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Baptist Health Practice Notebook: Panthers Go Hard at Practice

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Joel Quenneville was working the whistle this morning.

Less than 24 hours after suffering a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers head coach kept his players moving throughout Wednesday's practice at the Panthers IceDen, running the team through some 1-on-1 drills but focusing primarily on skating - lots of skating.

"We can't be happy with what happened," Quenneville said bluntly.

In last night's loss to the Hurricanes, the Panthers surrendered five straight goals to fall into an early 5-0 hole. And although the team showed a lot of fight over the final two periods to get the game to 5-3 with just over four minutes left, Quenneville said the effort simply came too late.

Over the final two periods of action, Florida outscored (3-2) and outshot (40-21) Carolina.

"That was a positive, but with what happened before that I think that kind of made it happen the way it did," Quenneville said of the late push. "[The Hurricanes] were in a really good controlling spot in that game. When you're down at home by that number, don't be fooled at the end of the game that all of the sudden you had a good second half or that part of it. What had a big influence later was what happened at the start of the game. That's what we can't let happen."

With a 1-2-0 record through their first three games of the season, the Panthers know it's far too early to start looking at trends or momentum. They've lost to two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in Carolina and Tampa Bay, but there's still 79 - yes, 79 - games still left to play. Heading into their first multi-game road trip of the season, they know they can be much better.

"It's still early," Panthers winger Brett Connolly said. "There's obviously some things we need to work on and everything. It's definitely not the start we wanted. We did a lot to come back and showed a little character that way.

"But you won't win in this league giving up four goals in the first period. We earned what we got today in practice. I think the message is loud and clear. Guys know we need to play a full 60. Guys also know that it's early in the year. We just have to be better next game."

Video: 10/9/19 Practice

That next game will come in enemy territory.

Kicking off their road trip with their first back-to-back set of the season, the Panthers will suit up against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders on Friday and Saturday, respectively. From there, they'll travel to New Jersey for a big Columbus Day matchup with the Devils on Monday.

"We just need to get on a roll," said Connolly, who's notched a point in each of the last three games. "Whether it's home or away, we just need to start collecting points here early and obviously have a better start. We'll be ready to go. The message was loud and clear this morning."

The Panthers will play eight of their next 10 games on the road.

"The road is big," Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It's tough to win on the road in this league. Usually the teams that find a way [to win on the road], they're very successful."

MONTEMBEAULT FEELING GOOD

Sam Montembeault said he felt "pretty good" after making his season debut last night.

Starting the second period in relief of starter Sergei Bobrovsky, the 22-year-old rookie stopped 19 of 20 shots over two periods, fighting through a few early nerves en route to a strong finish.

"I was a little nervous at the beginning," Montembeault said. "It's always hard to come in like that in a game. I had a chance to focus in the locker room before going in after the first [period]. I gave up a goal early, but I think after that it went pretty well."

A third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Montembeault made his NHL debut and saw time in 11 games with the Panthers in 2018-19. During that short stint towards the end of the season, he registered a 4-3-2 record behind a 3.05 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.

Winning the backup job out of last month's training camp, he's learning to be ready at all times.

"I always have to be ready," said Montembeault, who stopped 90 of 95 shots over three appearances in the preseason. "I have to prepare before games just as if I was playing. Even during the play I try to stay active on the bench. I talk a lot and open the door, too."

With a back-to-back coming up, Montembeault's first start could potentially be on the horizon.

"I got to see a few shots last night," he said. "It's good to get that first action behind me."

MAINTENANCE DAY FOR ACCIARI

Noel Acciari was the lone Panther absent from today's practice.

After blocking a team-high three shots against the Hurricanes, Quenneville said the tough-as-nails center took a maintenance day to rest and recover in preparation for the upcoming trip.

"He should be fine for tomorrow," Quenneville said.

Joining the Panthers on a three-year deal this summer, Acciari has already been making his presence felt on the team's fourth line. Three games into the season, the 27-year-old has registered one goal - a beauty, by the way - five blocked shots and a team-high eight hits.

"He gives us everything you're looking for in that department," Quenneville said of Acciari's physical approach to the game. "He fights through it as good as anybody you're going to find."

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