Coming to you live from that very large bank building in downtown Sawgrass Mills, Fla., where tonight your Florida Panthers take on the Toronto Marlies (guest staring Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe and some other dudes who wouldn't waive their no-trade clauses).
Had Cliff Fletcher gotten his way -- and the 'Frozen Five' as one Toronto scribe has nicknamed them waived their no-trades -- there would be few recognizable names in this game tonight. But, the Leafs didn't do much, just shipping some of their spare parts south (or in this case, west from Fort Lauderdale Beach) to the Panthers.
THE NEWS: Wade Belak and Chad Kilger have cleared immigration and have their work visa. Belak plays tonight against his former team, Kilger will have to wait. According to Panthers spokesman Justin Copertino, Kilger has been given a leave of absence from the team, he's probably off to Canada to deal with personal issues.
Copertino says JM will not address the issue tonight but will talk more about it tomorrow. Kilger missed six games from Jan. 31-Feb. 13 while with the Leafs because of what he called personal issues, with lots of rumors swirling (as they always do) about the Toronto media about what might be wrong.
Me, I don't care. Never met the guy, but hope he gets his stuff straight.
The thought here is Kilger is headed back to Canada. Being traded to the Panthers in the middle of a road trip can be tough, especially if you got some things going on back home.
Anyway, Belak skated and entertained the Toronto media this morning, but Kilger did not (skate nor entertain).
New d-man Karlis Skrastins, acquired from Colorado for Ruslan Salei, is also here and in the lineup.
-- Thanks to all those who emailed me about one quote in my trade story this morning. Yes, I know it's "peace of mind" not "piece.'' But I will give you a piece of my mind if you all don't start giving me some peace!
-- The number game: Skrastins (nickname: Tins) is wearing No. 3, also worn quite famously in Panther history by Paul Laus. If Skrastins does don Numero Tres, he will be only the second Panther to wear it. That's trivia for ya!
Kilger is scheduled to wear No. 19. Other Panthers to wear that number include Radek Dvorak (back in the day), Bernie Kosar (with the Browns, Dolphs and Cowboys), Serge Payer, Stephen Weiss, Byron Ritchie and Andrei Lomakin.
-- Belak out on the ice for pregame skate, sans helmet. Tins is out here too....
-- Cliff Fletcher is here. Saw him chatting with Joe Nieuwendyk up in the press box. Figure the conversation went something like this: "Thanks for telling Jacques about our guys, Joe. If it wasn't for you guys, we might not have traded anyone. Anyone, Joe, anyone!''
-- Nice job by the in-house guys for their skit on a Leafs fan watching the previous Florida-Toronto game. You know, the one that ended with Florida holding on for an 8-0 win...
-- Hearing rumors that Dancing Banana has been recalled to Tampa Bay for spring training. Don't know if I'm believing it. Knowing I don't want to believe it...