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37 posts from January 2009

January 31, 2009

Saturday at the Lighthouse: Florida Panthers @ New York Islanders ... David Booth 'Illing' ... Tomas Vokoun In

Islandergirl1 UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Good evening from high above the Nassau Coliseum, a place nicknamed 'The World's Most Famous Arena.'

The Panthers are looking for their third straight win, looking to cap off quite a month. Since losing here 4-2 on Dec. 31, the Cats have gone 7-1-3 -- one of their most successful months in team history.

A win tonight gives Florida eight wins this month, second only to January 2000 when the Cats won nine (and then went to the playoffs for the last time).

Here are the Panthers' best months ever as far as wins go:

10: Nov. 1995; March 2006
9: Jan. 2000; March 2007
8: Oct. 1996; Dec. 1995; Dec. 2005; March 2008

As you can see, the Panthers play very well in March, winning a total of 27 games in that month the past three seasons. If that trend continues, well, figure that one out yourself.

Brinkley -- Last time Panthers had seven wins in a single month was December; they failed to get No. 8, losing four straight to close the month. That final loss: here at the Coliseum.

-- David Booth missed the morning skate today with the flu and will not play tonight. Booth is quite Gangsta, so he must really be sick.

-- Tomas Vokoun gets the start in net.

-- General consensus around the Panthers regarding Super Bowl 43: Steelers.

-- Also scratched tonight: Old pal Jon Sim.

-- 'Deal' of the Night: You can purchase an Islanders replica jersey for $99 (regular $125)! But if you want to put a name and number on it, add $75.

-- Meet me at the Lighthouse!

-- The Lines without Booth: Cory Stillman-Stephen Weiss-Michael Frolik; Richard Zednik-Nathan Horton-Brett McLean; CPR; Nick Tarnasky-Kamil Kreps-Anthony Stewart.

January 30, 2009

Nothing New to See Here, Please Remain Calm ... Saturday: Florida Panthers @ New York Islanders

Baconanimalhouse TERMINAL 1, FORT LAUDERDALE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT NEAR HOLLYWOOD BUT QUITE POSSIBLY IN DANIA BEACH, FLA. -- Sitting around the JetBlue counter waiting on my flight to Nueva York for the big hockey game that's going down tomorrow on Long Island.

Pete DeBoer made it clear he's going to stress how important a win over the lowly Islanders is. He will remind them of the last time they were there, when Tomas Vokoun got mad and Nathan Horton scored a late goal in what became a 4-2 loss. That, you may recall, was the last of Florida's four-game losing streak.

Boy, have the Cats turned things around since then.

Since losing to the Palm Isles, Florida has gone 7-1-3, the seven wins second most in a January in franchise history.

-- Don't know if you noticed, but Florida is 3-for-3 in penalty shots this season. Pretty impressive, eh? More impressive is that all three have come within a 19-day span. Some teams don't get a penalty shot in a season. Florida fans have seeen three in less than a month. And all three have come at the Billboard in Sunrise.

-- In the 'If You Send It, I Will Post It' Department comes a press release from loyal reader Charlie Flowers of Hollywood by way of his sister (another loyal reader and critic of OFP). Enjoy. Or not. Whatever.

Ballard receives second award in as many days for Being Gangsta

Jan. 29, 2009

Ballard2 HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Fresh off his win Tuesday for the Re-naugural Charlie Flowers Memorial Award Trophy for Being Gangsta, Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard has been formally bequeathed the Charlie Flowers Memorial Distinguished Service Cross in Service to the Concept of Being Gangsta, Charlie Flowers announced Thursday evening.

"While many Panthers have distinguished themselves on the ice this year, none has done so in such a manner that exemplifies the qualities of Being Gangsta so much as Keith Ballard," Flowers said. "To paraphrase Jeru the Damaja of the Gang Starr Foundation, 'he dictates the flow of play like Fidel does his nation.'"

Flowers continued: "Beyond his contributions to the spirit of gangstrosity on the ice, Ballard further provides a much-needed role model to those wack kids Worrell2 wandering the halls of BankAtlantic Center dancing with their shirts off."

The recipient of the Inaugural Charlie Flowers Memorial Award Trophy for Being Gangsta was Peter Worrell, whose singular triumphs in the field of gangstronomy necessitate that Worrell holds the position in perpetuity, thus leading to the creation on Tuesday of the Re-naugural title.

January 29, 2009

My Winter Classic Idea: Charm City ... Tonight's Start: 7 p.m. ... Montreal Canadiens @ Florida Panthers

Camdenyards Was hanging out with some friends in Pompano Beach last night, and started talking about hockey's newest, biggest thing: The Winter Classic.

I loved watching last year's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, but this year's game at Wrigley Field was fantastic. I like the idea of staying in ballparks, but I would be cool with Penn State, Michigan or Ohio State football stadiums as well.

With the threat of NFL playoffs, I do think the NHL should stay away from them. Unless the Jets got their own stadium. Then you could hold it there every year. Or Cleveland Browns Stadium. Whatever.

Here are some of the places I think the NHL is looking at (and I'm not buying those Las Vegas/Los Angeles rumors at all): New Yankee Stadium, New Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Michigan/OSU/Beaver Stadium, PNC Park (Pitt) and Citizens Bank Field (Philly).

Camdenyards2 My idea: Camden Yards in Baltimore. Yes, I know Baltimore doesn't have a hockey team, but you put the Capitals and Flyers in there and you've got regional gold with a national appeal. Everyone loves the Caps, and the Flyers are a national draw.

Ripken And most sports fans love Camden Yards. Think of it: Boog Powell, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray and the National Hockey League.

I even like the fact that the game is in a non-NHL market. Makes the game look better. And crab nachos at Nacho Mamas in Canton for everyone. This would be a Winter Classic I wouldn't miss.

Feel free to discuss. On Frozen Poll NEXT!

-- Don't forget tonight's game starts at 7 p.m., not the usual 7:30. Game time was changed because TSN put in for a national game. They have that right.

-- Nothing exciting out of practice today. Nick Tarnasky is in, Anthony Stewart is out. Panthers trying to avoid the Montreal sweep having lost the previous three meetings between the teams. Montreal is trying to avoid the Sunshine State Sweep after losing in Tampa on Tuesday.


January 27, 2009

It's Official: Rostislav Olesz to have Surgery on Wednesday

Olesz1 The Panthers have announced Rostislav Olesz will have surgery on his sports hernia injury on Wednesday.

We have known for a while that Olesz's groin injury was indeed a sports hernia, and JM said last week that he would need surgery for it.

Today's announcement is just letting everyone know the date of said surgery. And, as you've read before, it'll be done in Philadelphia. Officially: the surgery will be done at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philly by Dr. William Meyers.

JM says Olesz should be out eight weeks, but since some football players have come back from this surgery in as few as five weeks, it may not take that long.

JM told me that players like Gregory Campbell had long recovery times from this, but this was during the offseason when there wasn't as much pressure to get back. I wouldn't be surprised to see Olesz back practicing in five weeks and back in the lineup in six-seven weeks. Semantics, I know.

Even at eight weeks, Olesz could be back by March 23 against Carolina, giving him 10 games (perhaps more, playoff heads) back with the team.

LIVE! Rolling with Don King ... Boxing at the Billboard ... Philadelphia Flyers @ Florida Panthers ... Ville Peltonen, Tomas Vokoun IN

Donkingpanthers  The anticipation at the Big Billboard in Sunrise is high; there's about to be a press conference here announcing some kind of boxing event.

Don King will be here -- as well as Michael Yormark and Jordan Zimmerman! -- to announce the bout which is being nicknamed 'The St. Valentines Day Massacre.'

If you couldn't see that one coming, well, too bad for you.

Will have updates from here after we get done with the buffet (there is no food) and the open bar (I just got a Diet Coke).

Hope you come back for the fun (I doubt there will be much fun. But the unintentional comedy should be through the roof).

-- Michael Yormark just walked onto the dais and said 'Only in America.' Unintentional comedy from the get!

-- Don King is wearing a studded jean jacket, carrying a number of flags, including those of the USA, Florida and Israel. Donking3 They have a special Panthers jersey for him. This is terrific. And the Diet Coke is cold.

-- Don King: ''We have the cold, from the Panthers on the ice, to the heat, in our fighters who will be fighting in the Valentines Day Massacre.''

Apparently Zimmerman came up with the Massacre nickname. Again, a natural fit.

-- DK says he's bringing in the police and military personnel. Don't know if that means free admission, but it's worth a shot.

-- DK has lost his ringing cellphone.

-- Yormark just yawned. And now his eyes are closed.

-- Apparently Rick Sanchez will be here for the bout as well. Even more reasons to find something better to do. Just kidding Ricky.

-- Bloggers are also going to be welcomed. Good for them.

-- Actually should be a fun event. I just wouldn't hold it on Valentines Day. Some of us fellas have plans that night.

-- DK: ''This is an unorthodox program.'' Really?

-- DK: "Michael [Yormark] has a twin. You really don't know which guy is which.''

-- DK: "I love those Panthers.''

-- Jordan Zimmerman says the fights will be live on HBO, and that everyone should ''bring their little sweeties'' to the bouts. He did not say if he would cover the cost of your divorce.

-- DK: "We want the Panthers to win, although Philadelphia is where they made the constitution.''

-- Anthony Stewart and Noah Welch met up with King before the press conference.

-- Awesome: Don King brings up BankAtlantic, then rips banks for taking the bailout and not loaning anyone money. Classic. Yormark cringed. This is terrific stuff.

-- DK: ''Michael Yormark is a terrific soldier. If you're lost in the desert, he'll be there.''

-- DK: "I'm going to give you some great boxing.''

-- Congrats to old pal Mark Whipple for being named OC of your Miami Hurricanes.

-- DK has spent the past 10 minutes talking about who is going to cater the food to the arena. I'm lost. Apparently Zimmerman is in charge of this.

-- OK, I've been here an hour. That's enough. Good day, eh.

-- Take that back: Nate Campbell is a gold mine.

On his opponent Ali Funeka: ''I'm going to beat him like he stole something.'' ... ''I'm going to put my foot places ... actually, I'm not going to go there.'' I think he also predicted a knockout.

Why can't we get quotes like this out of the Panthers?

-- DK: ''You can see our fighters are learned. They can speak.''

-- John Jackson, a Miami guy: ''On Feb. 14, you're going to see some fireworks.'' He's 13-1 with 13 KOs.


Pete DeBoer says the CPR Line is back and operational, Ville Peltonen in the lineup tonight. PDeB says that line personifies the way the Panthers play this game we call hockey, and expects more good work out of them tonight against the Flyers.

As far as lineups go, Nick Tarnasky is the odd forward out; Nick Boynton is back in, Noah Welch back out.

Tomas Vokoun is back in tonight and Martin Biron is in the cage for the Flyers.

January 26, 2009

Only in Sunrise: Don King and the Florida Panthers ... Dave Strader Says Hello ... Ville Peltonen Says He's Playing ... It's Press Release Monday

Donking PHILADELPHIA -- Sitting at the food court at Philadelphia's International airport waiting on a flight home to sunny South Florida.

Enjoyed some Chinese food and the company of one Dave Strader, former TV voice of the Panthers who is waiting for his flight home to Phoenix.

Just got word that Pete DeBoer kept the team on the ice an extra 30 minutes today, probably just to work out the rust. Ville Peltonen left during the session to get treatment, but says he's playing tomorrow against the Cheesesteaks.

-- Big news around the Panthers right now might not have anything to do with hockey.

According to a press release I just got, the team is holding a press conference at the arena tomorrow after the morning skate. Apparently some players are going to take part in a Don King presser. Mr. Boxing is supposedly going to announce he is holding the first boxing event at the Big Billboard on Valentine's Day (hopefully I'll have other plans that night).

Here's the release. LIVE! coverage of the event tomorrow afternoon. This could be a hoot.

What players do you think would like to be part of a boxing card? Anthony Stewart comes to mind, but so does David Booth. I think he would like to lace up the gloves and take a spin or two in the ring. Nathan Horton might want to throw in a controlled environment as well.

Your thoughts below...

Don King has promoted some memorable fight cards in South Florida’s rich boxing history, and now he will present the first boxing event ever at BankAtlantic Center on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 14.  Unified lightweight world champion Nate Campbell, from Jacksonville, will put his crowns on the line against IBF No. 1-ranked mandatory challenger Ali Funeka; colorful former three-time world champion Ricardo Mayorga will tangle with Alfredo Angulo to determine the WBC’s No. 1 ranking and mandatory challenger at the 154-pound limit; and another important match at 154 pounds will showcase interim WBC super welterweight champion Sergio Martinez taking on former IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron.


QUOTE:         “Don King is one of the biggest names in sports and we are honored to welcome him to the BankAtlantic Center,” said Yormark. “His track record for promoting world-class events speaks for itself. That said, it is a great thrill to bring boxing to the BankAtlantic Center for the first time, which once again reinforces our ability to successfully host nearly any type of event.

-- FSN Florida will offer up its latest Inside the Panthers, this time focusing on the minor league Rochester Americans. More press release:

In the next edition of FOX Sports Florida’s Inside the Panthers, Cats fans will learn all about the Panthers’ main minor league affiliate, the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.  Hosted by Craig Minervini, INSIDE THE PANTHERS: ROCHESTER – LIFE IN THE MINORS premieres on FOX Sports Florida Saturday, January 31, at 10pm, immediately following the Panthers at New York Islanders game.      

Also known as the “Amerks”, they are the second oldest franchise in the AHL and are currently competing in their 53rd season of play.  The Amerks have a rich and storied history, with many NHL players past and present, playing for Rochester.  The franchise also boasts six Calder Cup championships, emblematic of the AHL title.

For the past few seasons, the Panthers shared the team with the Buffalo Sabres but in the summer of 2008, the Panthers became Rochester’s sole NHL parent team.  To learn more about the talented people who make the Amerks so successful FOX Sports Florida spoke with Rochester General Manager Jody Gage, Panthers Director of Player Development Jack Birch, Americans Head Coach Benoit Groulx, longtime Amerks radio voice Don Stevens, in addition to many of the Panthers young prospects on the roster. The show also looks at the history of the Rochester franchise and its importance in the local community.

Fans will catch a glimpse into the players’ personal lives with defenseman Keaton Ellerby offered Inside the Panthers a private tour of his living quarters in Rochester.  Cameras were rolling as the team traveled by bus and fans will see what it was like through the eyes of forward Tanner Glass, who wielded “Tanner-Cam” during a trip from Rochester to Binghamton, New York.  The show profiles defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, a veteran of several NHL seasons, and a Rochester native, who is back playing in his hometown as part of the Panthers organization.  The show also hears from members of the Amerks who have been called up to the Panthers at one time or another.  They tell what life is like in the AHL compared to the NHL and share what drives them to return to play for the Panthers.  Multiple replays are scheduled throughout the 2008-09 NHL season, check fsfloridatv.com for airdates/times.

January 25, 2009

LIVE! From the All-Star Game (Kinda) ... Jay Bouwmeester Ties It @ 11

The NHL's internet service is top notch as usual. Been trying to get online for about two hours now, and I refuse to plug in the aircard and get killed by the vultures who are Rogers Wireless and Canadian Bell again (my tab for one night of internet at the wireless-less NHL draft in Ottawa was over $1,000 before it was negotiated down).

So anyway, not much to report here. Jay Bouwmeester has an assist, I'm ticked off and everything else is normal (well, me being ticked off is pretty normal too).

If you're watching this All-Star Game from home, you should know it is just a little better in person. I don't know how people are watching this on television, though. The league and the Canadiens have put on a great show, from the terrific pregame (loved both anthems, and the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir needs to perform O Canada at every single NHL event from now on) and the way the Habs have brought out some of their greats during timeouts.

This is a fun event, Broward's own Roberto Luongo is miked up for Hockey Night in Canada (Don Cherry is wearing some pink flowered number that is pretty impressive up close) and everyone seems to be enjoying the festive atmosphere.

-- Bouwmeester just tied the score at 11, scoring with less than four minutes left in the game. We better not be going to overtime...

January 24, 2009

LIVE! In Montreal with YoungStar Michael Frolik and now All-Star Jay Bouwmeester

Frolikbo MONTREAL -- Just left the visitors locker room at Bell Center where the rookie team is hanging out. Michael Frolik's freshman team beat the sophomores 9-5, the two teams playing three, 10-minute periods of three-on-three hockey.

It was interesting, I guess. Not much drama, not much intensity. But the guys seemed to be having fun.

Frolik looks like a wide-eyed kid, soaking up all the festivities and definitely living in the moment.

''The people here are crazy so it's been a lot of fun,'' he said. ''We had a packed house for our practice. That was cool. It was so exciting. It's great, just walking the red carpet. So many people were there. It was amazing. It's something I'll never forget.''

Don't think that Frolik forgets where he came from, however; while most of the first-year players were lounging in the dressing room and watching the skills competition, Frolik was in his Florida Panthers workout gear, doing his postgame routine.

So there you go, Andy O'Brien.

''The first day was the media stuff and it was real cool,'' Frolik said. ''It's awesome to be here. I liked the red carpet the most. One moment I was watching on TV, the next I was there and on the TV. It was really exciting. It's nice to see how people know who you are. It was nice giving the autographs.''

-- As far as the game goes, Frolik was held off the scorecard. Yes, nine goals and Frolik leaves without so much as an assist.

''It was fine, awesome to be with the YoungStars and meet the other players,'' Frolik said. ''Everyone here has been so nice.''

Hey, he can make up for that on Tuesday when the Panthers play host to the Flyers.

''I'm looking forward to Tuesday,'' he said.

-- Jay Bouwmeester finished fourth in the fastest skater competition, then went 1-for-2 in the shootout.

''Today is kind of the long day of the weekend,'' Bouwmeester said, ''with the practice, then the skills event. But it's been a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to playing in the game. The atmosphere here is great. It's neat to be around. I'm enjoying this.''

Bo says he has some friends in town, so that has made for an enjoyable weekend. And even though he's an Edmonton kid, Bo is cold. Just like the guy covering him from Miami. So it ain't just me, OK?

''My girlfriend is here, and a friend of mine I didn't even know was coming called me today,'' Bo says. ''So that's cool. It's too bad it's so cold out because you really can't go out and see the city too much.''

-- PS: Good to see Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin getting along again, isn't it? In case you missed it, the two (who have been fueding of late) shook hands yesterday. Tonight, Malkin helped Ovechkin get dressed for his breakaway challenge.

Ovechkinsandals Ovechkin looked like a typical Hollywood beach tourist, slipping on a floppy hat (with a Canadian flag sticking out the top), oversized white sunglasses and two sticks, working the puck as if he was searching the beach with a metal detector looking for lost treasure.

All he needed to finish the look were some garish plaid shorts (or, lest we suggest a yello Speedo) and a pair of sandals. With black socks, of course.

LIVE! All-Star Saturday in Montreal

Allstarlogo MONTREAL -- Greetings from Bell Center in what-kind-of-crap-weather-is-this Montreal. It's said to be minus 2 right now (in Farenheit, of course), with a wind chill of minus-20 -- and sinking.

Yeah, they might want to start rotating these things between Sunrise, Tampa, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Starting in 2011.

First off, apologies for not posting earlier today. Woke up sick as a dog, and Montrealsnow seriously thought about skipping tonight's festivities and instead watching  them from the comfort and warmth of the Marriott. But that wouldn't be Kosher, so here I am, sitting by myself so not to get anyone else sick. Will not be shaking many hands today.

The players are coming down the red carpet as we speak, and will have more from guys as the night goes along. Will have your exclusive reactions from Florida boys Michael Frolik and Jay Bouwmeester the next two nights, so please come on back.

-- In case you missed it, here's my story on Frolik that ran in today's edition of your Miami Herald. Also, here's a special edition of the Panther Report, now simply the All-Star Report. 

-- Coming tomorrow: Frolik and Bouwmeester's Saturday night and more, more and more Bouwmeester.

January 23, 2009

LIVE! All-Star Friday in Montreal ... Talking Suspensions

Crosby1 MONTREAL -- Sid the Kid is here, but a few others are missing.

And it's going to cost them.

Various reports have confirmed that the NHL is sticking to its guns and will sit Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk on Tuesday in Columbus because they skipped out on All-Star weekend.

The Penguins must have gotten word the league was serious as Sidney Crosby -- who won't play Sunday -- arrived in Montreal on Friday afternoon and met with the media. Crosby will take part in all off-ice activities.

My thought: Bush league.

This is an All-Star Game, an exhibition. If guys are beat up and don't want to come to Montreal (where it's freaking freezing) that's their right. Tell me it's the fans game all you want, but that's bunk. The NHL bends over backwards to appease fans, and trust me, this isn't the right stance. You think Detroit fans give a hoot their two veteran guys skipped out on the All-Star Game?

Well, a certain few do.

But I bet a lot more are ticked their guys have to sit out A REGULAR SEASON GAME because they wouldn't take part in what is basically a spring training baseball game. And Lidstrom? Are you kidding me? Let Vinny Lecavalier take it from here:

''This guy has been to the All-Star Game 11 or 12 times,'' Lecavalier said. ''He loves the game, wants to promote the game. I really think the guys that are here, the ones who were chosen, they want to come over. If guys cancel at the last minute, they must have injuries or something with their families.Like I said, it's an honor. It's an honor to be at the All-Star Game. I think every guy wants to come.''

I understand the league wants its players to participate in this kind of stuff. But to suspend two players for it sounds like they are going a little too far.

Of course, the league isn't calling it a suspension, and as of now, the two Wings won't lose any money over it. They just get another night off. An extended All-Star break if you will.

Good for them.

LIVE! All-Star Friday with Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Ovechkin, Vinny Lecavalier and Friends

Boallstar3  MONTREAL -- Jay Bouwmeester generated a lot more attention at his second All-Star Game than he did in his first two years ago in Dallas.

Almost all the talk surrounded Jay's contract status and whether he would remain in South Florida. He didn't offer much new, but when you talk about one thing so much, eventually something different may come out.

Like this: Jay at one point said he was going to sit back and wait until the end of the year before making any decision on signing with the Panthers. Problem with that is, Jacques Martin may have already traded him by then. I asked if there was any chance he signs before the trading deadline and Jay was very non-committal.

''I don't know. It's hard to say. You don't want to rule anything out, but we'll have to wait and see. There hasn't been a lot of talk lately. I'm going to take it as it comes. Anything is possible.''

And, on this possibly being the last major event he represents the Panthers at:

''For the time being, I'm there. I want to help that team win.

Boallstar2 ''This year we've made some real strides, we're playing well. I'm just going out and playing. Honestly, I'm not worried about it. There's no sense getting worked up over it now. I have to evaluate things. There's going to come a time when I do have to deal with it. For the time being, I'm going to go out and play hockey. It's hockey, it's not life or death. Having fun is the most important thing.''

Here's the rest of the interview:

On playing in Montreal: ''There's obviously a lot of tradition, it's a neat city. Whenever you come here there's a real buzz. People are passionate about hockey. You look at the history, it's been around forever and they've had a lot of success. Florida is just now growing. It's different.''

On being traded to Montreal: ''If something happens, or whatever, that's the business side of stuff. Right now I'm not to worried about it. I'll take it as it comes.''

Distracting?: ''Not really. I don't get bothered too much with it unless I come to Canada. I'm not really distracted. This doesn't distract me, doesn't affect how I play. I'm not worried about what someone is going to ask me. There's no way around it. People are going to ask question. I just have to handle it.''

Possible last big event as a member of the Panthers: ''For the time being, I'm there. I want to help that team win. This year we've made some real strides, we're playing well. I'm just going out and playing. Honestly, I'm not worried about it. There's no sense getting worked up over it now. I have to evaluate things. There's going to come a time when I do have to deal with it. For the time being, I'm going to go out and play hockey. It's hockey, it's not life or death. Having fun is the most important thing.''

Are you having fun?: ''Yeah, in years past we've played well at the end of the year where we made up ground but it was too late. This year, we're in it at this point. I think everyone is excited about that, we realize we are a good team. People underestimate us a bit, but thats because we haven't had much success. But everyone in our room knows how good we are. We've beaten some pretty good teams.''

Are you faced with a decision?: ''To a certain extent. I said at the beginning of the year that I wouldn't commit to anything because of all the changes. I've seen that before. I've been there six years and I've had four coaches. To jump into the unknown, well, I wasn't ready to do that. At the end of the year, I'll evaluate the whole situation. I'm not going to make a spur of the moment decision. One week into the season you can't go one way or another. You have to let it play out. In the back of your head you have to be prepared for whatever. There are times when decisions have to be made. I'll worry about it then. I'm not worried about it now.''

Talked to Jacques?: ''I haven't personally talked to him about anything. He and my agents have had talks, it's all good. I don't think right now there is a deadline, no ultimatum.''

Any chance you sign something next month?: ''I don't know. It's hard to say. You don't want to rule anything out, but we'll have to wait and see. There hasn't been a lot of talk lately. I'm going to take it as it comes. Anything is possible.''

There will be a lot of money out there: ''That's not always everything. I've never played in the playoffs. That's No. 1. Where that is, whether its Florida or not, who knows?''

Could you see yourself playing in Canada?: ''I grew up in Canada, a place where hockey is pretty big. There are differences everywhere in the league. People are more passionate here. That's exciting when people take an interest like that. It's fun to play, and it's different if you have to deal with it everyday. There are pros and cons to everything. There is something nice about being out of the limelight every once in a while.''


On playing in Montreal: ''It's probably the best place to play hockey to me. I always come here and get excited about the game. This is a good time for me, and I'm real happy right now. It's not just a good game. These fans love seeing the game, like seeing the good players.''


''I hope everyone has fun. Last year I had a lot of fun but was a little bit nervous. This year, I've set a goal to relax and have even more fun if that's possible.''

On being on the home side in Montreal: ''It's going to be strange seeing Montreal's room and come out on the other side of the ice. I've done it so many times from the other side. Just last year, between the preseason and the playoffs, we played Montreal 17 times. Not all of them were here, but at least 10 of them were. It will be a little bit different. We'll see if they boo.''


Ready for Montreal?: A few people told me what to expect. But to tell you the truth, I came off the plane yesterday and saw all the fans and didn't know what to expect. But when I walked through those doors and seeing the hundreds of people waiting for autographs and waiting for the players to arrive. I don't think anyone expected a welcome like that.

What is so special about hockey here?: The history behind the Montreal Canadiens and all the Stanley Cups that they've won. Obviously it's like a religion here. Everyone loves the Canadiens. For someone being born here, to play here, obviously there's added pressure. But I think it's a good pressure. I think it's a great town.

''There's pressure in any town. There's pressure in Tampa. There's pressure on my NHL team. I think I like to put pressure on myself to be the best that I can play. We're paid to play hockey. It's a great sport. But there's pressure to perform.

Has management eased your concerns of a trade?: Well, they've talked to me and like they've told everyone else when we got back to Tampa. They had a press conference, and they just said they weren't going to trade me. If it were to happen, they would talk to Vinny first. So I don't think it's anything. What they've told you, they've told me.'

Are you preparing for a trade?: I don't know. I don't think so. But in professional sports, you can't predict the future. If it happens, it happens. Like I said, I love being in Tampa. The coaching staff is great, the players are great. I really enjoy being there.

More as it comes...

LIVE! All-Star Friday in Montreal with Roberto Luongo and Patrick Kane

Luongo1 MONTREAL -- Just spoke with former Panther Roberto Luongo who is here representing the Vancouver Canucks for the Western Conference.

Louie grew up around here and says being back for the All-Star Game is quite special.

''Just the fact that it's in my hometown and there's so much history behind it really makes this special,'' Louie said. ''It's great to be able to play in front of my friends and family. I'm going to have quite a few here. I don't have the exact number, but at least 50 will be here.

''Anytime we play here is exciting. Given the fact it's an All-Star Game makes it even more exciting. You know everyone in the city is real excited about having the game here. I'm just trying to take it all in.''

I also asked Louie about his groin injury and how he's feeling:

''I feel real good, finally healthy and 100 percent. That was my main concern in coming back was making sure that I was good to go.. So far, all three games have been great. I'm starting to feel like myself with the time and everything. My timing was off a little bit, the reads. It's not easy to jump back into it after three weeks and pick up where you left off. The other night in San Jose I felt like I did before the injury.''


Part of the YoungStars Game last year as a rook, the Blackhawks' rising star is now part of the big game. He's pumped.

''Last year was pretty neat to be around all the guys and it was fun to be a part of the festivities. I wanted to be in the big game and it's nice to be part of the real team. Last year was fun, I was in a room with the top 40 players in the world. It was real neat, cool to be there. But this year is better, being in Montreal, part of the 100 years and all that. There's a lot of history here. It's going to be a fun weekend and I'm really looking forward to it.

''I wouldn't miss this. If I had an injury, I would play through it to be part of this.''

LIVE! From Montreal, It's All-Star Friday

Stanleyc2 MONTREAL -- Greetings from a frigid Montreal, home of this year's NHL All-Star Game.

Have already enjoyed a muffin and cup of joe from Tim Hortons and am ready to begin this day in earnest.

In a few minutes, the Western Conference All-Stars will be joining us at the Hotel Fairmont and I'll have some news and notes from that. Will be talking to a number of the All-Stars, so check back here throughout the day as I should have new posts as we go.

The big news today comes from a report in the Toronto Star in which it reports the NHLPA will not reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement as was its right, and there will be labor peace in the NHL for a little while longer.

Not much Southeast representation here (as usual), although if you're into the Washington Capitals, Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post is here and is chatting live about all things Ovechkin. Go on over, say hello. And tell him G sent ya.

Here's the press release from the union:

TORONTO/MONTREAL (January 23, 2009) – The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced today that the NHLPA has declined to exercise its option to terminate the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) following the 2008-09 season.  The current CBA between the NHLPA and the National Hockey League will remain in effect for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

The announcement was made at a media conference in Montreal by NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.  Mr. Kelly was joined by Ian Penny, General Counsel, Glenn Healy, Director of Player Affairs and NHLPA members Michael Komisarek, Alex Kovalev, Vincent Lecavalier, Sheldon Souray, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Toews.

The NHLPA’s Executive Board, which consists of one Player Representative from each of the 30 NHL teams, held a conference call on Thursday January 22, 2009 to vote on the union’s option to terminate – or “re-open” – the CBA.  The Executive Board vote follows an in-depth analysis of the current Agreement and several external factors, including the present state of the world economy.  The NHLPA’s option to re-open the CBA was also a main topic of discussion last summer during the NHLPA’s annual North American and European Player Meetings, as well as during the NHLPA’s recent fall tour meetings.  

“Today’s announcement that the NHLPA’s membership is committed to playing under the CBA for two more years is great news for all hockey fans,” said Paul Kelly, NHLPA Executive Director.  “While the NHLPA’s membership has issues with the current Agreement, the players and their Executive Board decided that due to the current economic conditions as well as the players’ focus on continuing to help grow this game and expose our great athletes to many more fans, now is not the appropriate time to enter complex labour negotiations.”

The current CBA was reached in July 2005 following the NHL owners’ lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.  Under the terms of the current Agreement, the players had an option to terminate the CBA as of September 15, 2009.  By declining to exercise its right to re-open the CBA, the Players have ensured that the current Agreement with the NHL will remain in effect through the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.  The NHLPA had until May 18, 2009 to inform the league of its decision. 

The NHLPA also has the option to extend the current Agreement for one year, through the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.

January 22, 2009

Defending the Market

Jrs Been getting some emails from folks who watched last night's Stars-Panthers game on television wondering how small the crowd really was.

It was sparse, no doubt.

It is a shame the Panthers don't get more support, especially the way they have been playing lately. But I'm going to be the last guy to tell people how to spend their money. The Panthers are a good value, sure, but times are tough and most of you are already paying top dollar for cable television (which usually brings the Panthers to the comfort of your living room).

There were a number of factors hurting the Panthers last night, one of which being the opponent. Few people around here know anything about the Stars, and Dallas hasn't played here in a few years. Plus, and I think this is one of the bigger factors, the Miami Heat was playing the defending NBA champion Celtics not too far down the road at Miami Arena II.

The Panthers and then-owner Wayne Huizenga were the first to win the battle of the arenas, getting Broward County to build a palace (which has become a living, breathing billboard) on the edge of the Everglades. But then Pat Riley and the Heat got people to vote No on something that meant Yes, and the Heat got their arena on the edge of Biscayne Bay.

So, South Florida -- as fickle a sports market as there ever was or is -- has two professional teams in the winter competing for basically the same dollars in two different arenas. It usually doesn't work this way. See, in most markets that share NBA and NHL teams, the two share arenas as well. One is home, one is away. They don't compete head to head, unless you're in Los Angeles where the Clippers may play in the afternoon and the Lakers play later that night.

Cities that share: Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philly, New York (Rangers/Knicks), Toronto, Atlanta, Colorado and Washington.

Cities that don't: New Jersey (Newark/Meadowlands), Miami, Detroit (downtown/suburbs), Minnesota (Minny/St. Paul), Phoenix (downtown/middle of nowhere).

OK, now look at the cities that don't share. Both Florida and Phoenix are struggling at the gate, and having NBA competition doesn't help those situations (although there are plenty of other reasons they are having trouble drawing).

The Devils are also hurting despite playing in a brand new arena, and I wouldn't be so sure the Nets won't join them in Newark sometime soon. Minnesota? Exempt from this conversation. The Wild could play in a mall parking lot and draw 25,000 with the Wolves playing across the street.

Detroit is hurting a bit too, but it isn't the Pistons who are doing it, it's the economy.

I would think the Panthers attendance figures are going to rise after the All-Star break, as long as the team keeps putting a good product on the ice. People have stayed away from this team for a while, mainly because of what has been rolled out there on a nightly basis.

We shall see.

Problem is, a lot of outsiders look at a crowd like Wednesday and say hockey doesn't belong here. Trust me on this, this can be a good hockey market. The National Car Rental Center used to be packed, back when there was a team worth watching on the ice below. I think the Panthers have a solid team, one that needs some more support. But they have to earn that. It takes time.

-- Am packing up and on my way to Montreal here in a little while. Make sure you all come back and visit for our special All-Star coverage starting tomorrow morning. See you at Tim Hortons!

January 21, 2009

UPDATE: Rostislav Olesz Needs Surgery ... Dallas Stars Bring Chill to Town ... Florida Panthers: Same Lineup ... Shootout Not So Good

TerrellOwens With former President George W. Bush now chilaxing in Texas, his favorite hockey team is braving the South Florida cold tonight as the Dallas Stars battle the Florida Freezing Panthers.

Yeah folks, it's cold out there. Herald ace photog Joe Rimkus Jr. is ticked off because he got switched from shooting hockey tonight and will instead be outside covering soccer.

''You know how cold it is out there,'' Rimkus asked. ''It'll be warmer in the arena than it will be outside.''

This coming from a guy who covers Dolphins games in Buffalo.

Anyway, not much news out of camp today. Pete DeBoer is keeping the lineup intact from the other night, so that means Noah Welch did enough to earn him a spot in the rotation for another night. And Tomas Vokoun is in.

-- Ville Peltonen practiced today but Pete's keeping him out. Says the extra rest the All-Star break will offer should be good for Peltonen's injured knee. Smart thinking.

-- Jacques Martin told me that Rostislav Olesz indeed has a sports hernia injury and will need surgery. Martin says he figures the recovery time at eight weeks, giving Olesz time to make it back for the end of the season.

JM didn't know when Olesz would have the surgery, and has to speak to his agent first. Obviously they want it done ASAP since it's already been six weeks since Olesz was originally hurt.

-- Sorry about the false promo on the shootout story; was supposed to run today, but that was before the Dolphins were sold and the Canes lost another assistant coach. So it's on a holding pattern for now. Here are some shootout stats as promised:

(*) Florida's 2-6 record this season places them 25th in the league (as of Tuesday)

(*) The Panthers are ranked 27th in the league all-time, winning 13 of 38 shootouts.

(*) This season, the Panthers have scored five goals on 23 shootout shots, a success rate of under 22 percent. Florida is the worst shooting team in league history in the shootout format, connecting on 31 of 133 shots (23.3 percent).

(*) Nathan Horton is Florida's best shooter (duh), hitting nine of 30.

(*) Tomas Vokoun is 3-14 lifetime in shootouts with saves on 67 percent of shots faced.

(*) Craig Anderson is 1-7 lifetime, giving up goals on 12 of 20 shots faced.

-- Here's some more promo material: Got some great stuff from Michael Frolik today in advance of him heading to Montreal for the YoungStars Game. That stuff you'll have to wait until Saturday for, however. Sorry.

-- And a special belated birthday to our own Goldie, who turned 57 yesterday. You don't look a day over 39 Goldie!

January 20, 2009

Jay Bouwmeester Speaks (Again)

Jaybo3The gathered throng at Incredible Ice spoke to Jay Bouwmeester today about various things, from playing in the All-Star Game to his future in Florida.

As he has maintained all along, Jay says he hasn't looked that far ahead.

''I'm not going to make any rash decisions,'' he said.

For those not in the know, Jay has declined to sign a long-term deal with the team and instead agreed to a one-year contract during the offseason.

If Jay doesn't resign with the team, he can walk away as a free agent on July 1. There's a great debate on what the Panthers should do; obviously, the No. 1 thing is try to sign him. But if they can't, should the Panthers trade him, or risk it and try to keep on the team's best defenseman to try and make the playoffs for the first time since 2000?

Jaybo It's a tough deal. We spoke with Jacques Martin about this last night before the Buffalo game, and he said he hasn't spoken to Jay's agent since they met in December when the team was in Canada. The team has until March to decide what to do. People love asking me what's going to happen, and I can honestly say I have no idea.

Anyway, back to Jay.

We talked about his thoughts on the South Florida market as it's been rumored he doesn't like playing here. He wouldn't say that, obviously.

But he did refute his father's comments in New Times a few months back in which Dan Bouwmeester said "They shouldn't even be in the NHL. It's not a hockey town. Why is it even down there?"

Says Jay: ''Don't listen to anything my dad has to say.''

-- On playing in hockey mad markets like Montreal: ''It's fun to play in places like that where there's more attention. But it's a two-way street. There are pros and cons to everything.''

Jaybo2 -- On helping make South Florida a true hockey market: ''Look at any place in the south where hockey isn't a natural fit to be here. Any kind of sport down here, it seems people throw you by the wayside pretty quick. That's just the way it is when you play in a market where people didn't grow up with [hockey]. If you can get kids coming out and playing hockey and enjoying it, well, that's all good.''

-- Can hockey end up working here: ''People think teams are just going to up and move. There are a lot of teams in the same situation in places where there isn't winter and kids can't just go out [and play] like in Canada. It's not natural, I guess. You can't just go around moving 10 teams and think that everything is going to be all good. Every place has its problems. That's just the way it is. I think it can work. You have to grow the game with younger kids. Time will tell. I can't predict the future.''

-- On Pete DeBoer: ''Yeah, it's been good. Everyone is optimistic and things like that. He's a good coach and we kind of have a young team and he's a younger guy, enthusiastic. He doesn't do things over the top, rants and raves. He works with guys and lets you know if you have to do things different. He does things real professionally. That's all you can ask for.''

Getting Ready for the Break ... Dallas Stars @ Florida Panthers Wednesday ... Ville Peltonen, Nick Boynton Practice ... Miami Herald @ the All-Star Game

Allstarmascots The Panthers held their final practice at Incredible Ice Tuesday before the All-Star break kicks in after Wednesday's game against the Dallas Stars.

It was an early practice, one I was late to. As Pete DeBoer says, if you're on time, you're late. Still, an 11 a.m. practice usually means an 11 a.m. practice. Either way, got plenty of goodies to share today.

First off, Ville Peltonen was back on the ice today, although PDeB says he's probably doubtful for tomorrow. The Panthers liked what they saw from last night's lineup and may not be willing to change things up just to rush Ville back into the lineup.

Finnishlion ''I don't think he's ready,'' PDeB said. ''He has the heart of a lion. Pound for pound, he's as tough a hockey player I've ever coached. He just keeps coming at you. He takes hits, he's fearless in tough areas. You look at his size, he's playing against 220 pound defensemen on any given night. He's got a lot of respect from the people on the coaching staff and his teammates.''

Also, Nick Boynton was back after fighting the flu yesterday. He should be back in the lineup, although Noah Welch played well last night and could have put up a case to keep playing. It's a numbers game right now.

-- In tomorrow's Herald: More on the Panthers' shootout woes and some surprising reaction from players on the team. Stay tuned.

Mlballstar -- Also, don't forget to make Miami Herald Hockey Central your first stop during All-Star Weekend. I will be in Montreal starting Thursday night, with live reports and updates starting Friday morning from all around Montreal (including updates on what kind of doughnut I select at Tim Hortons. Will it be a Maple Dip or a Jelly? Will it be both? Check back and find out!)

Will have plenty of reports from your favorite players, coaches and whatever celebrities decide to make an Milano1 appearance. It's supposed to be pretty darned cold, so I'm not betting on many great celebrities. But whatever ones show up, you'll hear from them too.

Lots of stuff coming your way Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hope you come back early and often. May even break out an On Frozen Poll or two just for good measure.

January 19, 2009

Cory Murphy Now With Lightning ... Buffalo Sabres @ Florida Panthers ... Ville Peltonen OUT Through All-Star Break ... Artyukhin Suspended

Murph3Cory Murphy is now a former member of the Florida Panthers, the 30-year-old defenseman picked up today off re-entry waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

At least he isn't going too far.

Murphy has been waived twice by the Panthers, finally picked up when going through re-entry. This means Tampa Bay is only on the hook for half of Murphy's pro-rated salary (basically 25 percent of the $875,000 he's making this season).

Murphy is in the final season of a two-year deal he signed out of Europe at the end of the 2006-07 season.

In 57 games with the Panthers, Murphy had two goals and 16 assists. He missed ample time the past two seasons with shoulder injuries, his latest limiting him to seven games this season. He probably could have played in more, but the Panthers kept him on the shelf knowing he wasn't really needed. With Noah Welch, Florida has seven healthy defensemen, so Murphy was No. 8.

Murphy2 He spent two weeks with AHL Rochester before being recalled and subsequently waived for a second time. Murphy was also put on waivers at the start of the season, but the Panthers put him back into play when Bryan Allen and Bryan McCabe got hurt.

Hope to have something from Murph later in the day. Best of luck to him, he is one of the good guys in this league for sure. Don't know if he'll be in the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight against the Stars or not.

-- Pete DeBoer didn't give any specifics on Ville Peltonen's injured knee, but said he's out through the All-Star Break at least.

-- Nick Boynton didn't practice today because of the flu and will not play tonight. Welch gets a rare spot in the lineup.

-- Kamil Kreps is back, and he's centering the fourth line with Nick Tarnasky and Anthony Stewart. Brett McLean takes Peltonen's spot on the CPR line.

-- Tampa Bay's Evgeny Artyukhin told the Tampa boys that he's been suspended two games by the league for his knee-on-knee hit on Peltonen. He adds that he apologized to the league for his actions.

January 18, 2009

Fun While it Lasted ... Buffalo Sabres @ Florida Panthers Monday ... Tomas Vokoun, Kamil Kreps IN ... Ville Peltonen Probably OUT

PlayoffsThe Florida Panthers talking playoffs?


Well, not as much today. The Panthers spent less than 24 hours in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference after winning in Tampa on Saturday night. Florida is back in ninth right now after Pittsburgh beat the Rangers Sunday afternoon at the Igloo.

Hey, there's plenty of time left.

The Panthers play Buffalo tomorrow. Florida trails the Sabres by two points, so a regulation win tomorrow would not only put Florida right back in the playoff spot, but have it tied for seventh. The Pens are off Monday.

''We have to keep our foot on the gas here,'' Pete DeBoer said Sunday morning. ''We have four important points left on the board. We took a snapshot of the four games after our break and we had Tampa below us, Philadelphia and Buffalo above us and a Dallas team that seems to be turning things around.

''We have some games in hand on some people and wanted some separation from some teams in the standings and hopefully give us some breathing room at the All-Star break.

''We're in a playoff spot today, but the key for our group is to not look back. I think you get above that line for the first time and you want to stay there. You don't want to drop back down. This is going to be a battle right through April. We're not going to have the luxury to have an easy game or easy week.''

On guys being excited about being there:

''I hope they are, I do sense there is some excitement there and they feel good about themselves. And they should. They've worked awful hard to get to where we are right now. We have to remember there is a lot of work to be done. The league jumps to another level here in the final 30-40 games. The desperation level jumps up.''

-- Ville Peltonen's injured right knee was to be looked at today, don't have an update. No word on if the league plans on suspending Tampa's Evgeny Artyukhin will be suspended after his knee-on-knee hit on Peltonen last night. DeBoer stuck with his postgame comments that it was a dirty hit.

''I thought it was a dirty hit,'' he said. ''I'm hopeful the league will deal with it and I'm sure they will. It's in their hands to do. It's a dangerous play. You can end someone's career like that.''

DeBoer says Ville is doubtful for tomorrow. Will have an update from the morning skate tomorrow.

-- Kamil Kreps will be back in the lineup Monday.   

-- Tomas Vokoun back in after he shut the door on the Lightning after replacing Craig Anderson to start the second period. ''He was terrific,'' DeBoer said. ''He was the difference.''

-- Pete says he spoke to Andy about the quick hook, and gave his backup goalie a vote of confidence. The look on Andy's face on the bench was one of a guy who looks like he's lost some of that confidence. Andy gave up three goals on 11 shots against the Lightning in that first period.

''I have met with him, had a meeting with him this morning. For me it's all about him keeping his edge. He needs to take advantage of his opportunities. He knows he's a good goaltender and we know what he's capable of. When he gets the opportunity he just has to do it.''

January 17, 2009

Possible Surgery for Rostislav Olesz ... Florida Panthers @ Tampa Bay Lightning ... Craig Anderson IN

OleszRostislav Olesz is going to see a specialist in Philadelphia next week to see where he stands with what he's now calling an abductor injury.

Word I'm hearing is that Rusty has a sports hernia injury and surgery is expected.

A lot of athletes have this surgery, with the recovery time of about a month to six weeks. The Panthers would like Olesz to get this done as quick as possible so he can begin rehab and get back on the ice sometime in late February or early March. Of course, if it is his hip abductor, then he won't need sports hernia surgery. That's why he's going to see a specialist.

Found some interesting things regarding this type of injury online. Here's something from Medicalmoment.org:

Groin pain is most commonly caused by muscle and tendon strains of muscles crossing the hip joint. It also can be related to abnormalities within the abdominal wall.

“Typically in these cases, MRIs or X-rays are normal, so it’s a difficult diagnosis to make,” he said. “It’s a good idea to see someone who is an expert in the field.”

According to Dr. Cattey, a sports hernia is a muscle tear that comes after repeated exercise or training. It can take an athlete out of contention for extended periods of time. Traditional surgery was once the only treatment for this condition. Now, a less invasive surgery can get athletes back to their game quicker and with minimal pain during recovery.

“The two sports most commonly affected are soccer and hockey, in that order, because those sports are hardest on that area of the body. You’re opening up your hips to either kick a soccer ball or to skate. Actually, it could happen in any sport that puts a lot of pressure on that area.”

-- Panthers in the second game of a back-to-back set tonight in Tampa Bay. Bolts have won four of their past six, Panthers have done the same -- getting points in all six games (4-0-2).

I jumped the gun in my story last night saying the Panthers moved into a tie for eighth in the East; I totally overlooked Pittsburgh playing (and winning) when I checked the scores on NHL.com last night.

So, anyway, the Penguins are now in eighth, Florida in ninth a point out.

Florida can move past the Pens and into eighth with a win tonight, but the Panthers probably want Buffalo to beat Carolina tonight and do so in regulation. The Panthers and Hurricanes are tied for second in the Southeast and ninth in the east, although Florida has two games in hand on Carolina. A Buffalo win and a Panthers win would keep a two-point differential, although Florida has three more games against the Bison (including one Monday) this season.

-- Not making the trek to Tampa today, Marlins beat man Clark Spencer on the case from the west coast. Will be checking in with him tonight and have updates right here as usual. Asked Pete DeBoer about who would start in net tonight and he said he hadn't thought about it.

UPDATE: It's Andy. First start since losing to Montreal in shootout on Jan. 4.

-- Also, here is some postgame video from last night, compliments of your friends at The Miami Herald...