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Sunshine State of the Panthers

Bush_4 The Big Bank in Sunrise is going to be spinning like a dradle this evening as the Panthers welcome their season ticket holders for a "State of the Franchise" meeting.

Michael Yormark will be there representing the business side of things, assistant GM Randy Sexton answering the hockey questions.

I've been told the media is not allowed to attend. That's fine. I've heard it all before anyway. Don't think anything is going to surprise Groundhog_2 me, but if anyone wants to let me know what is said, feel free to email me afterward and we can chat. And those who want to record the session and let me listen to it, well, that would be great too.

Because there's a game tonight, JM won't be speaking to the gathered throng. Today, after practice, I asked him what his comments to fans would be, and why he thinks the franchise is headed in the right direction when, realistically, Florida is a mere two points from being the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and aren't too far from the L.A. Kings.

Here's what Jacques had to say today:

What message would you give the fans knowing that this season has -- up to now -- been a disappointment?

Jacques_2 "The uncontrollable this year has been the number of injuries we've had. When you look at our defense, it's been depleted for an extended period of time. I think we look where we're at compared to other years, we're slightly ahead. We still have a good opportunity to get into the playoffs.

"You have to be honest with the fans. Sure, there are some people who have been disappointments, certain players we were counting on to give us more. But, the important thing is to stay the course. We feel good about some of our kids playing in junior coming up. We're going to have a class of seven coming out that have a good chance of being part of the Panthers -- if not next year, in future years.

"i think a lot of the things we've done, since last season, we had a goaltender need. We rectified that with Tomas. In the offseason we addressed speed by getting guys like Dvorak and Zednik. We just have to continue to build and identify where we need to be better.''

How disappointed have you personally been with this season?

"I'm disappointed for sure, but I think it's still in our grasp. We have 30 games remaining. As I said before, our defensive core, when you look at what we started the season with ... the fact we wee hit there pretty hard. Those guys move the puck and that makes it difficult. But you don't control that. We have to be better in the last 30 games.

OTHER STUFF FROM JM TODAY..

On tonight's game against the Fighting Luongos

"What you have is two teams on the outside, trying to gain some ground. What's important for us is to have some desperation, win the hockey game. This is our last game at home before we go on the road for five, so it's important we go out and play with determination."

Thoughts on playing Mr. Luongo

"I think you face top goalies like Martin Brodeur and such; we have to get pucks at the net. Get rebounds and put a lot of rubber up there.''

Louie2_2 On the reception Roberto should get tonight/his legacy in FLA

"He was an impact player on this franchise, I think he was an individual as a goaltender that was one of the better ones in the league. For sure, he left a lot of memories here.''

Does time heal all wounds?

"You turn the page. those things happen in sports. We're looking forward to improving our hockey club. It should be a great battle tonight.''

What do remember most about your time with Roberto here?

"He's a great athlete. I had him here, had him [with Team Canada] at the World Cup, the Olympics. He's an individual that's a great competitor.''

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