Folks around here are getting geared up for the NHL All-Star Game here at the end of the month. The Westin has already begun putting up its large ASG mural, and the local t-shirt shoppes are stuffed with cool ASG gear for kids of all ages.
While I'll be here with the other members of the South Florida 3, one of our old buddies will not be joining us. No, Roberto Luongo is going to skip the ASG, but he's got a good reason. Wife Gina is pregnant, and has been back in Broward County most of this season.
So, Louie is going to spend a week at home with Gina. The team is letting him miss the game back (Jan. 29) against Dallas because it doesn't make sense for Louie to fly back to Vancouver only to come back to Florida. He'll join his teammates in Tampa for their game against the Bolts on Jan. 31. Then, back to Broward for the game against the Panthers on Feb. 1.
So, best of wishes to Gina and the rest of the family and I'm sure we'll be seeing Louie at Incredible Ice during his stay.
-- One guy racing to the 'ATL' today is newest Panther Magnus Johansson. If you just said "Magnus Joh-Who-sson?" you ain't alone. Magnus 'P.I.' Johansson has played in 18 games this season for the Chicago Blackhawks, also a team in the NHL.
Johansson is a 34-year-old rookie, spending his entire career in Europe. Johansson looks to be the team's new power play quarterback, and may play tonight against the Falcons. He's expected to touch down at Atlanta's Jackson Hartfield Herschel Walker Ted Turner Scarlett O'Hare Jimmy Carter Sonny Purdue Chicken Man International Airport sometime soon.
If Magnum's story sounds familiar, it should. The Panthers signed Cory Murphy to be their power play quarterback late last season. Murph 'The Surf,' made his NHL debut this season as well, only he's 29. He had been playing in Europe his whole career, too. And Murph has been out with a shoulder injury for quite some time now.
And no, I don't know what's going on with that.
-- Nothing else going on around the Panthers. Today was an optional skate and a number of the veterans did other things -- like talk to us. It was pretty light, pretty relaxed. We'll see if that translates into a good start and perhaps an effort worthy of putting this losing stretch to bed.
-- Also, reserves for the Eastern Conference for the ASG will be announced tomorrow. Olli says he might skip if picked, but I don't believe that. If he's picked, I think he goes. Olli doesn't get a lot of recognition nationally, and I think this would be a real honor for him. Tomas Vokoun and Jay Bouwmeester will also get a look for the team. I would be a little surprised if no Florida player was selected, but it would not shock me by any stretch of the imagination.
And for those emailing me wondering why the Panthers didn't have ballot boxes set up, the ASG voting was done completely electronically this year. But the organization did a terrible job selling their players for the ASG. Just terrible. I remember when the ballot first came out, a team employee was asking me for ideas on how to sell the vote. I don't recall seeing anything come of that. You can't blame your fans for a lack of voting when you don't really tell them about it.