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37 posts from October 2006

October 11, 2006

Notebook leftovers. Enjoy!

-- This is a note I couldn't fit into my normal notebook. So this is actual bonus coverage!  Sorry no photos: still on dialup at the arena for the time being.

Coach Jacques Martin says Ed Belfour is going to get playing time during Florida’s upcoming patch of three games in four nights. Martin said, among other things, that he has been impressed with Alex Auld’s play and that Belfour isn’t 100 percent after offseason back surgery. Belfour recognizes the job Auld is doing, Martin added, and is doing what’s best for the team by not forcing things right now.

"I still believe we have two top netminders,’’ Martin said. “Alex is on top of his game right now; Eddie had [back] surgery in the summertime, and has been working very hard at his rehab but doesn’t feel he’s at the level he’s capable of.’’

Said Olli Jokinen: "We’ve been confident about our goalies since day one, but questions have been asked. I think Alex showed everyone that he’s the guy right now. He’s doing a great job.''

Other quotes from Martin from Wednesday's morning skate:

“We’re giving [Befour] him some more time. With the number of games we’re playing, he’ll see some action. He doesn’t have any issues. We’ve had good communication but his focus is on the team. Whomever will do the best job for the team, he supports.’’

“[Auld] has impressed me. The scouting report on Alex was excellent. I like what he brings to the rink. I think we have a very strong, young netminder.''

Carolina Lines

Starting Lineup for Panthers (vs. Carolina):

Kolnik-Weiss-Gelinas; Salei-Van Ryn; Auld

Roberts-Olli-Horton; Bo-Allen

Bertuzzi-Stumpel-Olesz; Mezei-Montador


Carolina Game Cap


• When: 7:30, BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise.

• TV/radio: FSNF; WQAM (560).

• Series -- all-time: Tied 22-22-11. Last season: Hurricanes won
six of eight.

• Game day report -- Carolina: The defending champs are off to
a rough start, winless in their first three games. The Hurricanes
kicked off a brutal seven-game road trip Saturday in Washington,
losing 5-2 to the Capitals. Carolina has had a few days off to get
over that, however. . . . Justin Williams and former Panther Ray
Whitney and Justin Williams lead the team in scoring, both with two assists. No one
on the team has scored more than one goal. . . . Carolina clinched
the Southeast Division title last season after beating the Panthers
3-2 in their final matchup of the season on March 31.

Florida: The Panthers have earned three points in their first three games this
season, coming into Tuesday's games sixth in the Eastern Confer-
ence. . . . The Panthers have won their past two games against
Carolina on home ice, sweeping the Hurricanes in a rare home-and-home ,
two-day doubleheader on March 10 and 11. . . . Coach Jacques Martin
says Alex Auld -- who stopped 47 of 48 shots faced Monday in
Toronto -- starts tonight. . . . The Panthers arrived in South Florida
from Toronto early Tuesday morning and canceled their sched-
uled practice. . . . LW Rostislav Olesz (leg) is questionable for
tonight; C Joe Nieuwendyk (leg) is doubtful.


Cats in Canada II

Folks have asked whether I made it out to see the Argos on Monday. Unfortunately I couldn't make it. Because the Panthers finished practice late -- and we had a late lunch -- the afternoon just wasn't long enough.

Davistroycp060707_1 But hey, the game was on TV. Lots of South Florida angles, too. Not only did Ricky start in the Toronto backfield, but former Miami first-round bust John Avery did as well. On the other side of the field, former Southridge star Troy Davis started at RB for the Eskimos. Good to see all three of them doing well north of the border.

October 10, 2006

Lauderdale, Lauderdale!

LauderdaleGood to be back home, good to sweat again. Geez it's hot here! It was pretty nice this weekend in Atlanta, and downright awesome in Toronto (it was in the 50s this morning). Good to see our humidity didn't go away while I was gone.

Anyway, got to chalk this one up as a poor roadtrip for the Cats. Saturday night was awful in Atlanta, and the team didn't look that mich better last night in Toronto. If Alex Auld wasn't around (sound familiar -- just replace Auld w/ Roberto Luongo) last night would have been a blowout. Like an Atlanta-type blowout.

So, yes it's early. But Jacques Martin has to be concerned. This team didn't come to play, not really, in their first two road games of the season. While the effort was better Monday, the play really wasn't. Florida failed to get the puck out of its own zone consistantly enough to give Auld any sort of a break. When the Panthers did get the puck cleared, it was like they didn't know what to do with it.

Monday was an escape from Toronto, an escape with one point in the standings thanks to some heads-up play by Stephen Weiss in front of the net.

Expect the Panthers to play better on Wednesday. They usually do at home.

October 08, 2006

Cats in Canada

The Panthers couldn't escape Atlanta quick enough, flying all the way to Toronto after Saturday's 6-0 stinkeroo against the Thrashers. OK, they were going to Toronto anyway. Still, Saturday's night game was not something Florida wants to remember.

So, after two games, what do the Panthers have. Are they as good as they looked Friday against Boston? Sometimes they will be. Are they as bad as they looked Saturday? Yes, sometimes they will be. That's just the nature of the beast. But Florida can go a long way toward licking its wounds Monday against the Maple Leafs.

Monday is Thanksgiving in Toronto, so there will be a festive atmosphere at Air Canada Center for the game. Even if Ed Belfour isn't in goal, the Toronto fans will get to see Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts. So good for them.

Rickywilliams As for me, I think I'm off to the SkyDome Monday afternoon to catch a little Thanksgiving football.  Sure, the Dolphins may play in Detroit on American Thanksgiving, but the Toronto Argos play host to Edmonton on Canadian Thanksgiving.

Run Ricky. Run.

October 07, 2006

Panthers at Atlanta

PanthergladesThe Panthers are back on the ice after last night's rousing season opener, visiting Atlanta. Love Atlanta. Got to watch the Canes, the Gators and the Yankees (hah!) today. Good stuff.

Ed Belfour starts in net for the Panthers, his first game in a Florida sweater. Also, Joel Kwiatkowski gets the 6th d-man job; Jackman and Montador sit.

October 06, 2006

Game Day Post III

Openingice_1 Just got back from the rink -- sorry about the quality of the shot but it's from my Treo -- and wanted to throw some updates before the puck officially drops.

Jacques says Mike Van Ryn will likely play tonight, and will remain paired with Ruslan Salei. Jacques added that Steve Montador will likely be paired with Branislav Mezei on the third pairing.

The Panthers also fixed up the team's dressing room, adding a new plasma TV (where we can watch Canadian SportsCentre all morning long) and adding large framed action photos of each player above their stall. Last year, they only had lame mug shots of each player. The new look is pretty good. "Real snazzy huh,'' Stephen Weiss quipped.

Homelandsecurity_2 And, I must add, the excitment over the debut of the new ice dancers has everyone on edge. Seriously. No one can wait to see what happens with this deal tonight. They have built a stage about 20 rows up from behind a goal for the dancers to perform. If this were Homeland Security, I would say the excitment level is Orange -- high excitment but not all that severe.

Game Day Post II

If you haven't checked it out yet, swing on over to the Panthers section of this lovely website to get the latest news and stuff.

Since these don't run online, I plan to offer up our daily advance box right here "On Frozen Pond.'' Please, contain your excitement.


• When: 7:30.

• Where: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise.

• TV/radio: FSN Florida; WQAM 560-AM.

• Tickets: About 500 remain. Visit ticketmaster.com or
the arena box office to avoid service charges.

• Noteworthy: The first 10,000 receive free T-shirts, and
the team asks that fans be in their seats by 7:25 for a spe-
cial Opening Night on-ice presentation. . . . Ticket prices
now including parking fees, so there is no money collected
for parking on site.

• Series -- all-time: Panthers lead 21-18-6-1; Last season:
Tied 2-2.

• Scouting report -- Boston: The Bruins are an improved
team after last season's poor showing (last place in North-
east Division, 13th overall in Eastern Conference) -- with
All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara bringing a new attitude
and Dave Lewis taking over behind the bench. . . . Goalie
Andrew Raycroft was shipped to Toronto on draft night,
with Hannu Toivonen and Tim Thomas battling for the job.
. . . Boston was 13-22-6 on the road last season. . . . The
Bruins follow tonight's game by playing in Tampa on Sat-
urday. . . . Boston's 14.8 percent success rate on the power
play last season was ranked 25th in the league -- one spot
lower than the Panthers. Florida: Alex Auld makes his Flor-
ida debut tonight, starting in goal. . . . The Panthers' home
record of 25-11-5 last season ranked sixth-best in the con-
ference. Florida's 12-23-6 mark away from home was 14th
in the 15-team conference. . . . D Mike Van Ryn (left wrist) is
probable for tonight; F Ville Peltonnen (shoulder) is out.


It's Game Day

Truman_pitch400_1 OK, I know a lot of y'all are excited about Opening Night for the Panthers. I'm just happy training camp is over and we can get down to business to be honest.

But the first game of the season is always special, whether its Opening Day at Joe Robbie Stadium or Jacobs Field; the first game of the season in a sweltering Orange Bowl or the first face off of the year at BankAtlantic Center for the Cats. Heck even the first day of spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium is special to me. I'm goofy like that.

My sister Rachel always has a soft spot in her heart for Opening Night, and the two of us have rarely missed one going back to the first one in 1993 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Miami Arena. Good times then, good times now. I'll be working tonight, of course, but that's only to serve you the loyal reader. Rachel will be enjoying her Opening Night from the stands, yelling and cheering and doing it up right. Good for her.

Clintoncleveland So, what is your fondest memory of an Opening Night or Opening Day? It doesn't even have to be hockey. I'll never forget the first Panther game, but neither will I forget the first Marlins game (also in 1993) or the first game at Jacobs Field in 1994 (Billy boy pictured at left tossed the first pitch).

Give me your best Opening Night/Day memory below. The winner -- best story wins! -- gets an official, authentic Florida Panthers media guide complete with Seminole Casino logo on the front!

Have fun with this one kids. Rachel, you're not allowed to play. I'll get you a media guide if you want one anyway.

October 05, 2006

News from Thursday's practice

Big doings in Pantherland on Thursday -- OK, there were a few things going on.

Auld_2 After Thursday's practice, the final of training camp, Jacques Martin announced Alex Auld would start in goal for Friday's season opener against Boston. It's not sure who will start in net Saturday in Atlanta, although folks around the team tell me its a mortal lock that Ed Belfour starts Monday in Toronto. Martin did say the decision could have gone either way, but Auld's shutout against Atlanta being a decisive factor on getting the opening night start. He wouldn't comment on who starts Saturday.

Belfour_1 Also, Martin announced the four alternate captains, three of which retain their A from last year: Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Chris Gratton and newbie Martin Gelinas. I jokingly asked if Olli Jokinen retained his captainship and that gave a nice laugh to Martin. "I could have really pulled a fast one on you there,'' he said.

Speaking of Nieuwendyk, the center returned to the ice Friday after taking Wednesday off. On Tuesday, Nieuwendyk took a hard spill on the ice and got up gingerly and cringing from what is probably back pain. But after getting treatment, he looks fine. He's a tough fella.

Will have a few more things -- and extended stuff on Auld's opening start -- in Friday's editions of the Herald. Good stuff too. Don't miss it.

Hockey is officially back

Sure was good to watch some good ol' pro hockey on Wednesday night, no? I thought OLN/Vs. did a pretty good job on opening night, but I wish my cable provider offered the hockey package. Alas, I must go searching to find the games somewhere else.250pxhniccurrentlogo

So, to those of you living in South Florida, where do you go to watch out-of-town games? Go ahead and list the sports bars you frequent where you know they have the hockey package off satellite. I know about Jester's in Fort Lauderdale, so throw out some more.

I know I would love to watch tonight's Vancouver-Detroit tilt for various -- and obvious -- reasons. Lot of good games on tonight and I need a place to watch them!

October 04, 2006

My picks for 2006-07

Ollicover If you haven't picked up The Miami Herald's preview section today, I wholeheartedly suggest you do! There is a lot of cool stuff in the preview, lot of pics and info hockey fans need heading into the season. 

Included in that is my predictions for the coming season. Since they aren't online, figured I'd post here:

Eastern Conference -- Southeast: Thrashers; Northeast: Senators; Atlantic: Rangers. Playoff teams: Canadiens, Sabres, Hurricanes, Devils, Panthers.

Western Conference -- Central: Predators; Pacific: Ducks; Northwest: Flames. Playoff teams: Red Wings,  Sharks, Stars, Oilers, Blue Jackets.

Eastern Conference Finals: Buffalo d. Atlanta.

Western Conference Finals: Calgary d. Anaheim.

Stanley Cup Finals: Calgary d. Buffalo.


Mike Van Ryn Ok

Wrst1 Mike Van Ryn had the cast taken off his left wrist on Tuesday afternoon and rejoined his teammates in practice on Wednesday. Seemed to be in good spirits, looking forward to opening night.

Good work on the predicitions folks; keep 'em coming (look a few posts below). If you want to get in -- deadline is 7:35 on Friday -- you have to post on the predictions thread. Happy hunting.

October 03, 2006


CliffyI'm new to this online blog thing, but I like answering people's questions, and there have been a few come my way since this thing started last week (me and the blog celebrated our one week anniversary Sunday night with a quiet dinner at home).

That said, here we go:

-- Hi george im a major hockey fan and I have been reading up on what other sports writers are saying about the upcoming panther season. They say were a bad team gone worse, now I want to ask you if you think there is sort of a northern bias? I mean it seems like they just look at big names on a hockey team and become quick to make decisions. Judging on the last two preseason games where we played as a full team, do you think we will be able to compete with teams such as Carolina, Ottawa, or Buffalo? -- Eric

OK, Eric, I hear you. The loss of Roberto has hockey pundits throughout North America counting Florida out. Why? Because Roberto meant so much to this team's bottom line. But, if Alex Auld and Ed Belfour handle the load in net the way the team thinks they will, Florida will be a better team. A playoff team. There are a lot of questions here and the younger players need to step up a little more.

-- We are starting to pack as we prepare to head South and are wondering if the [$5 crossing the street fee] have been put in place at the Bank Atlantic Centre yet? -- Jim

The Panthers abandoned that plan this summer, instead opting to raise ticket prices to reflect parking charges. No one will be taking money at the arena for parking because, in essence, it's been paid for. So if you got free tickets, you get free parking too. If you buy a bunch of tickets, however, you're paying for a lot of parking.

That's it for this week's mailbag. If you have any questions, post them here or drop me a line at grichards@miamiherald.com

Good day.

Prediction Time!

Nostradamus_1 My predictions come out on Wednesday, Oct. 4, in The Miami Herald's 2006-07 Hockey Preview section (check it out folks, it's chock full of information).

That said, since I'm putting my neck out on the line, I'm betting you all would too. Wanna be a modern day Nostradamus? OK, then how about just predicting some hockey? Knew you would.

We're going to run this contest through the begining of the Panthers opening face-off. Go ahead and post your divisional champs and five other playoff teams from each division; then, predict the Eastern and Western Conference champs; THEN, give me your Stanley Cup champs for 2007.  According to PinnacleSports.com, Buffalo and Ottawa are the early favorites to hoist the Cup this spring.

So what do the winners get? I don't know yet, but trust me, it'll be cool. Maybe something nice from the Stanley Cup Finals, maybe a jersey. Maybe a pizza party. Who knows. But it's free, and you can't beat that.


Here's the format:

Eastern Conference -- Southeast: XXXXX; Northeast: XXXX; Atlantic: XXXX. Playoff teams: XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX.

Western Conference -- Pacific: XXXX; Northwest: XXXX; Central: XXX. Playoff teams: XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX, XXXX.

Stanley Cup Finals: XXXX vs. XXXXX.

Stanley Cup champs: XXXXXXX.

October 01, 2006

Panthers on Vacation

Like Clark Griswold, Jacques Martin has given his kids a couple days off to see the scenery and take it easy for a few days. The team kicks off its season this week, with Boston coming to town on Friday for Florida's Opening Night festivities. Nlvacation074