After losing Tomas Vokoun in the offseason in free agency, the Florida Panthers planned to enter this season relying on a duo in net of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. But the plan is already falling apart.
That's because Clemmensen is going to miss the start of the season after undergoing a minor surgery on Monday on his knee. Coach Kevin Dineen was sure to stress that it was a minor procedure and it could sideline Clemmensen for "up to a month" but that the surgery shouldn't derail his season as Dineen is "very encouraged that [Clemmensen] is going to come back 100 percent healthy.
"We think very highly of all the goaltenders in our organization and that's why losing Clemmer is a tough deal for us," Dineen added. "He's worked hard all summer and I know he's disappointed right now, but I know that the month of October will slide right by and he'll be back before we know it."
While it doesn't figure to sideline him for too long, it does put a lot more of the burden on Theodore. And one of the Panthers' young netminding prospects.
The Panthers have arguably the top goaltending prospect in the NHL in Jacob Markstrom. He would seem to be the likely choice to remain with the team in Clemmensen's absence, but the Tyler Plante could earn the right to stay seeing as how the Panthers would like Markstrom to play a lot this season. In the AHL he will be able to do that, in the NHL he won't.
But the two will presumably have the remainder of camp to fight for the backup spot to start the season.
"I look at it as Mr. Opportunity is knocking on the door," Dineen said. "That opportunity will be given to [Tyler Plante] and [Jacob Markstrom] to scratch and claw and try to earn that right to stay here with the Panthers for the next stretch."
"Every day you're here is another special day," Plante said. "You work hard all summer to stay here as long as you possibly can. So, every day you're not getting a plane ticket down [to the AHL] is a day with a smile on your face."
One of them, likely Plante, will get to keep that smile on for a lot longer.
Clemmensen hasn't played too much in the past two seasons backing up Vokoun for the Panthers. What name recognition he does have came from his time as a fill-in for Martin Broudeur in 2008-09 when he was 25-13-1 with a .917 save percentage and 2.39 GAA. Last season for Florida he was 8-11-7 with .911/2.62 numbers.
Photo: Getty Images