Roberto can't play 60, 65 games a season any more. Reimer shouldn't either. It only gets tougher every year."

Regardless of Luongo's health, Reimer — also brought in to eventually take over as Florida's starter — is going to see plenty of action.

And Luongo seems at peace with that.

"I don't know how things are going to go, but it doesn't matter," Luongo said, his young son's miniature goalie gear resting in Reimer's stall in the Florida locker room as Reimer isn't expected to be back in town until the end of the month.

"We're both capable goalies and we're a team. I want to help the team win games and so does he. Whatever the breakdown is, it will be. I know I'm 38 and can't play as many games as I would like to anymore.

"I don't have any goals on how many games I play. I just want to be the best I can every single day and let the chips fall. If I'm healthy, working hard and playing at a high level, things will take care of themselves."

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