The Florida Panthers are going to be stuck playing without Roberto Luongo on Thursday — or Al Montoya, for that matter — against another ‘bubble team’ looking to make the NHL playoffs this spring.
Instead, they’ll have Dan Ellis in goal.
If you haven’t heard of him, you probably don’t follow Sunbelt backup goalies very closely — because although everyone is concerned about the experience level of Florida’s netminders, Ellis actually has over two hundred games’ worth of NHL experience. The thirty-four-year old goalie, drafted in the second round of the NHL draft in 2000 by the Dallas Stars, actually has a winning record in the NHL over his somewhat illustrious backup career; although he’s been in the AHL all season, he’s actually got some decently reassuring numbers over time. Think Ilya Bryzgalov coming in when your starters are both injured.
If that’s still not enough to ease the minds of Panthers fans, though — especially with the team still in the thick of the playoff hunt — it should be reassuring to know that Thursday’s game is against the Winnipeg Jets.
With Ondrej Pavelec still on contract as the team’s starting netminder and backup Michael Hutchinson‘s numbers finally falling back down to Earth, the Jets are dealing with an untimely combination of injuries and ill-fated games. They’re also having trouble keeping their focus; after coming back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of their matchup against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, the overtime goal that sealed their loss came from center ice — with the constant worry that their netminders will let in the wrong kinds of goals, the team has been in a bit of a quagmire lately.
It’s unfortunate that the Panthers managed to lose both of their goaltenders in the same game so close to the post-season, but at least they’ve got some timely games to play without them — and their backup may not be a former NHL elite figure, but he’s got enough experience to hold his own.