CORAL SPRINGS – Any thought the new Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice was going to facilitate his team in the training camp was fired two minutes later.
Maurice, who was hired in June to replace interim coach Andrew Brunette, started the first group at exactly 9 a.m. and by 9:02 a.m. he had assembled the group for their first round of instruction.
He did this over and over as the first group worked on breakouts before finishing the workout with some wall work and lots of conditioning skating.
“We’re going to do things a certain way,” Maurice said. “It was tough and they succeeded. It wasn’t easy for them, we made them fold a few times. But they can handle it.
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By the time the second group took the ice at noon, they had probably been warned of what was to come.
“The first day was good. They worked hard and were pushed hard,” Maurice said. “They reacted very well. There are a lot of fit men in this group. … Tempo, rhythm and energy are what we ask of the players and the coaches have also provided that. Two or three of us will lose our voices on day 4 and the others will have to shout more. We’re going to spread it around a bit.
“We weren’t looking to see how tough they are. We have a good feeling for these guys. But the game is played along the wall so we did a good 20 minutes at the end along the wall. It’s pretty taxing for them to do that and then skate.
“The last half hour was not the right time to be a professional hockey player. But the game is played there. We offered them a pretty tough practice and we were pleased with the first feedback from the fitness report and you can see it today.
The Panthers split the groups, so it was hard to tell what Maurice and his mostly new coaching staff had in mind when it came to rosters.
With three weeks until the season opener on Long Island, there’s plenty of time to figure it all out.
Maurice said he tried to keep players who had played together before – Sasha Barkov with Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett with Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundel with Sam Reinhartfor example.
Still, in the early days of camp, before the first players are sent back to their junior teams, it’s a time to work hard and not worry about how things will look at the start of games.
Florida is expected to have two practices in each of the next three days before Monday’s preseason doubleheader in Nashville.
With 55 players in camp and only 40 spots available for the two games against the Predators, a large portion of Florida’s veteran players aren’t expected to play in the Music City exhibits.
“It was fun to finally get a real workout again,” Bennett said. “We skated well, we worked hard and it was a chore. But, it was nice to be back there.”
Although the individual lines weren’t ironed out, depending on who was on the ice, you could see an idea of how Maurice would like to see things play out.
Lundell centered the third line with the deceased march of the masons and Reinhart last season, but sometimes Thursday worked as a winger.
Maurice said that while he liked Lundell at centre, that “doesn’t mean we won’t try him on the wing”.
He then forestalled a follow-up question from a reporter who, perhaps with Antoine Duclair out, could Lundell be moved into the top 6 to ‘load the top two lines? I would say, ‘we’ll see how it goes’.
“We have a group of guys who can definitely play center ice,” Maurice said. “We don’t want to play with everything at once.”
– The Panthers are split into two groups with ‘Team A’ using the main IceDen locker room and ‘Team B’ relegated to a makeshift room at the end of the complex.
Sergei Bobrovsky is with the first group and the second-year guard Spencer Knight the other.
Florida has a total of six goaltenders in camp with JF Berube during a professional tryout – he still wears his Columbus Blue Jackets mask from last season – and Evan Fitzpatrick on a minor league deal.
— The Staal brothers — defender Marc and striker Eric — were both together in the second group and faced off a lot one-on-one in the afternoon session.
Marc Stael signed a one-year contract with the Panthers after spending the last two seasons in Detroit; Eric Staal is in camp on a PTO after being out of the league last year.
He captained Team Canada at the Olympics and played a few conditioning games with the AHL Iowa Wild.
— Maurice wasn’t the only new coach on the ice as an assistant coach Jamie Kompon and Sylvain Lefebvre also debuted in Florida.
—Captain of the Charlotte Checkers Zac Dalpe did individual work on the ice, but did not train with the group.