Sergei Bobrovsky is unsure if he will 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).
The goalie, who skated for the first time in training camp Wednesday, had been unfit to practice since camp began, coach Joel Quenneville said.
“It’s definitely great to be back with the guys to start working, see the puck and be around my teammates,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s great to be back and I felt good, so I just need a few more practices and I’m ready to go.”
Bobrovsky said he will skate Thursday, but the Panthers are not scheduled to have another full team practice until Friday. They will practice Saturday before playing Sunday.
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.
“Good to see him back,” Quenneville said of Bobrovsky. “He felt fine out there. He did a lot of drills, almost took every shot at his end. So he had a good work day. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow and presents, and we’ll talk with our goalie group. I think we’ve got an opportunity here. He’ll dictate to us over the next few days whether Sunday is an option or not.”
If Bobrovsky doesn’t play, Chris Driedger or Sam Montembeault likely will start. 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).
Bobrovsky said he has been limited to light stretching workouts in the past week and a half. He spent nearly two hours on the ice Wednesday.
“It’s important to feel the net, to feel the ice, feel the gear on your body, see the puck, see the traffic,” Bobrovsky said. “It was a great practice. I saw straight shots, 3-on-2 in zone stuff, all different kind of activity in front of me. It was great. I also worked a little bit extra on the fundamental stuff. It was a great practice for me.”
Bobrovsky is looking to bounce back after 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.
“‘Bob’ had a really good offseason,” Quenneville said. “I know last year, expectations, a lot of things were high, and when you’re evaluating Bob’s contribution or season, I thought he adapted well to what needs to be addressed or worked on. I think he did a good job of getting himself in the right place mentally, physically.
“A little setback here but I think he’s more than excited to get the season going and doing what he has to do. He’s approached it the right way and I think he’s balanced the expectations with how he needs to play in the net. Being a solid teammate and a big contributor to the team’s success is what he’s looking to do. We envision him being a big part of it.”