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Clearing the Air in Steel City ... Florida Panthers back on ice in Pittsburgh ... Stephen Weiss Sick ... Traffic Up in a Big Way ... OFP: 2008 in Goofy Pictures

SteelPITTSBURGH -- Here's hoping everyone out there had an enjoyable New Year's Day and hope you all found yesterday's game at Wrigley Field to be as fun as I did.

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.

Anyway, thanks again, really appreciate the support. As a New Year's gift, here are some of my favorite pics from 2008. Click on the ones you like for a better view. Enjoy the Cotton Bowl kids...033 Aniston
Jmandolli Milano1_2 Obdemolision1 Larionov Obsign Rachelhunter_2 Youppi2
Alyssa3 Arena2 Banana Barackhockey Belleglade Belfourbench Chevy Deboerjm Berternie Calgary1Melrose2_2   Icegirl2 Frozenpond Millerlite Ryno Olliphoenix_2 Radio4_2 Reggie_2 Stasch Sunnyphilly Wrigleyhockey Forsale Deboerkids Frolikpuck2 Richards 025 122 Radio2

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GR happy to be part of your 200 percent jump. I use to go to Palm Beach Post but moved over to On Frozen Pond for the best Panther coverage. Keep it up!

George, you are the only real hockey writer we have, even if you grew up down here!!!

All the others barely blog, and if they do they copy your posts....llol

George,

Any chance you'll get to have a sit-down with Mr. Yormark for a q and a?

Why not have a column for your loyal readers to submit questions, just in case.

Happy New Year

The one and only Mr. Obvious

Keep up the good work George. With numbers like that, maybe you should start doing some marketing for the team to get some more people in the seats... Or at least work JM over a bit and get him to make a few deals to improve the team...

Congrats to you and glad to be one of your avid blog readers and posters!!!

While I enjoy an outdoor contest as much as the next hockey fan, it was odd as a bleacher bum to see ice and hockey on the hallowed grounds. I was a bit disappointed with the final outcome. I was hoping for a hometeam W.

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