FORT LAUDERDALE – Ryan Lomberg doesn’t shy away from contact.

In the midst of his fourth season with the Florida Panthers, the hard-nosed forward leads the team with 146 hits while also chipping in four goals and two assists from the fourth line.

On Feb. 15, he set a new career high with 10 hits in a 4-0 win at Buffalo.

Following a recent practice at the Baptist Health IcePlex, I had a chance to chat with Lomberg about playoff experience, big moments in his career and being a dad in the NHL.

Lomberg's power-play goal makes it 4-0 in the third.

HELLSTROM: You are a little over halfway through your fourth season with the Cat. How do you feel you’ve impacted the team this season?

LOMBERG: On and off the ice, just bringing the team closer, being always a good teammate that tries his hardest, pushing the pace and making sure we’re always being competitive and competing with each other every day.

HELLSTROM: Last season you played all 82 regular season games for the first time in you NHL career, set career highs in goals (12) and points (20) and finished off with a run to the Stanley Cup Final. How did that motivate you heading into the start of this season and do you continue to draw on that as you look ahead to this year’s playoffs?

LOMBERG: I think we’re all looking at ways to improve and constantly get better, so to play 82 games was a good milestone for myself - but again it’s just about getting better and being able to impact the game in a positive way and make sure that we keep on winning hockey games. It’s been so great and obviously looking back to last season, having a little bit of success in the playoffs and going all the way to the end, we are looking to build off that this year and hopefully have a different result.

HELLSTROM: How do you maintain that focus and determination over 82 games?

LOMBERG: It’s a grind, for sure, but at the end of the day it’s just fun to play. We’re here because we love it and every time that I’m out there I’m having a blast.

HELLSTROM: How much has all your recent playoff experience helped you improve as a player?

LOMBERG: I think it’s important. You’ve got to be able to carry yourself in the right manner when the lights are at their brightest. It’s so good to get that experience in and obviously looking forward to leaning on it a bit this year, being more comfortable in big games and hopefully in the Final this year.

Lomberg's one-timer puts Florida ahead 3-2 in the third period.

HELLSTROM: You’ve found a lot of success playing on the right side of the ice this season. How do you have to adjust your game depending on what wing you’re on?

LOMBERG: Mainly the biggest technical difference would be in the defensive zone breakouts - just trying to see the different options when I get the puck. Anywhere else on the ice, our systems for the wingers and all forwards are fairly loose. You can kind of end up anywhere on the ice at any given time. Besides breaking the puck out there hasn’t been a huge difference.

HELLSTROM: As a seasoned vet on this roster do you have any pearls of wisdom you share with the young guys?

LOMBERG: Just have fun. We’re all living our dream. Of course, you have to come to the rink and try your hardest, be ready to play and dialed in, but you’ve got to be able to enjoy it and have fun. Just do it all with a smile because it’s not forever, so you don’t want to look back and think about not enjoying it as much as you can. Again, we’re all living the dream.

HELLSTROM: How has fatherhood impacted your game and have your two kids taught you anything that you can bring to the ice?

LOMBERG: Fatherhood hasn’t really affected my on-ice game so to speak. I would say as a teammate that I’m checking in on guys more because I have kids of my own that obviously constantly rely on me. I think from a person-to-person standpoint, I was always caring. But now I think on a more personal way and making sure that guys are okay and that I’m there for them if they need me. That’s what fatherhood has taught me.

HELLSTROM: What has been your favorite moment of the season and what are you most looking forward to?

LOMBERG: Favorite moment of the season… (pause). That’s a tough one. There’s always good ups and downs. Of course, we went on a nice little winning streak and of course a couple of losing streaks to follow that. I don’t know if there’s an individual moment that’s my most favorite, but obviously looking most forward to the playoffs and just coming together as a team and hopefully finding a way to win the ultimate prize.

HELLSTROM: Do you have a career highlight… personal, team or moment?

LOMBERG: Career highlight for myself would be scoring the overtime winner against Tampa Bay in the playoffs a couple years ago, and as a team winning the Eastern Conference championship last year.

HELLSTROM: What’s your favorite thing about playing hockey?

LOMBERG: My teammates. The guys. It’s something that is not like anything else out there being in a team atmosphere - hanging out with the guys all the time. Obviously we’re having a lot of success this season, so it’s been a ton of fun at the rink and away from the rink. But, yeah, my favorite part about playing hockey is definitely the team environment.

HELLSTROM: You’re leading the team in hits right now. How much pride do you take in that statistic?

LOMBERG: I don’t really care about it, to be honest. It’s kind of something I must do to be effective. If I were to be towards the bottom of that list numerically, it would be the result of me not playing as hard as I can, so being at the top shows that I’m moving my feet and finding ways to impact the game.

HELLSTROM: Your daughter’s name is Lennon. Is she named after a certain musical talent?

LOMBERG: The John Lennon, yes. I would take credit, but I can’t – that was all my wife.”

HELLSTROM: What’s it like having your kids around the rink?

LOMBERG: It’s pretty surreal, honestly. I’ve always dreamt about being in the NHL and playing in the NHL and kind of everything about being in the NHL. Something I never really envisioned was having my kids around and having them be a part of it. I always admired guys that had their kids around and that were lucky enough to have their kids around the rink. To have my son and daughter around and to be able to bring my son in the locker room after wins is something I will remember forever, and hopefully he can get to an age where he can remember as well.

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