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NOTEBOOK: Panthers Trim Roster; Injured Players Progressing

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, the Panthers trim their camp roster down to 31 players, the amount of talent in the AHL continues to grow, and Carter Verhaeghe is absent.

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Panthers trimmed their roster down on Saturday.

Sending a wealth of talent to their AHL affiliate, forwards Karch Bachman, Henry Bowlby, Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi, Logan Hutsko, Justin Nachbaur, Serron Noel, Cole Schwindt, defenseman Max Gildon and goalie Evan Fitzpatrick are all heading to Charlotte.

Following the moves, the organization's training camp roster now stands at 31 players.

"[Checkers coach] Geordie [Kinnear] is going to have a nice group down there," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice at the Panthers IceDen. "We know that we've got some guys down there that can play and help us, and we expect them at some point to be helping us here."

In other roster news, forward Zac Dalpe and defenseman Noah Juulsen both cleared waivers and are expected to also report to Charlotte, which will house players from both the Panthers (the organization's main affiliate) and expansion Kraken throughout the 2020-21 campaign.

Among the players heading to the AHL, Heponiemi, Noel and Hutsko all scored goals during the preseason, while Bowlby registered an assist and Dalpe dished out a pair of helpers of his own.

"There's going to be competition for ice time," Quenneville said of the roster in Charlotte.

With organizational depth at an all-time high, defenseman Aaron Ekblad said he was very impressed with the overall skill level of the team's up-and-coming players throughout camp.

"The first word that comes to mind is competitive," Ekblad said. "Each and every one of them was competitive. In those intrasquad games, you could tell they just kept coming and coming. It's fun to see that we have a very bright future ahead of us, especially down in Charlotte."

One player not reporting to the AHL is netminder Sam Montembeault, a third-round pick (77th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft, who was claimed off waivers by the Canadiens this afternoon.

With that move, Christopher Gibson appears to now be in the driver's seat for the No. 3 job with the Panthers behind Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight. In two appearances this preseason, the 28-year-old has looked sharp while turning aside 49 of 54 shots for a .907 save percentage.

"I just want an opportunity," said Gibson, a veteran of 210 career games in the AHL and 16 in the NHL. "Anywhere I can play, I'll be happy to go and play and help the team out as much as I can. Hopefully, I'll get a chance here."

To stay up to date on all things Checkers, follow @CheckersHockey on Twitter.

INJURY UPDATES

Carter Verhaeghe was noticeably absent from this morning's practice.

After racking up three points (one goal, two assists) in two preseason games, the 26-year-old forward will thankfully only miss "a couple of days" due to an injury, according to Quenneville.

Breaking out in a top-line role with the Panthers last season, Verhaeghe, who has been skating alongside Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart in training camp, registered a career-high 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) and an outstanding +24 rating over 43 games played in 2020-21.

Filling in for Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair skated on the top line during practice.

As far as other injury updates, Quenneville said that "two or three" players could return to practice as early as Monday. As of right now, the group of injured players includes Anton Lundell, Joe Thornton, Maxim Mamin, Lucas Carlsson, John Ludvig and now Verhaeghe.

Looking to stay hot after starting off the preseason with a perfect 4-0-0 record, the Panthers will battle the cross-state rival Lightning at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

"Just trying to find our competitive edge," Ekblad said. "We've tried to preach that up and down the lineup during practice and in the preseason games. We've shown that chemistry is there."

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