Sergei Bobrovsky is unsure if he will play for the Florida Panthers in their season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks at the BB&T Center on Sunday (19:00 ET; NHLN, TVAS, SN, FS-F, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).
The goalkeeper, who skated for the first time in training camp on Wednesday, had been unfit to practice since camp began, coach Joel Quenneville said.
“It’s definitely nice to be back with the guys to start working, watching the puck and being around my teammates,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s nice to be back and I’m fine, so I just need a few exercises and I’m ready to go.”
Bobrovsky said he will skate on Thursday, but the Panthers are not scheduled to have another full team practice before Friday. They will practice on Saturday before playing on Sunday.
Florida was scheduled to start the season with back-to-back home games against the Dallas Stars on Thursday and Friday, but these were postponed due to COVID-1
“Good to see him back,” Quenneville said of Bobrovsky. “He felt fine out there. He did a lot of drills, took almost every shot at the end. So he had a great work day. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow and presents and we will talk to our goalkeeper. I think “We have an opportunity here. He will dictate to us over the next few days whether Sunday is an opportunity or not.”
If Bobrovsky does not play, Chris Driedger or Sam Montembeault likely to start. Driedger was 7-2-1 with a 2.05 goal against the average, .938 save percentage and a 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 weight training for the past week and a half. He spent nearly two hours on the ice Wednesday.
“It’s important to feel the net, feel the ice, feel the gear on your body, see the puck, see the traffic,” Bobrovsky said. “It was a good practice. I saw straight shots, 3 on 2 in zone stuff, all sorts of activity in front of me. It was great. I also worked a little extra on the basics. It was a good practice for me.”
Bobrovsky looks set to bounce back after last season, his first with the Panthers after signing a seven-year contract on 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, playing at least 30 games.
“‘Bob’ had a really good offseason,” Quenneville said. “I know last year, the expectations, a lot of things were high, and when you consider 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 with that oneself in the right place mentally, physically.
“A little setback here, but I think he’s more than excited to get the season started and do what he has to do. He’s approached the right way and I think he 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 wants to do. We imagine he’s a big part of it.”