As many sporting events as I've been to and covered over the years, very few had me saying 'man, I wish I was there right now' as many times as I said that yesterday. I feel bad for all my friends and family members who were hanging out with me at the time. They must have thought me to be a boorish visitor.
Only they were all saying the exact same thing.
-- Just left the Igloo a few minutes ago where the Panthers went through their first practice of 2009. Surprisingly, the guys didn't seem to be in all that good of a mood. Losing four straight will do that to a team. Being in Pittsburgh for a third night will too.
No offense, I love Pittsburgh. But you can only be in one cold, sunless city for so long before you start getting a bit stir crazy. I'm glad I broke up the stay with a quick jaunt into the Buckeye State.
-- Pete DeBoer says he and goalies Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson had a meeting to discuss what he expects out of them -- and that the air was indeed cleared. Vokoun, if you might recall, wasn't real happy after being pulled on Wednesday in New York, and said so in the postgame locker room. You can read all about it here and here.
Here's what PDeB had to say about the subject on Friday afternoon:
''We've had a conversation and I think he understands where we're at. With this group, it's about accountability. I don't expect guys to enjoy getting pulled or sitting out. But that's the way it is and that's the way it has to be. I would expect they would respond in the right way and come back and work harder, get the job done or find a way to get the job done.
''In the first half of the year, they responded in the right way. I think from an energy point of view, we responded in the right way even if we didn't necessarily win that game.
''I'm responsible to 20 guys in the dressing room, not just to the goaltenders and making them feel good. If I feel either a) they're not on, or b) we can make the switch and give us a shot of energy and a chance to win that game, we're going to do that. That's the responsibility the coaches have to everyone in that room.''
On meeting with Vokoun and Anderson:
''Those meetings should be between player and coach and not in a press conference. We all have an understanding.''
-- Center Stephen Weiss missed practice today with some sort of flu virus, something that's going around again (I just bought a big box of vitamin C powder this morning). If Weiss can't go tomorrow (he'll go tomorrow), Nathan Horton would be back at center with David Booth and Richard Zednik on the wings.
''Hopefully its 24 hours and he'll be back tomorrow,'' PDeB said. ''We're going to have to [play Horton at center] because we don't have a lot of options with Kreps out. With Weiss out, we'll have to use him in the middle.''
-- On a personal note, thanks to all who visited this site in 2008, hope you enjoyed your time in our little corner of the virtual hockey world. According to statistical data I received today, this portion of Miami Herald Hockey Central saw traffic jump a whopping 200 percent over the previous year. Yes, Margaret, I said 200 percent.
Don't know if we can keep that up next year, but I sure will try. A special thanks to Alyssa Milano and Jennifer Aniston for being at events I covered in 2008, your inclusion in On Frozen Pond most definitely had something to do with the increase in traffic. And if the Panthers can get back on track and somehow make the postseason, that should bring a boost in 2009.