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At the Rink: Flyers at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will unveil their latest young prospect in their season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers at BB&T?Center on Saturday.

Left wing Connor Brickley, a second-round pick (No. 50) at the 2010 NHL Draft, will make his NHL?debut after winning a roster spot during training camp.

"He had a good training camp and he deserves a shot to play,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "He came to camp and he won a job. He played his role real well, he scored some key goals. It started from the rookie camp and right to the main camp."

Brickley, who will be one of 11 players 25 or younger in Florida's opening-night lineup, scored two goals in four preseason games.

He said he expected to have approximately 20 family members and friends at the game.

"It's unbelievable,"???Brickley said Saturday after the morning skate. "I???don't think the magnitude of the situation has really hit me yet. When I come back later, getting ready for the game, when I???first step in the locker room and see the jerseys all set up, I'm sure it's going to hit me pretty hard."

The Panthers are one of three teams, along with the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks, playing their first regular-season game Saturday.

Florida played its final preseason game Oct. 3, losing 3-2 at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It seems like we've been doing a little bit of waiting around,"???forward Brandon Pirri said. "We played a lot of our exhibition games at the beginning. But it gave us a chance to tighten up some things and be ready for today. A lot of waiting around. But I think we're ready."

The Flyers, who did not hold a morning skate, opened their season Thursday with a 3-2 overtime loss at the Lightning.

The Panthers and Flyers will play again Monday in Philadelphia.

The opener will mark Panthers center Nick Bjugstad's first game since March 21. He missed the last 10 games of the 2014-15 season because of a back injury that required surgery.

Bjugstad played in four preseason games and said the back no longer was an issue.

"There's nothing that I???feel,"???Bjugstad said. "Obviously when you have an injury it still sits in the back of your head the first few games, but that's gone away now. I've taken some lumps in the back and it's fine. I???basically look at it as hitting the reset button with my back. It's done and over with and it's back to normal. It's not in the back of my head really anymore."

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - R.J. Umberger

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto - Brandon Manning

Evgeny Medvedev - Luke Schenn

Injured: None

Scratched: Radko Gudas, Vincent Lecavalier, Sam Gagner


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Vincent Trocheck

Connor Brickley - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Rocco Grimaldi (ankle)

Scratched:?????????Steven Kampfer, Quinton Howden, Dylan Olsen

Status report: Grimaldi took part in the morning skate but has not yet been cleared to return to the lineup. Gallant said he didn’t know whether Grimaldi would accompany the Panthers on their two-game road trip to Philadelphia and Carolina for games Monday and Tuesday. ... Thornton is in the lineup for what could be his last NHL?????????season opener. The 38-year-old forward, who was a healthy scratch for 10 of Florida's last 20 games in 2014-15, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. "I'm really excited. This never gets old, honestly. It doesn't matter how many years you've been in the League. You put a lot of work in over the offseason and this is a pretty long offseason, so a lot of work going in and this is where it hopefully pays off, starting now."

Who's hot: Mason is 7-2-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in 10 games against the Panthers. ... Read has six goals in 12 games against the Panthers. ... Jagr has 45 goals and 116 points in 93 games against the Flyers. ... Pirri finished 2014-15 with 19 goals in his last 30 games.

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