Florida Panthers not worried about long travel to Edmonton: Paul Maurice

“Look, we got here at eight o’clock instead of six o’clock. No big deal”

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Paul Maurice says the Florida Panthers’ long travel day to Edmonton on Wednesday was close to much ado about nothing, with the players shrugging off delays during a storm, playing more card games than usual, as coaches accepted far too many food offerings on the charter plane.

“We only got to Edmonton two hours after we were supposed to,” the Panthers coach said.

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“Yes, our day got pushed around. Some players’ shoes got a little wet (getting onto the plane in Florida). The coaches put on seven pounds (due to meals on board).

“The guys get on the plane, we sit and wait, they’re playing cards, they’re laughing. Every time one of the trainers walked in (lugging bags around) and was soaking wet, they got an ovation. Look, we got here at eight o’clock instead of six o’clock. No big deal.

“We’re joking around with this (travel), but back in Florida with flooding, people are hurting. That’s a serious thing happening there. But our travel day, it was nothing.”

The Oilers flew home Tuesday after Monday’s 4-1 loss, but the Panthers decided to let their players rest, and then practise Wednesday morning before flying.

“We have a bunch of really smart people who make better decisions than we do, and we have reasons for it,” Maurice said, mentioning medical and sleep experts.

“At no point when a player gets a cold does he come and see me. He talks to other people.”

Players are adaptable. Many played junior hockey where they would ride buses without chefs across the Prairies, playing three games in three nights and arriving at rinks a few hours before games. They survived.

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That said, the trip to Edmonton was the first time in three months that the Panthers have been outside their time zone while the Oilers have played a Central time zone team (Dallas) and now one in the Eastern to get this far, which might be a disadvantage to the Florida players’ internal body clocks.

But maybe too much is made of that.

Florida has played the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers to get here.

“I think there’s a block of teams that have tough travel in our league and certainly Edmonton does,” Maurice said.

“But all the teams we play in our division… it’s a three-plus hour flight for us, and we did that all year long.”

Head coach Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers
Head coach Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers speaks to the media during Media Day prior to the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 07, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Maurice has some history of bouncing around, and all the travel may be hurting a team. But that was when he was coaching in Winnipeg.

“I remember (the Jets) got beat by St. Louis the year they won the Stanley Cup (in 2019), and five of the previous six weeks before the playoffs started, we were on one coast or the other for games, and I thought that affected us over time, how you recover,” Maurice said.

While the Oilers are juggling who’s in and who’s out for Game 3 because of injuries, the Panthers will be going with the same lineup as Game 2.

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Captain Sasha Barkov got hit in the face by Leon Draisaitl’s forearm midway through that game, but he’s fine. Winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a minor medical issue, skated with everybody else Thursday morning.

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