While it’s not uncommon for an NHL team to add a goaltender at the trade deadline, the Florida Panthers made headlines when they replaced not just one, but both of their netminders.
Out are Tim Thomas and Scott Clemmensen, in are Roberto Luongo and Dan Ellis.
Already the franchises all-time leader in several goaltending categories, Luongo, who was re-introduced as a Panther yesterday, will look to add a sense of stability in-between the pipes for the Panthers as they hope to build a contender over the coming seasons.
“It was nice to get on the ice and just do what I do,” Luongo said after his first practice in Florida. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played as a Panther here. I’m excited to play in front of the crowd, hopefully there will be a lot of them.”
Currently sitting 16 points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, Luongo noted that although the playoffs are no longer a likely possibility, there is still a lot to play for in the team’s final 21 games of the season.
“I think it’s important to have the right mindset for the last 20 games,” said Luongo. “You want to bring a winning attitude into the dressing room and install that and make sure that even though the games don’t mean much, you want to play hard … I think guys know that, especially guys playing for jobs.”
Ellis, 33, has played in 14 games for the Dallas Stars this season, posting a 5-6-0 record with .900 save percentage and 3.04 goals-against average. Appearing in 198 total career NHL games with the Dallas Stars (2003-04, 2013-14), Nashville Predators (2007-10), Tampa Bay Lightning (2010-11), Anaheim Ducks (2011-2012) and Carolina Hurricanes (2012-13), Ellis’ has compiled a career record of 83-71-17 with a .908 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average.
“They’ve always had great people around here,” Ellis said of the Panthers. “I think their new ownership has given them stability, that does a lot for you. I think it’s an exciting place to be.”
Having seen what Ellis can do during their time together with the Nashville Predators, Panthers head coach Peter Horacek is confident that the team is now in possession of an exceptional veteran goaltender.
“I know Ellis very well,” Horachek said. “He handles the puck real well. He’s like another defenseman back there. He’s by far the best (puck) handling goalie we’ve had here by a long shot – that’s a huge advantage.”
“He won some big games for us (Nashville). He’s capable of stepping in and winning games for you.”
As for the goalie controversies that have surrounded Luongo for the past several seasons, Ellis does not believe that will be a problem in Florida and is very happy in his role as the team’s backup.
“I know his position. I know what my position is,” Ellis said of his role with the team. “There are things I can do to possibly help him. Help give him some reads. Let him know what I can see that he can’t see while the game is going on. You want to have a good working relationship and you just want to be supportive of each other.”
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