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HELSINKI — If Roberto Luongo’s knee hadn’t gone wonky for the Florida Panthers, Michael Hutchinson would be gearing up for a home game in Springfield, Mass., this week.
Instead, Hutchinson is here with the rest of the Panthers for a two-game series against his former team, the Winnipeg Jets.
The opener is set for today at what’s anticipated to be a raucous, sold-out Hartwall Arena.
He’s one of two netminders with ties to Manitoba the Panthers have relied on since Luongo went down with an injury in the regular-season opener Oct. 8. in Tampa Bay.
James Reimer, who hails from the tiny Interlake hamlet of Morweena, is the other.
Neither Hutchinson nor Reimer is off to a particularly stellar start, although there’s plenty of fault to go around, Florida head coach Bob Boughner said on Wednesday.
“I think their game is sort of like our team game a little bit, inconsistent at times, good at times, trying to find a complete 60 (minutes). I’m not trying to sugarcoat it,” he said.
Hutchinson, 28, from Barrie, Ont., who played parts of five seasons in Winnipeg, has made four appearances (1-1-2) for Florida, posting a 4.18 goals-against average and a .839 save percentage.
Reimer, a nine-year veteran, is 1-3-1 with a 3.41 GAA and .878 SP.
“My only thing that I ask my goalies is to give us a chance to win and make the saves you’re supposed to make, and that’s what we’re trying to get done here. We’re trying to be good and solid in front of them. Both have been really good at times, and some other times a little bit inconsistent and that’s a reflection of our whole team, not just those two guys,” said Boughner, who is in his second season behind the Florida bench.
Hutchinson signed a one-year, one-way deal with the Panthers in the off-season, joining a club with two established veterans already in the fold. So, it was no great shock he was left off the team’s 23-man roster to start the season and was assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
When Luongo went down in a heap, the scramble was on to get him back to the big club.
“I was supposed to move into my apartment (in Springfield) on the Monday. The furniture rental company was coming to drop everything off and the cable guy was coming on Monday. But, on Sunday I got the call-up. My apartment is all set up in Springfield, I just haven’t seen it. Apparently, it’s all there,” Hutchinson said, smiling.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, being up and down already. But signing here in the summer, it was one of those things where you look at it, and most teams now — the Jets included — you need three goalies to get through a season. I felt that here I would have an opportunity to play and get some games.”
Luongo is skating with the team, but remains on the injured-reserve list and won’t play. Boughner refused to say who he’ll start today.
Hutchinson, who won two of three starts with the Jets last season — and was dynamite in his time with the Manitoba Moose — said he’d love to face his former teammates.
“That would be fun. It’s always nice playing your old organization. It kind of gives you a little bit more added incentive,” he said.
“It would be a fun game to be around and it would be interesting when they crash the net, having little conversations here and there.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).