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Bobrovsky won't play for Panthers against Blackhawks in opener

Goalie could return for next game; Driedger to start, Montembeault will be backup

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Sergei Bobrovsky won't play for the Florida Panthers in their season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks at BB&T Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVAS, SN, FS-F, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).

"We'll see about playing Tuesday (against Chicago). That could be a possibility, but he's not playing Sunday," coach Joel Quenneville said on the "NHL @TheRink" podcast Friday.

Bobrovsky, who practiced Friday and skated for the first time in training camp Wednesday, had been unfit to practice since camp began.

"It's definitely great to be back with the guys to start working, see the puck and be around my teammates," Bobrovsky said Wednesday. "It's great to be back and I felt good, so I just need a few more practices and I'm ready to go."

Quenneville said after practice Saturday that the Panthers will not rush Bobrovsky back into the lineup.

"Just watching him, he looks like he's ready," Quenneville said. "He could probably play tomorrow. Haven't had that push where he's saying, 'I want to play, I want to play.' I think we had in our minds let's target Tuesday, and he's on that path right now. He's ready to go, but I think we're being cautious and doing things probably the right way."

When Bobrovsky does play, he'll look to bounce back from last season, his first with the Panthers after he signed a seven-year contract July 1, 2019. He was 23-19-6 with a 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage in 50 games (49 starts). 

It was the highest GAA and lowest save percentage he has had in any of his nine NHL seasons in which he played at least 30 games.

"I know that 'Bob' when we look at him, expectations obviously sky high when he gets the big contract coming in here," Quenneville said. "Expectations, teammates, goaltenders, no matter who has looked at him I think you'd measure his year as 'OK', not good enough. I think he knows.

"I think his attitude coming into camp has been outstanding. Seems like a different guy. I think he's done everything he can to put that behind him and meet the current challenges of being consistent, being Bob. The way Bob has always been viewed, we're looking forward to seeing that type of play. He couldn't have been coming into it on a better frame of mind here over the last two months. Turn the page and I think his approach has been in a place where he's one of the guys and we're all expecting the same things from each other."

Chris Driedger will start Sunday with Sam Montembeault as the back up. Driedger was 7-2-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and one shutout in 12 games (11 starts) last season. Montembeault was 5-5-1 with a 3.34 GAA and .890 save percentage in 14 games (nine starts).

"[Driedger] had a great run for us (last season). He did a great job of giving us a chance," Quenneville said following practice Saturday. "Guys got a little bit familiar with him around the net. I thought he had a lot of poise, patience, uses the size to advantage. But he kept the game very simple and I though he really enhanced his opportunity to be an NHL goalie.

"Going into the season having the chance to start right off the bat, it's just like one more step for him and we're going to take advantage of another opportunity. [Driedger] did a really good job last year and I'm looking forward to seeing how he progresses."

Florida was scheduled to start the season with back-to-back home games against the Dallas Stars on Thursday and Friday, but those were postponed because of COVID-19 issues related to the Stars.

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