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37 posts from January 2009

January 15, 2009

Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet and now Hockey: Craig Anderson's New Look ... Ville Peltonen: What Broken Bone? ... Kamil Kreps OUT, Tomas Vokoun IN vs. Flyers

Andymask1Craig Anderson won't be in net for the Panthers when they make their triumphant return to the ice after a week off come Friday against the Flyers.

Coach Pete DeBoer told us today that Tomas Vokoun will be in net once more.

Still, Anderson has a cool new look, a new mask that pays tribute not only to the Florida Panthers, but to an American classic.

Anderson's new lid features a demonistic looking Andymask2 Panther on the top, with big claws on both sides. One side of the mask features a classic Corvette, a throw back to his old mask. The other side features a modern American Classic, the Corvette Z06.

''It's a combination of the old and the new of American muscle,'' he says.

Andymask4 The front of the mask features part of the Corvette banner, the checkered flag on one side, the Chevy bowtie logo on the other. On the back, Andy has his name and the Punisher logo of the Corvette C6 racing team.

''I have a fondness for Corvettes and American cars, so that's pretty much what stands me apart from everyone else,'' he said. ''I don't have an American flag painted all over it,Andymask3 but it's kind of a way to show my nationality. The Chevy bowtie, yeah. It's the American sportscar, so, I figure it's subtle but people will pick up on it.''

It's a good look, trust me. These photos do not do the mask justice in any way.

-- Ville Peltonen didn't want to talk about his broken foot very much today, letting his work on the ice do the talking. He says he feels fine, the pain is minimal and he's playing tomorrow. Peltonen broke a bone in his foot during the first period of Saturday's 8-4 win over Atlanta, scoring two goals in the process. He took a few days off, but was back out there today and even did extended post-practice work.

PDeB told XM Radio today that Don Cherry ought to note Peltonen's toughness. Cherry is notoriously rough on European players, and PDeB notes that Peltonen is not only Finnish, but tough as nails as well.

-- Kamil Kreps is progressing, but PDeB says he still needs time for his injured shoulder to be ready for game action. Kreps told me he's aiming toward playing Monday when the Buffalo Bison come to town.

-- Today's Miami Herald Hockey Hero of the Day goes to the USAir pilot who made the decision to land in the Hudson River and not risk further loss of life. Everyone is safe and sound, except for the plane and the luggage and all those carry-on bags. A great ending to what could have been a tragic story. Glad I wasn't on that plane (although I was on a LaGuardia/Charlotte flight not too long ago).

January 14, 2009

Scout's Honor ... Cory Murphy Practices ... Ville Peltonen Still Out

ScoutsThe usual hockey rumor mills are all a twitter right now, with the breaking news that the Panthers had three scouts at last night's Leafs game. Must mean something is up. Must mean Mike Van Ryn's coming home, probably in exchange for Jay Bouwmeester, right?

Settle down, Beavis. The Panthers probably had more than three scouts at last night's game, only they were in the stands watching. You see, the Panthers are holding their annual scouting meetings in Toronto this week. JM is there; Randy Sexton is there; Scott Luce is there. A lot of Florida Panthers employees are there.

They are not there to trade Jay Bouwmeester.

People need to simmer down with all the JayBo talk; the Panthers aren't doing anything for a while. Time, believe it or not, is on their side. They don't have to do anything for six weeks. A lot can happen between now and then. In six weeks, the Panthers could be in seventh place in the East; or, they could be in 12th.

This story will work itself out. I don't know whether the Panthers will trade Jay or not, although I don't see him playing for the Panthers next year. But that's a long way away.

-- Was at practice today (on my day off) to do some stuff for the Hockey News. So, I didn't really listen to Pete's post practice presser all that closely. I did hear that Kamil Kreps is 50-50 for Friday's game against the Flyboys, they aren't sure about Ville Peltonen and that he would probably keep the lines intact as much as he could despite the possible loss of Pelts and the addition of Kreps.

-- Spoke to Cory Murphy today, says he's just going to ddo whatever the Panthers tell him. He hasn't been sent to Rochester just yet, although I would expect that to happen sooner than later. Murph told me he had a good time in Roch with the team, says spirits are up there as they are finding more success. If that's where they want him to play, that's where he'll go. He just wants to get some regular playing time.

January 13, 2009

Tough Times All Around ... Cory Murphy Clears Waivers, Back to Rochester? ... Ville Peltonen Injures Foot

EconomyIf you haven't read it yet, The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson had a piece today regarding how the slumping economy is effecting the local pro sports teams in South Florida.

You can read it here.

The Panthers have obviously been effected by the downturn, with the team trying to combat the problem by offering better packages and lower ticket prices. On the ice, the team is starting to turn things around and the financial folks have to hope things will get better as the hockey team gets closer to a postseason berth.

Earlier in the season, the Panthers laid off (or restructured) around 10 positions, with jobs lost in public relations, the foundation, sales and publishing. Last week, the team made some more moves with at least six employees being laid off.

Michael Yormark confirmed there were moves made although he wouldn't give me an exact number. I was told six to eight, from sales to publishing to someone in the mail room. When I spoke to Michael about it, he said he usually restructures things around the first of the year, moving people around -- sometimes out -- to streamline the business model. Some people within the organization will be given more responsibilities, and I guess that's good for them unless they were overworked to begin with.

And it's not only the hockey team that's affected by this downturn in fortune. Everyone is being hit in some way. In my travels, I've noticed a lot of empty airplanes (there were five people on my New York to Pittsburgh flight) and empty hotels (the Pittsburgh Marriott would have been a ghost town had the Panthers not been there. The Long Island Marriott was pretty empty too).

A lot of teams in the league are struggling right now, none worse than the Phoenix Coyotes who reportedly are losing money by the truckload despite the team playing well and being in contention for a playoff spot.

-- I have decided to take a full day off today, figuring it's pretty deserved. Been around the Panthers quite a bit the past two months and need to take care of things that have been neglected around the house.

But never fear, Pete 'Pete' Pelegrin is on the scene and will be reporting back to me when practice is done. We should have an update on Rostislav Olesz and Kamil Kreps.

At 12 noon, Cory Murphy cleared waivers and is no free to be reassigned to Rochester. Or he can stay up with the Panthers. Waiting to see on that.

-- If you haven't read my take on the CPR Boyz, check that out here. And while you're at it, here's my notebook from yesterday.

-- Also, for all those who keep asking about Jay Bouwmeester and contract negotiations: When I hear something, you will too. I don't think anything is going on with that right now. The team has until March before it has to make a decision what to do. Both sides are taking it slow. I don't think we'll be hearing anything about this until the first week in February.

-- Speaking of contracts, David Booth is due one as well. This is a couple days old, but I wrote about what's going on with his negotiations. Sounds about the same.

-- Just spoke with Pete here at 1 Pines Herald Plaza, and he informs me that Ville Peltonen has a broken bone in his foot, so who knows how long he'll be out. Of course, he never said anything Saturday, so that may be something he can play with. Will know more in the coming days.

-- Also nothing yet on Murphy, JM is in Toronto and Jack Birch hasn't yet responded to a text message.

January 12, 2009

Florida Panthers on Golf Course, No Cause for Alarm ... Gregory Campbell Third Star ... Cory Murphy Recalled, Waived

CaddyshackThe Florida Panthers got their second straight day off today, although they were obligated to participate in the annual golf tournament.

Don't know what happens to a player who doesn't show up, or what happens if say two players decide they don't want to be there anymore and leave after one hole to check out some different sights. As far as I know, everyone stuck around this time. And that's good.

Goldstar -- As you probably have already read, Gregory Campbell was honored as the NHL's Third Star of the Week. Probably could have given that to either Radek Dvorak or Ville Peltonen. All three were phenomenal last week. Congrats to Soup. I'll have more on the CPR Trio tomorrow.

-- Also, Cory Murphy was recalled from Rochester today, but he may not want to unpack. The Panthers put him on waivers, so if he clears -- like he did at the start of the season -- he may just be headed back. Murphy has a one-way deal so he'll get his NHL money even if he's in Rochester.

Murphy2 Way back when, he said he would go to Rochester if the Panthers wanted him to.

Murph had two goals and four assists in five games with the Amerks on his two-week conditioning stint that was just completed last night.

-- Amerks have won four of five, now have 13 wins. Still the fewest points in the Federal League.

January 10, 2009

Kids Day in Sunrise ... Atlanta Thrashers @ Florida Panthers ... Special Blogger: Annie

Annie2 Greetings and salutations from the Big Billboard in Sunrise where the Panthers are playing a rare Saturday afternoon home game against the Thrashers from ATL.

First off, same lineup as the past two games; Tomas Vokoun in net, Nasty Nick and Noah Welch both healthy scratches.

Panthers have gone all out with their Kids Day festivities, and there are a lot of kids in the building today.

One of those kids is my niece Annie. Here's what she has to say:

The Panthers are looking very good right now. I like coming to the games and seeing them play. Everything is great up here. It's an amazing view. I like everything they've had. I like the mascots, everything. It was neat seeing Stanley come out of the roof. No one knew he was there. He just floated down out of the sky magically. That was neat. I laughed when Sebastian the Ibis slipped on the ice. That was funny. He's a bird. He shouldn't like ice. That's why he slipped.

Thanks Annie. More from here -- as well as a special Goldie Report from Jake Goldstein later.

Appears we have to amend the 'no cheering in the press box rule.' Kids like to clap.

-- Annie's expert analysis: ''No. 17 [Ilya Kovalchuk] looks like a real ball hog. All that guy wants to do is score.''

-- Annie's take on the first period: ''They scored three goals and I thought they played awesome. I liked the penalty shot. That was amazing. He's really fast. What's his name again? Oh yeah, Frolik. And the kids playing the mascots on the ice was really funny. The kids were good. It was all fun. The mascots tried hard. This is a lot of fun.''

OK, we're back to the second period. Panthers lead 3-1. Goals by Michael Frolik, Jay Bouwmeester and a another shorty by Radek Dvorak.

-- Annie on the second: ''They didn't do so good there. Two goals for the other team. I think they should stick together as a team, keep passing the puck together and be a team. If they can put it together, they can make it. They can win the game if they want to. Just like I said before. You have to work as a team if you want to get it right. Also, thanks to the Panthers for letting me come to the game. I've had a really good time. Thanks for the goodie bag. I got a lot of neat stuff.

Where in the World is Chad Kilger? Home, Apparently

Kilger2Well, he's not in South Florida, eh.

You all might remember Kilger, the former Toronto winger who is still listed as a member of the Florida Panthers although he has never suited up for the Panthers despite Florida trading for him last year.

Steve Simmons, a columnist for Sun Media in Canada, wrote a column about Kilger dropping the game like a bad habit upon the Leafs trading him to Florida at the trade deadline last year.

If you remember, the Leafs were staying on Fort Lauderdale beach at the time. First, the Panthers traded for Toronto's Wade Belak; then, just before the deadline hit, they made another deal with the Lauderdale Leafs, this time for Kilger.

A Florida staffer had gone to the hotel to get Belak and they were westbound and down, headed for Sunrise when the phone rang. The staffer was told to to turn around and go back for Kilger. He never got into the car, leaving the staffer and Belak sitting around for an hour.

Kilger apparently called the Panthers, told them he had some things to take care of back in Canada and left. For all I know, he's never stepped foot in Broward County again. The Panthers suspended him when he refused to report, and even though he was under contract for this season, he is still under suspension and seemingly has no interest in playing again.

So what happened? Well, there are plenty of rumors floating around out there, almost all of which have to do with his family in one way or another. I've never written any of the rumors I've heard (and they are varying) because it's irresponsible. I have no knowledge of any of them being true and cannot verify if they are legitimate or not.

In this biz, you hear a lot of rumors regarding the private lives of hockey players, and I've never written a single word about that before and I'm not going to start with a guy I've never even met. You want to read about stuff like that, there are plenty of websites out there that cater to that side of the game.

Anyway, Steve Simmons' column -- which came out the morning the Panthers were to face the Leafs in Toronto -- sparked the curiosity of a local columnist in Kilger's hometown of Cornwall, Ontario. This person (no byline) decided to head over to Casa de Kilger and see what the dealio is.

He didn't get very far. Kilger, who apparently had plenty of nice stories written about him in this paper over his 25-plus years of playing hockey, didn't feel like talking and slammed the door in the reporter's face.

I would have followed him to Publix, tried to talk to him in the deli. That's just me though.

As for the Panthers, they are out a third round pick because of Kilger's refusal to suit up and play for the Sunrise Six. I'm pretty sure GM Jacques Martin knows what's going on with Kilger and was very defensive about it last year (even harshly defending Kilger for working through his problems), although JM's seemed to soften his stance on the subject now.

I think Kilger not reporting really bothered JM last year because a) the Panthers could have used the help and b) JM was really feeling the heat at the time and didn't want to be constantly reminded they gave up a draft pick for a guy who didn't want to play anymore.

The Panthers got a pick back from the Leafs in a roundabout way; when Florida traded Mike Van Ryn to Toronto from Bryan McCabe, the Leafs threw in a fifth round pick.   

As for Kilger's future, who knows. His contract expires this year and I would guess he's a free agent although the Panthers might have something to say about that since he didn't fulfill his contractual obligations with the Florida organization.

That is if Kilger still wants to play. Doesn't sound like hockey is very high on his list of priorities right now -- or has been for a while.

January 09, 2009

Saturday: Kids Day with the Florida Panthers ... Friday: Kids Day at the All-Star Game ... Michael Frolik a Young Star ... Tomas Vokoun IN

Dscn0485The Panthers will be celebrating Kids Day on Saturday afternoon at the Billboard, with youngsters taking part in all aspects of the in-house entertainment, from announcing to the national anthem to working in the press box.

Should be a good time. I was at the Rangers' Kids Day earlier in the year and it was a fun, festive atmosphere having all that young energy in the building. I know the kids there enjoyed their time, and I think tomorrow should be a big success.

If you have a kid or two -- or can borrow one from a friend -- come on out to the game. They'll have fun, and you get to see a hockey game. Pretty cool. Panthers are offering a special $10 ticket for the kiddies, so you can't beat that. It's a lot cheaper than Wannado City, for sure.

I'll have my niece Annie up in the press box with me, and I'm putting her to work. She's going to be tomorrow's guest blogger and she's going to try and help Goldie with the first intermission highlights. Good pal Jake Goldstein is supposed to be hanging around as well, so we'll get a special edition of the Goldie Report tomorrow.

-- Maybe they'll let the kids do one of the dozen or so Hyundai ads tomorrow?

-- Big news out of the Panthers today is that rookie Michael Frolik has been selected to the Young Stars portion of the All-Star Game held later this month in Montreal. Well deserved. According to the league, this year will feature a special Rookies vs. Sophomores game, and it should be fun. Frolik has been outstanding for the Panthers this season, especially in the past six weeks or so. The game is going to be 3-on-3, so there should be ample opportunity for Frolik to show off in the open ice.

Here's the lineup:

Sophomores: G Erik 'LaBarbera' Ersberg, LA; D Marc Staal, NYR; D Kris Letang, Pit;  F Bryan Little, Atl; F Milan Lucic, Bos; F Andrew Cogliano, Edm; F Brandon Dubinsky, NYR; F Devin Setoguchi, SJ; F Mason Raymond, Van; F Nicklas Backstrom, Was.

Freshmen: G Steve Mason, Cbus; D Drew Doughty, LAK; D Luke Schenn, Tor; F Blake Wheeler, Bos; F Kris Versteeg, Chi; F James Neal, Dal; F Michael Frolik, FLA; F Mikkel Boedker, Phx; F Patrik Berglund, STL; F Steven 'Seen' Stamkos, TB.

Alyssa4 -- And a reminder: On Frozen Pond will be in Montreal on Friday afternoon All-Star Weekend to get ready for the festivities. Have plenty of extra bonus stuff planned, although I don't exactly know what just yet. But it'll be a lot, trust me.

Especially if Alyssa Milano makes a return appearance.

-- Tomas Vokoun back in net for the Panthers tomorrow against the Thrashers (who thumped New Jersey 4-0 in Newark last night).

-- Special game time tomorrow, kickoff at 1 p.m.

-- Also, according to the Panthers, they did submit last night as one of the dates they wanted to avoid because of the BCS title game at Joe Robbie Stadium. Apparently the league didn't think it was that big a deal and didn't grant the Panthers the night off. And I'm hearing the Hurricanes rejected any thought of moving the starting time. Whatever. It was a messed up deal.

-- And: Word is the FSN contract for the next three years is for 70-plus games instead of just 70 as I wrote here a few days back. Rumor has it the deal with FSN is for three years, with the network showing 71 games in the first year, 72 in year two and 73 in the final year. So that's a substantial bump up of games from the current contract of 65 games.

The more, the merrier I say.

January 08, 2009

LIVE! BCS Night at the Billboard: Carolina Hurricanes 2 @ Florida Panthers 4 (FINAL) ... Now with even more Goldie!

SoonersGetting geared up for the Big Game in South Florida tonight, the Florida Panthers playing host to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Not much to give you from the previous post, just wanted to let everyone I'm here and ready to rock.

Do have this for you: Old pal James Bates is part of the CSS pregame show from Joe Robbie Stadium. Doing his usual good job.

Also, Jay Bouwmeester isn't the only guy with Panther ties to be named to an All-Star team today. Former Panther Magnus 'Magnum' Johansson was named to the Team Jagr entry in the upcoming KHL All-Star Game coming to you from outdoors in Red Square.

You may not remember Magnum, he wasn't here very long. He played in 28 games with the Cats last season, getting 10 assists. Good guy.

Oh, and Roberto Luongo was named to the Western Conference All-Star Game. Seeing Dave Nonis in Toronto the other night reminded me of the fun we had that night when the trade was announced at 10 p.m. Miami Time. Luongo, you might remember him. He played in a few more games with the Panthers than Magnum did.

Anyway, off to dinner. See you in a bit...

Slapshot -- If you have nothing better to do, come on down to the arena. The Chiefs are at home against Hyannisport at War Memorial at eight. Fun for the whole family. Great seats still available.

Full sections even!

-- The Goldie Report, just one more exclusive to Miami Herald Hockey Central, makes its triumphant return tonight. First intermission and it's on like Donkey Kong!

What the heck, he's sitting right here.

Goldie2 I thought they have to win all three of these games this week with the big break coming up, and after Toronto, they're a third of the way there. If you break down the season into four, 20-game segments (I know there are an additional two games smart guy), the segment the Panthers just finished would have them on a 100 point pace. The first 20 games, they only got 17 points, so they are playing catch up (catsup?).

With seven of their eight at home with the only road trip to Tampa -- and two of the games against teams above them -- these are must wins. To me, tonight is a real simple game. Whatever goalie plays better, that team wins. It's all about goaltending tonight. These are the games for which you pay Tomas Vokoun $5-plus million.

-- Don't forget to tune into FSN tonight: It's Best Damn Yo-Yo! I kid you not.

GAME ON -- GAME ON

-- Was having some wireless issues, but back up now. Good crowd on hand. Panthers playing like it. They looked pretty lethargic early, but have picked up the pace and really put some heat on Cam Ward. Still scoreless, Canes leading in shots 3-1.

Ovech -- So far, every single timeout during the game has brought a commercial. Thought they were going away from this garish in-game 'entertainment?' Nothing gets people fired up like yet another Hyundai commercial (we're midway through the first and I've counted two already.)

-- Frolik just had another terrific scoring chance...he's had three so far...great game by the rook...

-- Almost time for football!

DAVID BOOTH DOWN LOW, CLEANS UP A REBOUND FROM CULLIMORE/ZEDNIK...IT'S 1-0 FLORIDA (NOT THE GATORS)...GOAL @ 14:15 OF FIRST....

-- OK, we're almost through one period and the late arriving crowd has yet to materialize. This place is empty. I've seen it worse, but not by much. This game should have been moved up a few hours. They could have drawn a crowd this big at 6 just as well as 7:30.

And it is freezing in here. That's what happens where there is no body heat.

Those of you who voted 'under 8,000' on yesterday's On Frozen Poll, congrats. You're the winner.

CAROLINA SCORES...ANTON BABCHUK GOES THROUGH BALLARD AND FIVE HOLE PAST TVO...IT'S 1-1...

-- Booth almost gets another one, but alas, almost don't count. We're at the end of one, it's tied @ 1...Stats and Round 2 of the Goldie Report after this message from the many sponsors. Did you know Celine Dion is coming to town? Well, she is.

Jrsbcstitle -- Latest report from JRS: Parking today $40. Caaash graaaaab....

-- Special thanks to Miami Wildcat Mike for the sweet picture from the stadium.

And now, here's Goldie:

It was a very impressive first period for the Panthers offensively, no one took a shift off. They did a good job creating chances and getting to the front of the net. There was a lot of traffic, and that's where Booth got his goal.

But, too leaky with coverage in the defensive zone and that created Carolina's goal. A goal like that should not happen. The line of Booth-Horton-Zednik are there for offense, but must get back defensively. Panthers must do a better job in the faceoff circle (won 6 of 19).. You can't live in the NHL without the puck.

Other than that, a typical Panthers-Carolina game that looks like it will come down to -- as I stated in the pregame -- whatever goalie is better. If Ward wasn't super in the first period, Florida has two or three goals. He made some great saves.

Let's go Sooners, and the Panthers need a lead going into the third.

SECOND PERIOD

-- Not much going on here, but at 18:57, we have our first penalty of the night...Florida on the power play...

-- Both teams have been getting some excellent scoring opportunities in this second, but no goals..Bo just had a chance in front in the closing seconds...but again, close....

-- Panthers get 13 shots in the second, lead 24-21 in that category.

WE'RE THROUGH TWO, IT'S 1-1...

Here's Goldie:

I thought Cam Ward was the story in the second. The Panthers had four or five real good chances and Ward made the saves. They have to do a better job of jamming the net, as evidenced by the goal they got from Booth.

Not sure if the officials want to go watch the Gators game or not. This one is flying by and only one penalty called. The way the Panthers have played lately, I like their chances in the third. This is a great test to see if this team has truly turned the corner. A win tonight would go a long way toward determining that. If they do, my money's on Booth. He's having a great game.

-- FYI: Panthers are 3-1-1 when tied after two; Hurricanes are 3-5-1.

THIRD PERIOD -- THIRD PERIOD -- THIRD PERIOD

-- Panthers still on the power play, 56 seconds left...

ALL-STAR JAY BOUWMEESTER CRASHES NET, GETS A SWEET FEED FROM CORY STILLMAN AND BANGS IT HOME 31 SECONDS INTO THE THIRD...FLA 2, CAR 1...

MAKE IT 3-1...BOOTH FLIES UP LEFT SIDE OF ICE, SENDS PASS TO HORTON'S TAPE AND IN...COMES AT 3:26 OF THE THIRD...

-- Looks like a lot of the smallish crowd has decided to move on to something else...it's about 1/3 less full (see how optimistic a guy I am?) than it was before. What else could be on? Boston Legal?

-- Denny Crain.

-- This UF-OU game does look pretty good. My Wal-Mart universal remote is the best $7 I've spent in some time...

-- Panthers are back on the power play...two penalties tonight, both on the Canes...

SERGEI SAMSONOV GETS HIS NINTH OF THE SEASON AT 15:15...IT'S 3-2 NOW...

VILLE PELTONEN DIGS OUT PUCK, FEEDS TO GREGORY CAMPBELL INTO THE EMPTY NET...IT'S 4-2...PANTHERS HAVE WON TWO STRAIGHT...

Enjoy the BCS kids...

See you Sunday with special guest Annie...


Jay Bouwmeester an All-Star ... BCS Night at the Billboard: Carolina Gators @ Florida Sooners ... Tomas Vokoun IN ... Rostislav Olesz Out Longer ... Kamil Kreps Close

JayboallstarMeant to post this earlier in the day, but had a lot of running around to do with all my Gator friends in town for some game that's being played down here. Anyone know when that game is?

All I know is the Panthers are playing tonight, and I'm sure the eyes of South Florida will be focused securely on the matchup between Carolina and the Panthers. I mean, what else could be going on tonight? It's a Thursday. What are you going to do, hit up Jai-alai?

Actually, that's not a bad plan.

Tonight's game isn't on TV because of those Gators, so please come back and join me right here for another edition of LIVE! with the Panthers. Will be coming to you live from atop the arena around 7.

Boallstar2 As most know by now, Jay Bouwmeester was named to the 2009 All-Star Game to be played later this month in Montreal. Jay was his usual enthused self today, adding that it's an honor to be selected, an honor to play in Montreal, but added that some guys might rather have the time off. Here's betting Jay is one of those guys.

The young stars will be announced tomorrow; Michael Frolik is in the running for sure.

-- Pete DeBoer told us today that, as expected, Tomas Vokoun gets his second straight start.

-- Pete also says that Rostislav Olesz is a bit away from his groin injury, but that Kamil Kreps' injured shoulder is getting better and he'll be skating on Friday. He could be back within the week.

That doesn't sound to be the case for Olesz. He skated today, but came off the ice in obvious pain, saying ''the only thing I know is I don't know anything.'' He says he's still hurting and doesn't know why; MRIs haven't revealed anything major. He says he's going to meet with more doctors tonight before the game. Olesz has been out a month now, and it could be a lot longer before he returns. We'll see.

Schooner Gatorgirl -- Pete on his pick for the BCS Title: ''Do I even have a choice being a coach in Florida? It's Florida.''

I gestured that he could pick Oklahoma if he really wanted to, but he declined.

''You can get away with that, I can't.''

January 07, 2009

Staying Put with FSN Florida ... Thursday's BCS = Bust for Panthers/Canes? ... Another 'On Frozen Poll'

Simpsonsfox AIR CANADA CLUB AT TORONTO PEARSON AIRPORT -- Stranded here in the Great White North where I hope to be headed south in a few more hours of fun at Pearson Airport.

Special thanks to USAir for stranding me; honest thanks to Air Canada for stepping in and putting me on a flight to Miami.

Anyway, big news around the Panthers today is that they have agreed to a multi-year deal with FSN Florida with the regional sports network agreeing to cover 70 games next season.

Nhlonfox_2 The contract only called for 65 this year, and that's what FSN plans to give you.

So, more games and likely more of Goldie, Denis, Craig, Frank and Allison.

Hope the Panthers got some money for this. Not like there was much competition.

-- Thursday's game goes on at 7:30, BCS game or not. You have to think the Panthers could have changed the time on this to 6:30 or 7 to at least not put itself in direct competition with the college Andre_2 football championship being played right down the road, but Michael Yormark told me they didn't want to do that.

The Panthers should have never scheduled this game in the first place. The BCS championship game was going to be a bigger draw even if it didn't have an in-state team playing for the title. I'm thinking the team forgot there was a second 'Orange Bowl' game and didn't plan on needing to ask for the day off.

Regardless, this is probably a lost home date for the Panthers. Over/under on actual attendance tomorrow? I'm setting the bar at 8,000. Let me know if I'm high or low. I'm betting it's lower.

-- Since FSN dumped television coverage of tomorrow's game (because of the BCS conflict, duh), I will be going LIVE! from the Big Billboard sometime around 7. We'll talk hockey, a little football and whatever else comes to mind.

What, you thought I was going to bail on the Panthers because of some college football game? For shame.

-- Craig Custance, former Thrash beat writer and longtime friend to The Pond, put together a number of ways the NHL can save the All-Star Game for The Sporting News. Check them out here. And tell him G sent ya...

-- Frozen Poll Time!

January 06, 2009

More from T.O. ... Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs ... Shawn Matthias Called Up Again ... Nasty Nick OUT Again

ToTORONTO -- Good afternoon from tropical Toronto, where when the wind doesn't kick up walking around town is almost tolerable.

Almost.

Had a fun time at lunch with Mitch, Steve X. and Goldie, although those latter two spent way too much time in the Hall of Fame gift shop and yours truly spent way too much money.

But I did score a sweet World Juniors cap with all the countries on it and also snagged a Team Canada hat to wear around town. Who's jumping on the bandwagon? That would be me.

Had a great time watching the Gold Medal game with a few of my pals from the Panthers, and the place we were at were going nuts. Great atmosphere, great passion. Glad I was up here to be able to enjoy such a cool event. Congrats to Team Canada and coach Pat Quinn on a fifth straight World Juniors title.

And, remember, Quinn wouldn't have been the coach had the Panthers not hired Benoit Groulx to be the new coach of the Americans over the summer. Groulx was supposed to be that coach. Florida's Pete DeBoer was a serious candidate and probably would have coached Team Canada had he not signed on with the Panthers.

-- Shawn Matthias and his frequent flier card have been getting quite the workout recently. He's back and practiced with the team this morning after being sent back to Rochester after Sunday's game in Montreal. Nick Tarnasky is out, so Matthias is back centering the fourth line.

-- As reported before, Tomas Vokoun in net tonight against the Buds.

-- We're almost home....


January 05, 2009

Back in T.O. ... Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs (Tuesday) ... Tomas Vokoun IN ... Shawn Matthias back to Rochester

JoecarterTORONTO -- Good afternoon from the Hockey Centre of the Universe, the place where a Panthers morning skate turns into a media scrum that would rival a Dolphins playoff game in Miami.

OK, that's not true. There were probably more media people here today than there were at Joe Robbie Stadium yesterday.

The big news up here is Team Canada going for a fifth straight World Junior championship tonight in Ottawa. Team Red is playing Sweden, backstopped by future Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom. Should be a good game, although I was interested in watching the Buckeyes-Longhorns in the Fiesta Bowl, but that probably ain't going to happen. Good luck getting someone to change one TV off the hockey game so Gringo G can watch a college football game from Glendale.

The other big news around town is that Bryan McCabe (AKA Enemy No. 1) is back in Toronto after seven seasons with the Leafs. McCabe isn't real popular around here, but the change of scenery has done him a world of good. He's having a great season in FLA, with Pete DeBoer saying ''I can't say enough about him.''

Pete followed the Leafs "from an arm's distance'' while coaching the nearby Kitchener Rangers, and knows what McCabe went through here. He's very happy McCabe landed in SoFla.

As for McCabe, tonight is going to be a night to visit with family and friends. It will also be a hockey night. He won't be watching the Fiesta, but will be watching Team Canada. Like just about everyone else in this hockey-mad part of the world.

-- Tomas Vokoun gets the start tomorrow night. The last time Vokoun played here he was the beneficiary of Florida's 8-0 romp.

-- Shawn Matthias has been sent back to Rochester. No reason given, mainly because I forgot to ask. Will do tomorrow.

-- Lines are the same as they were yesterday in Montreal.

-- Who knew you could find fresh mango and watermelon in Toronto at this time of the year? And priced fairly right. Good times!

January 04, 2009

Brett McLean on Sidney Crosby: 'The Kid' Says the Darndest Things

CosbyMONTREAL -- When Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby was asked to explain why he jumped Florida's Brett McLean in the face-off circle during the second period of Saturday's game, he said he thought McLean was ready to fight.

It sure didn't look like it.

And now we know why. According to McLean, Crosby never said anything about fighting during the first period, although McLean admits Crosby did say something before the face-off. McLean adds he didn't hear what Crosby was saying.

Sidneycrosby Here's what Crosby told reporters Saturday: "I asked him to go, and he said yes. And usually, yes means yes. I mean, I wouldn't have wasted 20 minutes in the box for that. I guess he didn't take me serious. I don't know, it wasn't worth 20 minutes, though, that's for sure."

After Sunday's game in Montreal, I asked McLean what really happened. After declining comment at first, McLean was a touch more forthcoming.

''You can look at the video,'' he said, ''it speaks for itself.''

Brettmclean Did you discuss fighting him? ''We had not, at any point. It was as surprising to me as it was to you guys.''

Did you ever see it coming? ''No I didn't.''

Was Sidney jawing at you earlier in the game? ''Before the face-off, like I told you yesterday, he was saying something but I didn't really hear it. I didn't know what he was saying, didn't really pay attention to it.''

Did you ever say yes to him as he said? ''No, I mean, I don't know where that came from.''

Bon Jour from Montreal ... Remote Control Hockey: Florida Panthers @ Montreal Canadiens ... Craig Anderson IN

YouppiMONTREAL -- A special thanks to the good folks at Delta for getting me from Pittsburgh to Montreal today in plenty of time to catch Dan Marino on the CBS pregame show.

Oh, and in time for today's hockey game at Bell Center.

Got myself a new universal remote and the Dolphins on the press box television, so I'm good to go. Pucks and pigskin. A marriage made in heaven, at least for this guy.

And now, onto hockey. Craig Anderson gets the start for the second straight night, err, day. Nick Tarnasky also scratched for the second straight game.

Jacques Martin, Randy Sexton and Pierre Groulx are back with the team after spending time scouting the world juniors over in Ottawa, with the crew heading back to finish off what has been an exciting tournament so far. Sweden, with Florida's Jacob Markstrom in net, are in the finals against a favored Team Canada.

Guess who else is here? One Joe Nieuwendyk. Says he's rooting for the Dolphins today. And he says hello to everyone out there, including HG.

That's it for now, updates when the Dolphins are in commercial.

Just kidding!

-- Also, special thanks to DolphanDave for picking me up a touque at the Winter Classic. It's not only sweet, it's also very warm. And has come in handy today.

-- Montreal just awarded Maxim Lapierre the Molson Cup for the month of December. That hat trick in Sunrise sure didn't hurt.

-- And thanks to all the good folks in Pittsburgh who sent all those emails to me today. Good stuff. Enjoyed reading them all.

--

January 03, 2009

Nick Boynton on Sidney Crosby: ''Embarrassing, Childish, Immature'' ... Florida Panthers Postgame from Pittsburgh... Florida 6, Penguins 1 (FINAL)

CrosbyPITTSBURGH -- In what could not be considered to be shocking comments, a few Panthers had choice words for Sidney Crosby after Saturday's win (which could be considered shocking).

Florida beatdown the host Penguins Saturday afternoon in the Igloo, with Crosby mixing it up with Gregory Campbell before jumping Brett McLean in the faceoff circle late in the second period.

Crosby was slapped with four penalties that cost him all but the final minutes of the third period. Pittsburgh wisely kept Crosby on the bench after he came out of the box, although Florida probably wouldn't have fought him since it was so late in the affair.

Next time? Oh, it may just be on.

Here's what happened: Moments after Campbell and Max Talbot fought a good fight, Crosby and McLean lined up in the faceoff circle. The puck was dropped, Crosby grabbed McLean and took him down, shaking and pulling him around the ice – with very few punches thrown.

McLean cut the bridge of his nose when he hit the ice, and Crosby was sent away with four penalties – including instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct. Crosby's fighting style has been criticized lately, especially after he repeatedly took below-the-belt shots at Atlanta's Boris Valabik last month.

After the game, coach Pete DeBoer and McLean didn't have much to say on the subject, but Nick Tarnasky and Nick Boynton sure did. Tarnasky's comments to me should be construed as off the record since we were just chatting during the second break, but Boynton went off as he finished getting dressed.

We're you hoping he'd get back on the ice? ''Oh yeah,'' Boynton said.

''That was just embarrassing. I can understand a little bit what he was trying to do, but that's a not a very professional move. You ask a guy to fight. You don't jump a guy when his head is down taking a faceoff. That's pretty immature and childish.

''He's just, whatever. He's not happy with the way things are going and he was trying to get his team going. But there's no need for that.''

Ever seen someone pull that?

''Not that embarrassing. That was, you know, that's not what the game needs. Whatever. We beat them where it counted and that's all that matters. We needed the points.''

Says Brett McLean:

''Obviously he was trying to spark his team. I've been in a few pretty poor fights in my day, so that just goes into another one of those.

''Last time I was in a fight was two or three years ago when I was in Colorado.

''He said something before the drop but I really didn't pick up on it. So, I kind of wish I had now. Like I said, everyone can understand what he was trying to do for his team. He's their leader, their captain.''

Said Crosby: "I asked him to go, and he said yes. And usually, yes means yes. I mean, I wouldn't have wasted 20 minutes in the box for that. I guess he didn't take me serious. I don't know, it wasn't worth 20 minutes, though, that's for sure."

DeBoer: ''I've coached Sidney and know what kind of competitor he is. If I'm coaching Pittsburgh, I like to see that kind of fire out of one of your best players when things aren't going that well. It is what it is. I was glad to see him off the ice for 19 minutes. That made our lives a little easier.''

-- Key Stats: Florida led 2-0 before Pittsburgh scored; Florida then added three goals (two on the power play) to close the second and lead 5-1 at the break.

Nathan Horton had two goals. Other players with two points on Saturday: Keith Ballard, Stephen Weiss, Bryan McCabe, Boynton and Cory Stillman. Richard Zednik and Ballard both plus-2. Florida was 2-for-7 on the power play; Pittsburgh's PP struggles continue as Penguins go 0-for-3. Pens are now 0-for-24 through past six games on the advantage.

-- One of the better lines of night delivered by David Booth to Craig Anderson: "Hey we had the same stats tonight.''

Translation: Booth had one assist and took a penalty; Anderson had one assist and took a penalty.

Baby Blues in the Igloo ... Florida Panthers @ Pittsburgh Penguins ... Stephen Weiss, Shawn Matthias IN ... Nasty Nick OUT

Iceburgh226x355PITTSBURGH -- It's obvious the Penguins have hit a grand slam with their third jersey.

Bringing back the old-school Carolina blues for last year's Winter Class was a great idea; adopting them as a third jersey was genius -- although not very hard to come up with.

Anyway, the Pens will be wearing the blues today against the Panthers. Seems like nine out of every 10 fans have plunked down the money to buy their own as well. Again, genius.

When are the Panthers unveiling their third jersey? Oh....

-- Shawn Matthias was called up from Rochester today just in case Stephen Weiss couldn't go. Well, Weiss is in the lineup and so is Matthias. Nasty Nick Tarnasky sitting this one out.

-- Nathan Horton is back at center, running a line with David Booth and Richard Zednik. Other combos: Stillman-Weiss-Frolik; CPR; McLean-Matthias-Stewart.

Enjoy the game. The Fox crew is excited about being back at work.

-- Roll Tide? Ha!

-- Rumor is Dave Wannstasche is going to be here today. Will get a report from him if I see him.

January 02, 2009

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