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Saturday in Pittsburgh, Part I

IglooPITTSBURGH -- Well Hannah Montana may have left town, but there's still a lot of energy here in Pittsburgh despite the chilly temperatures and dark, rainy skies.

The good news is it's supposed to warm up to 40 degrees today. The better news is that I have a press box seat at Heinz Field for tonight's playoff tilt between the Steelers and Jaguars.

Lot of people have been asking me about the Jags, assuming since I am a Florida-based sports writer, I should know a little bit about Jacksonville's pro football team. Jacksonville's in Florida? Says who?

-- You know you're in Pittsburgh when the media meal includes stuffed peppers and meatloaf. Yep, hitting the concession stand today.

-- Word on the street is we're going to speak to Gary Roberts today. Will send him your best...

Penguin -- Doobee, doobee do....Beware the Penguins...

-- Don't tell Michael Yormark, but the Igloo has ads plastered to the roof. Don't need to give him any more ideas. Just kidding Mike...

-- Game 42 today against the Penguins. It's the second half of the year. Here's some stuff I wrote that made the print edition of The Miami Herald, but didn't make it online. Here's the main story here. Check it out, if you would be so kind....seriously, what's the deal with hannah montana?

Here's my notebook from today...more fun stuff for ya

And here's my first half analysis on what went right, what went wrong and what's needed in the second half. Thanks for visiting...

WHAT WENT RIGHT

(*) Trading for goalie Tomas Vokoun during the summer has paid off handsomely. The franchise mistakenly traded Roberto Luongo, but bring a good one back a year later. Vokoun has been Florida’s MVP so far.

(*) Captain Olli Jokinen is in on that MVP talk, however, the team’s top line center it’s most counted on offensive weapon. Usually the Panthers go as Jokinen goes. Jokinen has registered at least a point in 14 of Florida’s past 16 games.

(*) The Florida power play was lights out early on, ranked at the top of the league for a time. But injuries and poor puck movement have pulled those numbers back to reality.

(*) The Panthers won just 12 road games in each of the past two seasons. Road wins this season: 10.

WHAT WENT WRONG

(*) Discovering defenseman Cory Murphy in Europe and bringing him to Florida to run the power play should have been something praised. But Murphy’s been out of the lineup for close to two months with a “shoulder bruise.’’ His presence, and skill at distributing the puck, has been missed.

(*) Just when the Panthers learn how to win on the road with regularity, they forget how to win at home. Maybe they need to stay in a local hotel before games at BankAtlantic Center. Oh yeah, that’s been tried before.

(*) Word of disenchantment among players reached a head in November, but winning and increased communication from coach/GM Jacques Martin seems to have smoothed things over. For now. There are a growing number of players who disappear in games, and that has drawn the ire of Martin. He is frustrated many a night.

(*) Injuries have hurt the Panthers, with Mike Van Ryn (wrist), Noah Welch (shoulder), Murphy and Garth Murray (shoulder) missing a big chunk of the season.

WHAT THEY NEED

(*) More consistent scoring from the defensemen, and an increased scoring load from Jay Bouwmeester.

(*) A killer instinct is something that has been missing for a long time. The Panthers rarely put teams away when they get the opportunity, and teams do not fear Florida late in games – regardless of the situation.

(*) Florida needs to get more scoring from different places. Richard Zednik, Jozef Stumpel, Rostislav Olesz and Nathan Horton, in particular. Horton, it should be noted, has been on a tear lately.

(*) A more dedicated effort early in games. It seems like the Panthers leave their game in the locker room at the beginning of games, only hopping to life when down a couple.

If you have any thoughts on would like to give me your ideas on what went wrong or right and what's needed, leave comments below.

-- Nice start by the Cats today, no?

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