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NOTEBOOK: Home Opener on the Horizon; Montembeault's New Mask

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

10/4/19 Practice

10/4/19 Practice

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Frank Vatrano

  • 02:00 •

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Florida Panthers aren't dwelling on their Opening Night loss.

Less than 24 hours after kicking off their 2019-20 campaign with a 5-2 defeat in Tampa Bay, the Panthers were back on the ice for practice at the Florida Panthers IceDen on Friday morning, preparing for a rematch with the Lightning in their own Home Opener on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

Although Game 1 might not have gone their way, there's still 81 left to play.

"That game's over," winger Evgenii Dadonov said. "We're preparing ourselves for tomorrow."

When asked about some of the positives from the loss, Dadonov said he thought the Panthers did a good job of limiting the Lightning's scoring chances. Looking at the numbers, he's not wrong. At 5-on-5, Florida finished with advantages in shots (29-19) and shot attempts (45-34).

Of the five goals Tampa Bay scored against the Panthers, one came on a power play, two came shortly after a man advantage had expired, and one came on an empty net at the game's end.

"I think we didn't give up a lot of chances," said Dadonov, who finished with a game-high seven shots on goal. "They scored a couple on the power play, but I think it was a pretty decent game from us. It didn't go our way, but we'll take the positives and prepare for the next one."

Like his players, Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville also saw a lot of promise in defeat.

"I thought we had an excellent first period," Quenneville said. "I thought in the second period, for the most part, we were in a pretty good spot. You usually measure your performance by what you give up, and we didn't give up much. That's what we want to do, especially against a dangerous team that has a lot of skill and a lot of talent. You try to control that as best you can."

Taking a closer look at the scoring chances for each team, although the Lightning trailed the Panthers in total shot attempts (60-50), they came out on top in scoring chances (24-16) and high-danger shot attempts (10-4), according to the analytics website NaturalStatTrick.com.

In tomorrow's rematch, Quenneville wants to see more action around the net from his team.

"We need to make sure the key thing is that we get to the net better," Quenneville said. "Let's be more disruptive for [the opposing goaltender] to see pucks. Let's make it more challenging. Then you maybe get some ugly goals."

Looking to generate more scoring, some new forward lines were also unveiled during practice.

While the top and fourth lines were unchanged, some adjustments were made to the middle-six. Frank Vatrano moved up from the third to the second line, while Brett Connolly slid down to the third. Also on the third, Jayce Hawryluk replaced Denis Malgin, who was skating as an extra.

"I played a bunch with them last year," Vatrano said when asked about the potential of lining up alongside Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman on the second line. "I kind of have some chemistry with them. Obviously, going into tomorrow, it's a big game for us. I think we did a lot of good things last night, so it's just cleaning up some of the errors that we made."

When asked about the new lines, Quenneville said nothing is set in stone as of yet.

"We moved it around a little bit today, but we'll see tomorrow," he said.

Regardless of the lineup, fans should be in for a treat tomorrow if history is any indication.

In welcoming the Lightning to Sunrise, the Panthers will look to continue a recent trend of great success in their first home game of the season. Over the past seven seasons, Florida has gone 5-2-0 in Home Openers while outscoring opponents by a lopsided 30-20 margin in that span.

"Start to finish, let's take pride in being a great team at home and establishing right off the bat," he said. "Let's look forward to starting our home series, our season off on a really positive note."

MONTY'S NEW MASK

Sam Montembeault had a nice present waiting for him at the rink this morning.

On the eve of his first Home Opener in the NHL, his new mask and gear had finally arrived.

"I'm really happy to have it," the rookie goaltender said excitedly. "I was hoping to have it before our Home Opener tomorrow, so I'm really happy to have it now."

Montembeault, a third-round pick in 2015, is entering his rookie season with the Panthers after winning the backup job behind Sergei Bobrovsky with a strong performance in training camp. In three preseason appearances, the 22-year-old stopped 90 of the 95 shots that came his way.

"I finally look like a Panthers goalie now," said Montembeault, who made his NHL debut and appeared in 11 games with the team late last season. "I got my new gear this morning as well. I'm happy to get going."

Working with Quebec-based artist Sylvie Marsolais, Montembeault said he wanted the theme of the mask to not only incorporate the Panthers various logos, but also the Florida panther itself.

"I was really happy with the result," said Montembeault, who has worked with Marsolais' airbrush company, Sylabrush, since his junior hockey days in the QMJHL. "She's a really good artist. I'd recommend her to everyone. I'm really happy with the result."

On the sides of the mask, the prowling panther from the team's tertiary logo was used. On the top, a large realistic-looking panther, red eyes shining bright, is shrouded in a hue of dark blue. On Montembeault's chin, just below the cage, sits a battered version of his jersey number, 33.

"It's what my number would like if a panther kind of swiped it," he said.

The back of the mask features "NO EXCUSES" in bold red-outlined lettering as well as the logo his aunt's charity, which raises money for families with children currently suffering from cancer.

"Since junior [hockey] I've had it on my mask," he said of the foundation's logo.

During today's practice, Montembeault said he had a chance to put his new mask to the test.

"I got three pucks in the face already in practice today," he smiled. "It's good to break it in."

FRIDAY'S PRACTICE LINES

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Frank Vatrano - Vincent Trocheck - Mike Hoffman

Jayce Hawryluk - Henrik Borgstrom - Brett Connolly

Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad

MacKenzie Weegar - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Extras: Mark Pysyk, Denis Malgin

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