SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers haven’t gotten off to the smoothest of starts this season.
While the Panthers’ offense has been humming, the team has struggled to keep goals out of the net.
Florida is averaging the same amount of goals scored as goals against.
Depending on the number, that could possibly be a good thing. You be the judge.
Florida (4-5-1) averages 3.5 goals per game, which is good for 6th in the NHL.
Unfortunately, they also average 3.5 goals against per game, which is tied for 6th worse in the league.
It certainly helps explain why the Panthers record has remained around .500 so far this month.
Not helping matters is the injury suffered by starting goalie Roberto Luongo.
He injured his right hand during a loss to Pittsburgh on October 20th and has been on Injured Reserve since.
Luongo has been seen working on the ice but the only updates from head coach Bob Boughner is that he is day-to-day.
To help pick up the slack, Florida claimed veteran goalie Antti Niemi off waivers earlier this week.
Niemi will serve as backup to James Reimer, at least until Luongo returns.
This week I was able to catch up with both Reimer and Niemi and asked them about their season so far and what to expect moving forward. Here is what they had to say:
On switching to the Eastern Conference this season after playing his entire career in the West- “It shouldn’t be about which conference I play in. It’s more about how I play and what my own progression is. The travel should be better (laughter).”
On his rough start to the season in Pittsburgh- “I don’t think it’s any technical part of my game. I’ve been working a couple months with the Penguins and I think I got some great advice there, but its more about putting it all together and just playing with the way I can play. I think it’s always a huge deal to get a win early every season. It determines the start and how you feel after that so it’s tough to get a couple losses in a row. For any player, it’s more about the response.”
On his goals after signing with Florida- “Right now it’s just about winning games, feeling good about our team, my own game, everything. I think that’s more important than big goals.”
On living in South Florida- “I’ve been here a few times only. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the great weather. It’s just different than Pennsylvania. I’ve been mostly in warm places [in my career]”.
On being the undisputed starter- “At the end of the day, just like anything, when it comes to this position you can’t really think about it. Whether the score is 8-3 or 1-0 you try to play the game the same way. Whether I’m gonna start the next 75 games in a row or just the next one, you’re just focused on the next game, the next period, the next save. You can’t really get carried away with things.”
On several NHL goalies getting off to tough starts this season- “I think the talk among all goalies is trying to figure it out right now. I think there’s just a lot of creativity in the game right now and a lot of young kids are coming up and they can do some interesting things with the puck and I think on the other end of it is maybe they might be turning the puck over more too so the chances are going both ways, probably a little more than in the past, so I think as the season wears on and as the young guys grow and mature, there will probably be less and less chances both ways which will probably effect the goals against too.”
On young talent like Panthers rookie Owen Tippett entering the NHL- :There’s been a really good influx of some really high end talent and I think that makes the game exciting. I’d rather have [Tippett] on our team because I’d rather be getting lit in practice than in games (laughter).”
On the work he’s put in with Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas on handling the puck- “I feel like I’m an adequate puck handler. I’m not a Marty Brodeur or anyone like that. I’m not throwing it to the far blue line or scoring goals or anything like that. I think you just try and get out there and stop it and make it easy for my d-men and give them a good, crisp pass. We’ve been working on it a lot over the past couple years. A big thing too is our d-men working hard to get back. When you can get the puck and they’re back there and they can give you an easy read it just makes the game easier.”