Paul Maurice thinks Panthers will benefit from practicing harder between games, not taking days off

Latest on goaltending situation, injuries to Barkov and Duclair

Head coach Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers handles the bench against the Dallas Stars at FLA Live Arena on November 17, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) (BRUCE BENNETT, 2022 Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. – In the span of a couple weeks, the Florida Panthers have gone from a team navigating an obnoxiously tedious travel schedule to one actually able to enjoy some down time.

Though the schedule is picking back up for the season’s stretch run, it won’t come close to being as taxing on the Panthers, mainly because they have so many more games at home than on the road.

That being the case, head coach Paul Maurice is going to use the extra time in a way he feels will most benefit his team.

It may come off as a bit unconventional.

We’ve also got some interesting information on Florida’s goaltending situation and the latest on the injury status of Sasha Barkov and Anthony Duclair.

Buckle up, it’s a Local 10 Panthers Notebook.


Entering the home stretch of the regular season is generally a time where coaches will look to give their players a few more days off when the opportunities present themselves.

The NHL season is a grind, and few teams have experienced the kind of travel schedule and game consortiums that the Panthers had to endure during their first 52 games.

But nobody should have their finger on the pulse of the team more than Paul Maurice. He should know what buttons to push; what works and what doesn’t.

Right now, Maurice feels that more ice time, not less, will help the Panthers play at the level they desire.

To understand his reasoning for this seemingly odd, against the grain concept, let’s take a step back.

Maurice has often pointed to a pair of games against Carolina and the Rangers that took place right out of the holiday break as to the point where Florida’s season began to turn around for the better.

It was at that time the Panthers were skating on their off days, which made sense considering everyone had just taken several days off for Christmas.

Now that the team is going to have less travel days, and as such, more time between games, Maurice wants to go back to a schedule that sees the Panthers take less time off the ice instead of more, and for them to be going at full-speed when they do.

“I think that really led into the back half of that month, we were stronger, executed a little better, even when we got real tired,” Maurice said. “So we’re going to go back to that template and try to skate as much as we can on these days.”

When the Panthers return from their upcoming four-game road trip, the team won’t leave the state of Florida for 29 days.

Time equals opportunity.

“We’ve got almost a calendar month from February to March where we play one road game, and it’s Tampa, so you’re not getting home at four o’clock in the morning,” said Maurice.

Not having to travel will add an exorbitant amount of time to the Panthers schedule while simultaneously removing the wear and tear that comes with constantly getting on and off airplanes, riding giant team busses and sleeping in hotels at odd hours.

That extra time, and the comfort of being home, is why Maurice feels the team will benefit by being at rink, and on the ice, more frequently.

“There’s a conditioning value in, you can get back into the gym a little, you can do off-ice lifts, you can maintain your strength, but (there’s) also an execution value to it, you can practice at (a higher) pace, you can push a little harder in practice because you’re at home and your team is not fatigued.”


Something we’ve seen fairly often this season with the Panthers are optional morning skates.

Every coach will approach the day-of-game, morning workouts differently.

Some view them as a valuable time to go over key elements of the battle and opponent to come, or work on things like a struggling power play, while other coaches allow players the freedom to decide how they want to prepare on a gameday, whether it be on the ice, in the gym, video room, training table, etc.

It sounds like Maurice is good with going from mostly optional morning skates to none at all, something we may see come to fruition in the not-too-distant future.

“I’ve got no time for morning skates unless we have to now,” Maurice said. “We’re going to try to move away from those as much as possible.”

Consider for a moment the aforementioned desire of Maurice for not only an increase in practice days, but a rise in the intensity of those practices.

Game pace is the speed Maruice wants his team to be practicing at now that the schedule allows a reasonable opportunity to push that hard.

Taking that into account, it seems removing a patch of ice time from the schedule that was viewed as more of a laid-back workout, as morning skates are generally not at full speed, is a thoughtful and forward thinking move.

If it works.

“I don’t know that we need to be on the ice on morning skates,” Maurice continued, “but we need to get up and down the ice, and we need to make sure that we stay sharp and stay fast on our off days, so we’re going to skate.”


The Panthers, like many teams that were battling injuries, came out of the All-Star break with a healthy stable of thoroughbreds.

A few extra days of rest was a welcomed break from a nightmarish schedule, and it allowed a team that had been battling through multiple injuries an opportunity to rest and heal.

That was especially true of Florida’s goaltenders, neither of whom had played a game for the Panthers in several weeks. Both Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight were working their way back from injuries, leading to an extended look for third-string goalie Alex Lyon, who filled in admirably and at times heroically when called into an emergency situation.

Now both Bob and Knight are good to go, and it sounds like the crease will belong to the veteran netminder as long as he can hold it.

“Bob has for me, for almost a month now, looked really good, really sharp, really aggressive in the net,” Maurice said. “The rest was good for him, he’s back to 100 percent, he gets practice time which he likes, he’s a practice goalie, so we think he’s in a good position to run.”

Prior to suffering a lower-body injury during the opening minutes of a road game in Montreal on Jan. 19, Bobrovsky had started eight of Florida’s ten games in January.

His record in those games was 4-2-1, but his 3.29 goals against average and .898 save percentage certainly cause a curiously reflexive eyebrow raise.

Bob’s numbers in December were actually much better, 2.51 GAA and .919 save percentage, but his record was 4-5-0.

What does this mean?

It means as long as Bobrovsky is making big saves at key moments and keeping his team in games, the Panthers are happy.

Frustrating goals are going to go in. Rebound control will be an issue.

But if Big Save Bob shows up game after game, and Florida can continue to win consistently, it will be Bobrovsky’s net to lose.

“He’s positioned himself right now to be the guy,” Maurice said. “There’s not a lot of auditions going on. Somebody certainly could steal it, you get on a real hot run, but in order for that (to happen) you (must) get the opportunity. For me, it’s Bob’s time now to get that opportunity.”


Sasha Barkov skated on his own Wednesday morning before the Panthers took the ice for practice at FLA Live Arena.

It was his first time seen on the ice after leaving Monday’s game midway through the second period due to an apparent injury suffered after blocking a shot.

The shot appeared to hit Barkov in his right hand.

Maurice said Barkov will likely skate again on Thursday prior to the team’s official morning skate, and that his status for the game against San Jose would be determined afterwards.

The impression given by Maurice, whether it be postgame Monday or after either of Tuesday or Wednesday’s practices, have been that Barkov’s injury isn’t anything serious.


Anthony Duclair continues to be on the cusp of making his season debut for the Panthers, but he is probably still a few days away.

Duclair has been diligently working his way back from having Achilles surgery last July. His walking boot came off before training camp opened in September and he’s been skating with his teammates since mid-December.

The next step in the process will be for Duclair to shed the gold, non-contact jersey he’s been wearing for a blue one. That could happen any day now.

Once Duclair can fully participate in practice, he will be considered game ready.

“When he gets to blue, he’s going to want to get a couple practices in,” Maurice said, referencing the transition from gold practice jersey to blue. “At this point, it’s really kind of on him, how he feels. He has to assess where that is.”

Maurice said in addition to the on-ice work Duclair has been putting in, he’s been working hard behind the scenes on his conditioning in order to hit the ground running as best as possible.

Remember, for Duclair, he’s basically entering Training Camp mode, and he’ll be facing a league that’s been going hardcore at full speed for over four months.

Imagine jumping into one of those lazy rivers and trying to stand in place.

The only one who can truly know when Duclair is ready to dive Achilles-first into the NHL is The Duke of Goalscorington himself.

“We don’t feel that he’s that far off, but because of the nature of the injury, it’s really a player feel thing,” Maurice said. “There’s not a tremendous amount of, especially in hockey, (knowing) what’s the right time on an Achilles, right? He’s going to be the one that drives that.”

About the Author:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.