Clemmensen’s Surgery Brings Opportunity for Rookies

After tonight’s game, the Florida Panthers may know who their backup goalie for the start of the 2011-12 season will be. Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Plante will split time for the squad in their final home exhibition tuneup against the Dallas Stars tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. This news comes on the heels of the Panthers announcement that projected backup Scott Clemmensen underwent what is being called a minor knee surgery.

Clemmensen, who was having a strong training camp with a chance to beat out José Théodore for the starting job, had the surgery on his left knee Monday after going for an MRI Sunday. He had similar surgery on his other knee over the summer and is expected to miss four to six weeks with the injury. Coach Kevin Dineen also had a similar surgery just three weeks ago and is already back on the ice and bench in his coaching role.

Although he allowed five goals in his preseason debut, Théodore is now on the fast track to start for the Panthers on Opening Night, October 7, against the New York Islanders.

Markstrom has appeared in just one game at the NHL level, last season. Plante has yet to see NHL game experience, but it has been rumored that he would get the nod over the 21-year-old Swedish prospect who the Panthers see as their future in net. Markstrom also has a history of knee problems, having had season ending surgery in March. Should he start the season with Florida’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio, TX; he would have the opportunity to start every day for the club.

Dineen said yesterday that both goalies will be given a fair assessment going into the regular season. “Mr. Opportunity’s knocking on the door,” he told reporters after practice yesterday. “That opportunity will be given to [Plante] and Markstrom … to scratch and claw and earn that right to stay with the Panthers for the next stretch.”

Théodore will likely start for the Panthers on Thursday in their final preseason game at the Dallas Stars. Both of the backup goalies should travel with the team, with the odd man out most likely making the 300-mile journey to San Antonio following the game. The Rampage open their exhibition schedule on Friday night at the Texas Stars in Austin.

CAT BYTES:
The Panthers sent defenseman Cody Robak to San Antonio yesterday. They also have waived forwards Steven Reinprecht and Michal Repik. Should they clear, both players will also likely head to San Antonio. Reinprect was loaned to a team in Germany last season after a poor performance with the Panthers at the start.

– With the evaluation period wrapping up, and the training camp roster now at 28, the Panthers are expected to make more cuts following tonight’s game. Florida expects to carry 22 players on opening night. Since the AHL affiliate is so close to the team’s final exhibition game, however, they could wait until Thursday night to make their final cuts.

Credit George Richards of the Miami Herald for reporting.

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