The Florida Panthers announced goalie Roberto Luongo will be out two to four weeks with a grade 1 MCL injury. Luongo’s injury was the result of some friendly fire in the second period of Saturday’s game against the Lightning. Panthers’ forward Frank Vatrano fell awkwardly onto Luongo’s leg while trying to clear the front of the net. James Reimer will start in the interim and former Winnipeg Jet Michael Hutchinson will play the role of backup.
Starting in relief of an injured Luongo is nothing new for Reimer. The longtime Maple Leaf has made 81 starts for Florida since signing with them as a free agent in 2016. He has performed admirably as a Panther, posting a 40-30-11 record with a .916 SV%. Reimer started 42 games for the Panthers last year after a multitude of injuries forced Luongo to miss 33 games. Reimer said the focus remains the same while Luongo’s out.
“In his absence, it’s just [about] winning some hockey games,” said Reimer. “That’s what we train for all summer.”
Understanding Luongo’s durability issues at this point in his career, the Panthers signed Hutchinson as insurance in the off-season. He made 102 appearances for the Jets and posted a .910 SV% over the course of five seasons.
Despite their depth at the position, Luongo’s injury is still a huge blow to the team. The 38-year-old posted an impressive .929 SV% and an 18-11-2 record last season. Panthers’ head coach Bob Boughner said defense will be the key to surviving without Luongo.
“Defensively we were pretty solid the other night. It’s something we’re working on every day,” said Boughner. “We need to be solid in our own end, no matter who is in net.”
The Panthers’ first test without Luongo will come at home against the Blue Jackets on Thursday.