Roberto Luongo leaves game with injury; Panthers can’t afford to be without him for long

The Panthers’ decent start to the season can be in part attributed to the play of goalie Roberto Luongo – and if the injury Luongo suffered Wednesday against Carolina affects him for the long-term, Florida could be in big trouble.

The Florida Panthers are off to a decent start this season in large part thanks to the play of goalie Roberto Luongo. So you can’t fault their fans for getting worried when Luongo left Florida’s game Wednesday against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes with an upper body injury. Without Luongo the rest of the way, the Panthers’ playoff chances are toast.

Luongo makes a brilliant save on the play that apparently injures him, stopping Hurricanes center Victor Rask midway through the second period and with the Panthers leading 1-0:

Florida held on to beat the Canes 1-0, and after the game Panthers coach Gerard Gallant gave Panthers fans the reassuring news Luongo wouldn’t be out for long. But the scare underscores that any significant injury to the 35-year-old Luongo would be devastating for their playoff hopes. A notoriously slow starter out of the gate, Luongo has been the team’s backbone this season, posting a .926 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average in 16 games heading into Wednesday’s action. Veteran Al Montoya is able to hold the fort in case of any short-term injury, but in this crucial season for the organization at the box office, they may need to use a little more salary cap space if Luongo goes down for a long stretch of time.

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