Panthers look to slow down high-octane Jets
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers on Wednesday recalled Harri Sateri, and -- no offense to the vowel-happy goalie from their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield -- this was not good news for the franchise.
Sateri was recalled because starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury to his right leg.
Luongo will not play Thursday night when the Panthers (10-13-4) play host to the high-scoring Winnipeg Jets (17-7-4).
"Anytime you lose a player like 'Lu,' who is the backbone of your team, it's tough to swallow," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "He's been great for us."
Indeed, Luongo owns a .928 save percentage this season and a 2.62 goals-against average. But this is his second injury this season. He was injured on Oct. 20 and missed six consecutive games, and now this injury could lead to an even longer-term absence.
Backup goalie James Reimer, who owns an .892 save percentage and a 3.67 GAA, filled in for Luongo earlier this season. He is expected to get all the starts now as well.
Reimer hasn't shown he is of the same quality as Luongo, who, unfortunately for the Panthers, has a history of groin and hip injuries. Luongo played just 40 games last season -- the second lowest total of his career as a starter, which began in 2000-2001.
This year, Luongo has played in 15 games. Reimer, who played 43 games for the Panthers last season, will tie Luongo on Thursday with his 15th game played.
Reimer, though, said he feels bad for his teammate.
"It's never fun when you see your partner go down," Reimer said of Luongo. "I'm hoping for the best for him."
Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off a 3-0-1 week in which right winger Blake Wheeler produced eight assists and two goals. He was named the NHL's First Star of the Week.
For the season, the 31-year-old Minnesota native and team captain leads the NHL with 29 assists and ranks fourth with 36 points.
However, the Jets got their three-game road trip off to a bad start on Tuesday with a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
"We looked slow all night," Wheeler told media members in Detroit after that loss. "We couldn't get out of our own zone."
Steve Mason, who signed this past offseason with the idea that he would be Winnipeg's starting goalie -- or at least 1A with Connor Hellebuyck -- is out with a concussion suffered on Nov. 25.
In truth, however, the 24-year-old Hellebuyck has outplayed Mason, 29, so far this season. Hellebuyck owns a .921 save percentage and a 2.45 GAA. He's a main reason why the Jets are near the top of the Western Conference standings.
Mason, meanwhile, has struggled with a 3.45 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
Offensively, the Jets are dangerous with players such as Wheeler and Patrik Laine, 19, the second-year pro with a crazy-hard shot. Laine led the Jets with 36 goals last season, and he has 14 this season, tied for first on the team with Mark Scheifele, 24. Nikolaj Ehlers, 21, is also in double figures in goals with 11.
One other young Jet to watch is 21-year-old rookie left winger Kyle Connor, selected 17th overall in 2015.
The Jets, who lead the Western Conference in goals scored, aren't nearly as efficient defensively. However, Thursday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for former Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who is now in the Jets rotation.
Updated December 6, 2017