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Luongo returns to practice for Panthers

38-year-old goalie recovering from lower-body injury

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

Goalie Roberto Luongo practiced with the Florida Panthers on Thursday for the first time since injuring his groin against the New York Islanders on Dec. 4.

"It's been a while," Luongo said. "It's been a tough road here the last couple months. A lot of ups and downs, but just excited to be back at practice right now, obviously just to rejoin my teammates on the ice for some real drills. Just a matter of now getting my timing back and making sure that I'm at the level that I need to be at to help the team win games."

Luongo, 38, said he and the Panthers will take it day by day to decide when he is ready to return to game action. He has missed 23 games since he was injured making a pad save with his right leg on a slap shot by Ryan Pulock. Luongo had hip labrum surgery in May 2016 and missed the final six weeks of last season with hip problems.

"I don't have a timeline on it," Luongo said. "Obviously I'd love to get in there as quick as possible, but at the same time I want to make sure that I'm where I need to be as far as the sharpness is concerned. Hopefully sometime on the [five-game] road trip (beginning at the Edmonton Oilers on Monday) but, like I said, I don't really put a timeline on it."

Goalie James Reimer, sidelined with a pulled groin sustained against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 23, also practiced and will back up Harri Sateri against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-W, NHL.TV).

Sateri is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .950 save percentage for the Panthers, who are six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

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