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Working Vacation

Marty_1_1 When Jacques is away, the Cats will play.

OK, not so much.

The Panthers were a loose bunch at practice on Sunday, signing plenty of autographs and sending a couple hundred bucks worth of sticks home with the little kids who were hanging out around the rink.

The team spent the entire practice working on special teams. The Panthers have played very well -- at times -- on both the PP and PK this year, but there is definitely room for improvement. They hope the special practice session is helpful. Teams don't get too much time off during the season to run such specialized practices.

So, where is JM? Some say he is hanging out at Walley World, but I say no. The Whippersnapper will have to wait. JM has work to do. With the schedule slowing, JM the coach gets to cram a bunch of GM stuff under his chapeau (that means cap in Canadian). Wally_1

Rumor has it JM spent last night scouting the Caps/Flyers game. Hmmm. While they probably won't make any deals with the Caps, the Flyers may be willing to deal. OK, they are READY to make a deal. Speculation is the Phils are trying to spin off Simon Gagne. Would Gags look great in a Florida sweater? Yeah. But are the budget-conscious Panthers ready to take on a five-year deal at $5.25 mil per? That's a lot of ads to sell, and looking around the arena, there ain't much left to peddle off. Up next: "The final 15 minutes of the first period are brought to you by Dominoes Pizza because we can get you a pie in 15 minutes or less!''

If Florida really gets things going, look for the Panthers to make some minor moves. I wouldn't bet on anything major happening just yet.

-- Some are wondering whether the Panthers got ripped off in the Todd Bertuzzi deal. Well, since the power forward was suffering some kind of back disorder last year w/ Vancouver, it's easy to say they may have.

My thought is when the Panthers made up their mind to deal Luongo -- and they made their mind up on that the week before the draft --- they should have shopped him a little more aggressively. But Keenan wanted/craved Bertuzzi. And any deal for Luongo had to have him in it. While we can't judge this trade just yet because Bert is hurt (that rhymes BTW), this deal still looks like a nice coup for the Canucks. Especially since there is a chance (a big one) that Bertuzzi isn't here next season. Luongo, on the other hand, signed for four more years in Vancouver. Florida could have had that deal too.

And now, the News:

-- Joe Nieuwendyk was working hard and late. He'll be back in the lineup Wednesday vs. the Rangers.

-- Gary Roberts seems bound and determined to work his way to the front of the net and get out of his offensive slump. Roberts is doing everything else he's always done, but the scoring hasn't come of late. He still has six points off two goals.

-- Joel Kwiatkowski's work of late hasn't been missed by the coaching staff. He drew raves from Guy Charron on Sunday. Read more Monday right here: CLICK HERE EH...

-- Stephen Weiss was on the scoreboard "Hot Seat" on Thursday. When asked which college team he liked, he shrugged and picked Miami over Florida and FSU. That drew cheers from an obvious pro-Cane crowd. Then Weiss drew laughs when the video kept rolling: "Seriously,'' he said, "what's the difference?'' Weiss said he didn't know the video crew was going to show that part of it. Funny stuff anyways.

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