Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo has resumed skating after having hip surgery in May and told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that he hopes to return in time for the season opener against the New Jersey Devils at BB&T Center on Oct. 13.
Luongo, 37, had surgery shortly after the Panthers lost to the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round. The hip injury bothered him throughout last season.
Luongo was on crutches for a month after the surgery but returned to the ice nearly three weeks ago.
"I'm excited, hopeful to be where I want to be when everything gets going," Luongo told reporter George Richards. "I started skating Aug. 5 and there has been slow progression, but we've ramped it up here the past week or so, and it has been good.
"I'm not 100 percent; it's a five-month rehab. But I'm feeling better than I thought I would. I thought it would be a slower progression, especially on the ice. It has gone fairly quickly and I'm happy about that. If the season were to start tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be able to go. But I feel good where I'm at and I'm excited about it."
Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Luongo knocks down Okposo's shot in 1st
As insurance, the Panthers signed unrestricted free agent goalie James Reimer to a five-year contract on July 1 and also acquired goalie Reto Berra from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade for forward Rocco Grimaldi on June 23. If Luongo is ready, Berra is expected to start the season with Springfield of the American Hockey League.
Luongo went 35-19-6 with a 2.35 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and four shutouts in 62 games (60 starts) last season, and had a 2.05 GAA and .934 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Luongo said he's OK with a three-goalie system and pointed to a game on March 3, 2015, when he and Al Montoya each sustained injuries against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Montoya was able to finish the game, but the Panthers were forced to dress goalie coach Robb Tallas as an emergency backup.
"I think it's important in the new NHL to have three goalies who can play," he said. "We all saw what happened here a few years ago. Teams need three NHL guys because the schedule is grueling and there are a lot of games. Guys get hurt. It's important to have a third guy in case something happens and I'm not getting any younger.
"A little bit more rest for me should keep me fresh for the playoffs; that's a good thing. If I was 29, I probably wouldn't be saying the same thing. I might even be upset about it. But I've through a lot, went through this in Vancouver toward the end.
"You learn how to manage these things. I'm mature enough now to see that at 37, it's tough to play 60 games especially with the travel and all that. To me, it's all about the success of the team here. With Reimer backing me up and playing some games, it should put us in a good position where we want to be come playoff time and that's what it is all about."
Video: NYI@FLA, Gm5: Luongo comes up clutch during scramble
It remains to be seen whether Luongo will be ready for the season opener, but the Panthers are encouraged with his progress.
"We're going into our fourth week and he's doing really well," Tallas said. "He is very optimistic about starting the season and has put a lot of time in not only at the rink but off the ice. He has really committed himself this summer to being 100 percent again. We're at the point where there aren't a lot of restrictions on what he's doing on the ice. That's a great sign."