Panthers open training camp with very high expectations



SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Jonathan Huberdeau took to the ice Thursday for his 10th training camp with the Florida Panthers, more than anyone on the roster.

And this one, he said, had a different feel.

“We know what we can do,” Huberdeau said.

There hasn’t been a Panthers season with such high expectations in a generation. After what was by far the best regular season in the team’s history and having reclaimed most of that core with their top six scorers, Florida opened the camp on Thursday with perhaps more optimism than never.

“I think expectations aren’t a bad thing,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think internally there are expectations, as teammates, as teammates. I think this is a healthy situation. Our division is going to be in a position where you’re going to have to have one hell of a year just to make the playoffs.

Florida recorded a 37-14-5 record last season in the truncated season of play only in your own division made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic. The 0.705 winning percentage was the fourth best in the NHL, but still didn’t amount to playoff success. The Panthers lost in the first round to Tampa Bay in six games, and the Lightning won their second straight Stanley Cup.

That meant Florida’s playoff drought – no series wins since 1996 – continued.

“We know we had our chance last year and we really let it go a bit,” said two-time Stanley Cup winner Patric Hornqvist winger. “We were beaten there against Tampa in a really good series, but if we can play that… it was like we gave them a few games. I’m not saying we were better than them, but I felt like we had more to give. And I think this year is going to be our turn and we’re going to make sure we don’t let it go like this.

NHL training camps go by in an instant. The Panthers have just three days of training before opening their preseason with a pair of games Sunday against Nashville. They brought 47 players to camp, and there aren’t a ton of jobs available, but Quenneville is giving everyone a peek.

They did two sessions on Thursday for about an hour each of ice work, with things being distributed as evenly as possible.

“Conditioning is part of it, getting a little bit of structure in the way we have to play,” Quenneville said. “The repetitions as you practice and play will be very familiar. The players will make the decisions for us based on how they play and how they compete. … This is a good situation.


Unlike last season, Quenneville and his coaching staff were able to be on the ice without wearing a mask on Thursday, a sign that the Panthers are fully vaccinated.

“We don’t have to worry about all of that,” said Quenneville.


The presumed No. 1 and 2 goaltenders starting the season – Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight – were in different sessions of the camp on Thursday. Quenneville said he has a sense of how he wants to handle the goaltending situation, with Bobrovsky just having a volatile year and Knight making a quick jump to joining the Panthers when his last college season came to an end. completed last fall.

Bobrovsky “made some adjustments” to his game during the offseason, Quenneville said.

“Bob is going to have the workload and Spence will push him in certain areas and in certain ways,” Quenneville said. “I think it’s a good healthy situation. Bob gets the net and Spencer will be the guy who learns and absorbs.


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