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Rusty the Snowman

RustysnowThe Panthers held their final practice of 2006 on Sunday morning at Incredible Ice, and after a nice brisk skate, one player decided to have some fun.

Rostislav Olesz climbed into the net to create a new goalie, this one out of ice. Olesz's first snowman-goalie got smashed into bits by Steve Montador; his second one lasted a bit longer and his third -- the one pictured (trust me, that's Olesz in the net and he's making snow-goalie #3) -- was protected by a wall of pucks. Unfortunately, the pucks didn't protect snow-goalie #3 very well either. We think Stephen Weiss got to that one.

Just shows a few wins can really change a team's spirits. The Panthers have won five of seven and two straight, and practice this morning in Coral Springs before boarding their charter for Edmonton, Alberta.

THE NEWS: JM says there is no way Todd Bertuzzi makes the trip west, so there goes one theory floating around Vancouver. Bertuzzi is still out until Feb. at the earliest, and injured players do not go on the road no matter how sentimental the trip might be. JM did say Bert was still rehabbing, but once again questioned the 8-12 week recovery time originally reported after the surgery. JM noted that it's taken players -- like Ed Belfour and Jason Spezza -- longer than that to recover from such surgeries. Bertuzzi has yet to start strength training nor serious skating. The team hopes that step comes soon.

-- Joel Kwiatkowski has been moved back to the blueline as Florida now has 12 healthy forwards (counting rookie David Booth). Kiwi was scratched Friday, but could see time in a rotation with Steve Montador for the sixth spot like earlier in the year.

-- Happy New Year everyone...See you in Canada...