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TV Free Tuesday with the Panthers ... Cory Stillman Out ... Steve Stamkos with Lecavalier and St. Louis ... Versus blacks out the Panthers

114SUNRISE -- Not on this leg of the trip, picking it up tomorrow in lovely, balmy Newark (where the weather folks say it is snowing today).

Joe "Gator Clause" Goodman is on the scene, covering your Florida Panthers as if they were in the hunt for a national championship.

Let's just hope he remembers to reference them as 'Panthers' each time. Sometimes during the summer, I found myself referencing the Marlins as Panthers on rare, yet embarrassing, occasion. When you cover one team so long, your fingers find it hard to type in something different.

That's why we have editors.

Anyway, the Gators -- err, Panthers -- will be without Cory Stillman tonight. He missed practice yesterday with what we were told were flu-like conditions, but it now seems he was suffering from post-concussion conditions. Concussions suck and the Panthers and Stillman are 100 percent in the right to take as many precautions with this as possible.

Brett McLean wasn't at the skate this morning, I'm told, because of a family concern back in SoFla. He'll join the team today and will play tonight.

-- Seen Stamkos? The Panthers will. Steve Stamkos, the first pick in last summer's draft, hasn't been getting as much playing time as some folks in Tampa would like -- and that's just one reason given for the dismissal of one Barry Melrose. Well, Stamkos is now on the top line with Tampa's Big Two, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. "Now,'' he told The St. Pete Times, "the pressure is on me.''

-- Speaking of the Tampa Trib, Erik E reports the Bolts' fourth line tonight consists of former Panthers Chris Gratton and Gary Roberts along with Adam Hall.

-- Also, here is the reason tonight's game isn't on television: Yell at FSN all you want, but this isn't their deal. Blame the crazy NHL/Versus exclusive blackout. Tonight is one of those nights. No other games in the U.S. can be broadcast during Versus' time frame, with the thought that all of a sudden ratings for Minnesota-Pittsburgh will go through the roof.

If the Bolts wanted to move the game to 9:30, which would kill their gate, then it could be on TV. But that would never happen.

I think this exclusive is total BS and is doing more harm than good. People who wanted to watch their team (example TB-FLA) will just turn on the radio and watch something else. An exclusive window only hurts in the long run. And the upside of it (what, a fraction of a ratings point increase? maybe?) isn't worth the bad PR in markets where games people actually want to see aren't being televised.

Let the markets decide what they want to watch, not lawyers from Versus.

The NHL needs to end this exclusive window now. Versus doesn't deserve it, and the local markets feeling the pinch don't either.

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