Just before the passing of the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month, it looked like the Florida Panthers would have a wealth of experience in the crease when Roberto Luongo was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks to join Tim Thomas.
But with Thomas traded to the Dallas Stars before the deadline and Luongo now battling an upper-body injury, Florida will turn to its backups against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at BB&T Center.
Dan Ellis entered the game Thursday during Florida's 3-0 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes after Luongo was hurt in a collision with forward Radek Dvorak. Scott Clemmensen was called up Friday from the American Hockey League and will back up Ellis, who gets the start against Montreal.
Ellis and Clemmensen have served as backups for most of their careers, but Panthers coach Peter Horachek remained confident in his goaltending.
"[Clemmensen] has done a great job for us throughout the year," Horachek said after Florida's morning skate. "When Tim Thomas was here and got hurt, [Clemmensen] played those games. We had some road trips up there and did pretty well, won three out of four and he played three of those games. I think they're both quality guys and we'll be fine with him."
The slumping Panthers have lost four of their past five games. Horachek said he expected some injured players, most notably Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky, to return to practice once the upcoming two-game road trip is completed.
They face a hot Canadiens team that has won seven of eight and is looking to extend its two-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay visits the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night and has two games in hand.
Forward Tomas Plekanec scored twice in the Canadiens' 5-4 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, but will not play against the Panthers. He has returned home to Montreal for personal reasons that were not disclosed by the club. In his place, former Panthers forward George Parros will be inserted into the lineup. Defenseman Douglas Murray will also replace rookie Jarred Tinordi while goaltender Carey Price gets the start.
Here are the projected lineups for the Canadiens and Panthers: