Panthers' Spencer Knight returns to ice for first time since entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program

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Knight's last appearance with the Panthers was on February 18

Florida Panthers goalie Spencer Knight went to a Blink-182 concert, made some sushi with teammates and got to see some familiar faces and meet new people as well.

Sounds like vacation — but they were also big steps toward getting him back to the NHL.

Knight has been on the ice this week at a development camp with the Panthers, the first time he's been around the team since entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in February. He was not with the Panthers for the remainder of the season, including their run to the Stanley Cup Final. The development camp has both on- and off-ice events, including the concert this week at the team's home arena and other team-building events.

Spencer Knight goaltends

Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers tends goal against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on January 8, 2023 in Dallas, Texas.  (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

"I honestly approach it like it's just a great opportunity to play hockey," Knight said. "I think any opportunity to play hockey is a great opportunity. But I think honestly in terms of my game, I think it is, too. You've got to come in and just work hard."

Knight has not addressed his reasons for entering the program. The Panthers revealed last month that they had been in contact with Knight and they believe he'll be with the team when training camp starts in the fall — though that doesn't necessarily guarantee he'll immediately be back in the NHL.

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Spencer Knight plays puck

Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers in action against the Florida Panthers at the Enterprise Center on February 14, 2023 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)

"He’s doing well and we expect him back in the fold in the fall," general manager Bill Zito said.

Knight isn't the oldest player in the development camp — it's mostly for players rising from juniors and the college level — but he's the only one on the ice for Florida this week with NHL experience. He started in 19 games and appeared in 21 this past season, going 9-8-3 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.

Spencer Knight warms up

Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers warms up in net prior to the start of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at the FLA Live Arena on February 20, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

He last appeared for Florida on Feb. 18, and said he was enjoying being back on the ice.

"There's things I’m working on here, whether it’s your positioning or your skating, (that) I always say you can’t really replicate in environments where there’s not a structure or intensity," Knight said. "So, this is one step. ... It's fun to just get back in the swing of things."

The NHL and NHLPA started the player assistance program in 1996, giving players access to a confidential phone line and counselors in each city in the league. The jointly funded group assists players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other matters.

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