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Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo smiles as he speaks to members of the media, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo smiles as he speaks to members of the media, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Roberto Luongo ready to go for Panthers after off-season hip surgery Add to ...

Roberto Luongo showed up for Florida Panthers training camp on Thursday sporting a thick beard, a stark contrast from the goaltender’s usual look.

“Too lazy to shave,” Luongo quipped.

A more likely reason is that he was too busy rehabbing.

The Panthers have already gotten their first win of the season. Luongo, who was expected to need up to six months to recover from a May surgery to repair a tear in one of his hips, is ahead of the original schedule and cleared to be on the ice when the reigning Atlantic Division champions hold their first practice of camp on Friday.

“Good to go,” Luongo said. “A lot of hard work over the summer, but I’m really happy with the way things progressed. Going into it I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go, but I’m excited to be here, first day of training camp and with a clean bill of health.”

Luongo was told that he would need to use crutches for a month after the procedure, unable to put weight on the hip or even drive.

That lasted about two weeks.

“I’m ahead of my schedule,” Luongo said.

That beard of his has more than a few flecks of grey in it, which explains the urgency Luongo has at this point in his career. At 37, his window for winning a Stanley Cup obviously isn’t as wide-open as it once was. So he rehabbed for 3-4 hours a day, wearing down the floor of his pool by doing so much running in there during his rehab. There wasn’t even time for a vacation, other than a week to go see family.

“Wasn’t much rest this summer,” said Luongo, who has been doing some on-ice work for about six weeks.

Luongo is going into his 17th NHL season, yet still coming off a year that was one of his best.

He saved 92.2 per cent of the shots he faced, the third-highest clip of his long career. Luongo finished with a 2.35 goals-against-average, posted four shutouts and was one of five goalies who earned votes in the NHL MVP balloting.

Most notably, after his first seven seasons with Florida ended with the Panthers missing the playoffs, Luongo helped get them back to the post-season. The Panthers, who weren’t sure if Luongo would be ready for opening night, added James Reimer over the summer and the sense is that Reimer may get a few more starts than Florida backups have gotten in the past.

“You’ve got to think of the big picture,” Luongo said. “As much as I’d love to play 70 games still, I don’t think that’s wise.”

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