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42 posts from February 2009

February 19, 2009

It's Official: Florida Panthers on a European Vacation ... Chicago Blackhawks vs. Florida Panthers ... Today in Sunrise, Next Season in Helsinki ... Standings, Scoreboard Watch

Eurovacation The Panthers are officially going to Europe, the NHL announcing the pairings of next season's openers on Thursday.

As you may have read somewhere before, the Panthers will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in Helsinki, Finland. Also, the Red Wings and Blues will play in Stockholm.

This is the third straight season the NHL will open in Europe, starting when the Ducks and Kings moved their freeway series across the pond and kicked off the 2006-07 season in London.

GriswoldBlackhawks In a strange twist, the Blackhawks are in town tonight. First time since Dec. 3, 2005. They won't be back next year either as the two games in Europe will satisfy the season series. That also takes away a Chicago trip. Great.

-- Tonight's games (and the teams Florida is rooting for)

Canes @ Isles, 7: Carolina is hurting these days, but so are Isles. Florida would like a NY win, but probably won't get it.

Sabres @ Flyers, 7: Philly is up in fourth, Sabres are tied with Panthers. Go with Flyboys here. In regulation.

Canadiens @ Penguins, 7: Have a feeling the Pens are going to make a run here. Don't know why. Still, today, Panthers need a Habs loss.

Jackets @ Leafs, 7:30:  No great shakes and won't have anything to do with the east race.

Vancouver @ Sens, 7:30: Ottawa is still way back in the race. Too little, too late.

Devils @ Lightning, 7:30: Doesn't really affect the Panthers in any way.

Blackhawks @ Panthers, 7:30: Panthers are rooting for Chicago here.

Blues @ Preds, 8: No bearing on the east although it will be interesting to see if Preds bounce back from that beatdown in Motown.

Flames @ Wild, 8: Watch if you want...

Oil @ Stars, 8:30: Both teams jockeying for position in west. Should be a good one.

Thrash @ Coyotes, 9: ATL is having quite the trip west after sweeping the Freeway Series with wins in Anaheim and Los Angeles. Coyotes are hurting. Hurting. If PHX loses this one, the fire sale may just be on.

Kings @ Sharks, 10:30: Big win for the Kings last night. Sharks are struggling a bit right now, but win on Tuesday might have righted that teal-and-black ship.

-- The Standings (brought to you by The Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago)

1 NE 58 40 10 8 88 197 131 19-4-4 21-6-4 5-2-3 Won 1
2 SE 58 37 16 5 79 195 166 23-4-1 14-12-4 7-1-2 Won 3
3 ATL 58 37 18 3 77 179 145 19-10-1 18-8-2 7-3-0 Lost 1
4 ATL 55 30 16 9 69 179 161 16-7-3 14-9-6 6-4-0 Won 2
5 ATL 59 31 22 6 68 147 163 18-9-3 13-13-3 2-6-2 Won 1
6 NE 58 30 21 7 67 175 176 17-6-4 13-15-3 3-6-1 Lost 2
7 SE 57 29 20 8 66 164 155 16-7-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Won 1
8 NE 58 30 22 6 66 172 160 16-11-2 14-11-4 5-4-1 Won 1

9 SE 58 28 25 5 61 147 171 14-13-1 14-12-4 5-5-0 Lost 1
10 ATL 58 27 25 6 60 173 178 15-12-2 12-13-4 4-4-2 Lost 2
11 NE 56 22 25 9 53 139 158 12-9-5 10-16-4 5-3-2 Lost 1
12 NE 57 21 26 10 52 172 210 10-11-6 11-15-4 4-4-2 Lost 1
13 SE 57 19 27 11 49 145 181 10-12-7 9-15-4 3-6-1 Lost 2
14 SE 58 21 32 5 47 172 204 9-17-2 12-15-3 4-6-0 Won 2
15 ATL 57 17 34 6 40 138 192 11-12-4 6-22-2 4-5-1 Lost 1

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10 Streak
1 PAC 55 38 8 9 85 192 137 24-2-3 14-6-6 4-2-4 Won 1
2 CEN 58 38 12 8 84 221 170 21-4-3 17-8-5 7-2-1 Won 1
3 NW 57 33 18 6 72 181 169 20-7-4 13-11-2 4-4-2 Lost 1
4 CEN 55 32 15 8 72 186 140 15-4-5 17-11-3 7-3-0 Won 2
5 NW 57 28 21 8 64 173 166 14-11-4 14-10-4 6-2-2 Won 2
6 CEN 58 29 23 6 64 159 161 19-9-2 10-14-4 6-3-1 Won 1
7 PAC 56 28 21 7 63 169 174 16-7-4 12-14-3 7-3-0 Won 1
8 NW 57 29 24 4 62 161 175 13-11-3 16-13-1 5-4-1 Lost 1

9 PAC 59 28 26 5 61 166 170 15-13-3 13-13-2 5-5-0 Lost 2
10 NW 55 28 24 3 59 142 129 17-11-3 11-13-0 5-5-0 Lost 2
11 PAC 56 25 22 9 59 150 160 13-12-8 12-10-1 6-2-2 Won 1
12 CEN 58 27 28 3 57 140 166 16-11-1 11-17-2 6-4-0 Lost 2
13 CEN 57 24 26 7 55 163 176 15-11-4 9-15-3 5-2-3 Lost 1
14 NW 58 27 30 1 55 159 180 17-14-0 10-16-1 4-6-0 Won 2
15 PAC 58 25 28 5 55 146 178 16-12-2 9-16-3 1-9-0 Lost 3

February 18, 2009

Bert and Louie: What a Finish ... Panthers Drop Devils ... Wednesday's Standings and Scoreboard Watch

Bertlouie Don't know how many of you saw the end of last night's Calgary-Vancouver game, but those who did aren't going to forget it anytime soon.

Vancouver ends up beating Calgary 4-3 in a shootout as Todd Bertuzzi (former Panther FYI) took on goalie Roberto Luongo (also a former Panther!) on the final shot. Bert beat Louie with a terrific spin-a-rama move, backhanding the puck into an open net.

Only he hit the post. While Louie and the Canucks celebrated, Bert went to his knees and smashed his stick on the ice. It was awesome. Great game, and a great ending.
You might recall that current Calgary coach Mike Keenan traded Luongo to Vancouver for Bertuzzi while Keenan was general manager of the Panthers. You may not, it wasn't that big of a deal. Few people even noticed when that minor trade went down. I had actually forgotten about it until someone mentioned it to me last night.

''Hey G, didn't Luongo get traded for Bertuzzi?'' one asked. I had to look it up on my cellphone. And there it was, yes, that trade actually happened.

-- Going to make this quick because I finally have a day off and am headed to the golf course. Last night's win by the Panthers was by no means pretty but it sure did the trick. Five shutouts for Tomas Vokoun now this season, one better than all of last season. He's money. Good to see Stephen Weiss get a goal, he's been knocking on that door for weeks now.

And, in case you missed it, Rostislav Olesz is skating and could be available in a few weeks.

-- David J.Neal says the Panthers can't trade Jay Bo.

-- Last night's action: With the Rangers and Canadiens mercifully off, the Panthers make up ground and pull into a four-way tie (in points) for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. Technically Florida is in sixth because it has one fewer victory than the slumping Canadiens. Buffalo also in that mix after bouncing the Leafs last night.

Panthers off until Thursday.

-- Today's Schedule (and the teams the Panthers are rooting for)

Isles @ Rangers, 7: Rangers are feeling some intense heat lately and frankly should be. They're, well, not good. Panthers rooting on Isles to keep the Blueshirts in a funk.

Blues @ Jackets, 7: No playoff implications here. Could be a fun game. Both are playing pretty well.

Habs @ Caps, 7:30: Washington has all but clinched the SE, so root on Ovechkin and the boys. Panthers need a Montreal loss to stay tied.

Preds @ Wings, 7:30: Nothing for the Panthers, but a fun game regardless.

Kings @ Ducks, 10: The I-5 rivalry continues with the Kings leaving the big city and headed to Orange County suburbia. Hope they don't get lost. And I hope they leave early.

Today's Standings (Courtesy of Taylor Made)

1 NE 58 40 10 8 88 197 131 19-4-4 21-6-4 5-2-3 Won 1
2 SE 57 36 16 5 77 191 163 22-4-1 14-12-4 6-2-2 Won 2
3 ATL 58 37 18 3 77 179 145 19-10-1 18-8-2 7-3-0 Lost 1
4 ATL 55 30 16 9 69 179 161 16-7-3 14-9-6 6-4-0 Won 2
5 NE 57 30 21 6 66 172 172 17-6-4 13-15-2 3-7-0 Lost 1
6 SE 57 29 20 8 66 164 155 16-7-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Won 1
7 NE 58 30 22 6 66 172 160 16-11-2 14-11-4 5-4-1 Won 1
8 ATL 58 30 22 6 66 144 162 17-9-3 13-13-3 2-6-2 Lost 3

9 SE 58 28 25 5 61 147 171 14-13-1 14-12-4 5-5-0 Lost 1
10 ATL 58 27 25 6 60 173 178 15-12-2 12-13-4 4-4-2 Lost 2
11 NE 56 22 25 9 53 139 158 12-9-5 10-16-4 5-3-2 Lost 1
12 NE 57 21 26 10 52 172 210 10-11-6 11-15-4 4-4-2 Lost 1
13 SE 57 19 27 11 49 145 181 10-12-7 9-15-4 3-6-1 Lost 2
14 SE 58 21 32 5 47 172 204 9-17-2 12-15-3 4-6-0 Won 2
15 ATL 56 17 33 6 40 137 189 11-12-4 6-21-2 5-4-1 Won 1

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10 Streak
1 PAC 55 38 8 9 85 192 137 24-2-3 14-6-6 4-2-4 Won 1
2 CEN 57 37 12 8 82 215 168 20-4-3 17-8-5 6-3-1 Lost 2
3 NW 57 33 18 6 72 181 169 20-7-4 13-11-2 4-4-2 Lost 1
4 CEN 55 32 15 8 72 186 140 15-4-5 17-11-3 7-3-0 Won 2
5 NW 57 28 21 8 64 173 166 14-11-4 14-10-4 6-2-2 Won 2
6 PAC 56 28 21 7 63 169 174 16-7-4 12-14-3 7-3-0 Won 1
7 NW 57 29 24 4 62 161 175 13-11-3 16-13-1 5-4-1 Lost 1
8 CEN 57 28 23 6 62 155 158 18-9-2 10-14-4 6-3-1 Lost 1

9 PAC 58 28 25 5 61 163 166 15-12-3 13-13-2 5-5-0 Lost 1
10 NW 55 28 24 3 59 142 129 17-11-3 11-13-0 5-5-0 Lost 2
11 PAC 55 24 22 9 57 146 157 13-12-8 11-10-1 6-2-2 Lost 3
12 CEN 57 27 27 3 57 138 160 16-11-1 11-16-2 6-4-0 Lost 1
13 CEN 56 24 25 7 55 160 172 15-11-4 9-14-3 5-2-3 Won 2
14 NW 58 27 30 1 55 159 180 17-14-0 10-16-1 4-6-0 Won 2
15 PAC 58 25 28 5 55 146 178 16-12-2 9-16-3 1-9-0 Lost 3

February 17, 2009

Los Diablos: New Jersey Devils @ Florida Panthers ... Rostislav Olesz Skates ... Standings, Scoreboard Watch & Review.

Devils The Devils are in town, just another tough team the Panthers have to play in the coming weeks.

New Jersey, 2-0 against the Cats this season, are atop the Atlantic Division and playing very well. The Devils have won four straight and have won their past five games away from that monstrosity in Newark.

According to Rich Chere at the Newark Star-Ledger, both Brendan Shanahan and Paul Martin are out for the Devils. Florida is going with its same lineup.

-- Rostislav Olesz smiled Sunday when I saw him in the Florida locker room. ''I'm skating,'' he whispered as I spoke to Jay Bouwmeester.

Yes he is.

Olesz, who had sports hernia surgery a few weeks ago, was back on the ice today before practice and stayed on for a bit while the team went through the morning skate. Will have more from Rusty once I speak to him tonight. Will also get an update on his status from JM the GM.

-- Last night: The Panthers get a little help from the Islanders, who hold Pittsburgh to one point as the Isles win in a shootout. Penguins now four back of the Panthers in the playoff hunt ... Panthers got lots of love from St. Loo, the Blues beating the Rangers on Versus 2-1. Rangers have now lost eight straight away from Gotham ... The Thrashers did it again; a night after beating the Ducks down on the Pond, Atlanta goes to Hollywood and drops the Kings in a shootout thriller 7-6.

-- Tonight's Games (and the teams Florida is rooting for):

Bruins @ Canes, 7: All about the Bs. Carolina is three points back 'o the Cats.

Sabres @ Leafs, 7: Panthers are tied with Bison, so, Go Leafs Go.

Blackhawks @ Lightning, 7:30: Doesn't really matter, although the Panthers would like to see a happy Chicago team come Thursday not a surly one.

Sens @ Avs, 9:30: Senators ae playing well and might get themselves back into this thing. So, an Avs win wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Jack-joker Luongos @ Keenans, 9:30: It's the Trade Game live from Calgary. Doesn't matter to the Panthers. So it's who do you love? Roberto Luongo or Mike Keenan? Hubba hubba, hubba, who do you love?

Oil @ Sharks, 10:30: Western Conference clash of no significance to the Panthers.

Today's Standings courtesy of Gary Bettman

1 NE 57 39 10 8 86 192 130 19-4-4 20-6-4 5-2-3 Lost 4
2 ATL 57 37 17 3 77 179 141 19-10-1 18-7-2 8-2-0 Won 4
3 SE 57 36 16 5 77 191 163 22-4-1 14-12-4 6-2-2 Won 2
4 ATL 55 30 16 9 69 179 161 16-7-3 14-9-6 6-4-0 Won 2
5 NE 57 30 21 6 66 172 172 17-6-4 13-15-2 3-7-0 Lost 1
6 ATL 58 30 22 6 66 144 162 17-9-3 13-13-3 2-6-2 Lost 3
7 SE 56 28 20 8 64 160 155 15-7-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Lost 1
8 NE 57 29 22 6 64 168 159 16-11-2 13-11-4 5-4-1 Lost 1
9 SE 57 28 24 5 61 146 166 14-12-1 14-12-4 6-4-0 Won 1
10 ATL 58 27 25 6 60 173 178 15-12-2 12-13-4 4-4-2 Lost 2
11 NE 55 22 25 8 52 137 155 12-9-5 10-16-3 6-3-1 Won 5
12 NE 56 21 25 10 52 171 206 10-10-6 11-15-4 4-3-3 Won 1
13 SE 56 19 26 11 49 142 176 10-11-7 9-15-4 4-5-1 Lost 1
14 SE 58 21 32 5 47 172 204 9-17-2 12-15-3 4-6-0 Won 2
15 ATL 56 17 33 6 40 137 189 11-12-4 6-21-2 5-4-1 Won 1

February 16, 2009

Happy President's Day: A Panthers Holiday ... New Sheriff in Pitt ... Standings, Scoreboard Watch

Presidentday Happy Monday to you, a day off for many I'm sure. The Panthers decided to take today off, so there isn't much to report today.

The Panthers are coming off a second loss to Washington in just over a week, the loss snapping Florida's three game winning streak.

Harrisonford Hard to believe, but the Panthers have yet to win four straight this season. The loss also snapped a five game winning streak at the Billboard.

As for last night's scoreboard watch, Florida's loss didn't sting so badly. Carolina won to pull within three points of the last playoff spot, but the Canes beat Buffalo so the Panthers stay tied for seventh. With Independanceday Montreal losing to the Luongos and the Rangers losing to Philly, Florida remains just two points out of fifth. Philadelphia is five points up in fourth.

And, we should probably congratulate the Capitals for a second straight Southeast Division championship. The Panthers are not catching them now.

-- The Penguins fired Michel Therrien last night after the Penguins played yet another bad game in Toronto on Saturday night. Therrien, who led the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, had been rumored to be on the hot seat in Pitt since the begining of the season.

Office Dan Bylsma is the new bench boss in Steeltown, coming up to the big leagues from the Scranton branch. 

Former Panther Tom Fitzgerald, the team's director of player development, is moving down to ice level to be an assistant to Bylsma. The Penguins have an afternoon game today against the Islanders. It looks like Bylsma and the Pens get their first win together.

-- Today's Schedule -- And who the Panthers Will Be Rooting For

Pens@Isles, 2: Panthers have to root on the Isles just to keep the Pens at bay. A Pitt win, and the Pens are three points back.

Stars@Jackets, 7: No interest, although both are playing pretty good.

Rangers@Blues, 7: Rooting on the Blues. Panthers are two back of the Rangers -- who looked horrible yesterday at home against the Phillies.

Sens@Preds, 8: No interest, although everyone loves the Preds. They are scrappy!

Oilers@Coyotes, 9:30: Last five games for Olli -- 0 goals, 2 assists, minus-5

Thrash@Kings, 10:30: Have to think the Thrash gets rolled after taking down the Ducks last night. Atlanta can't do it twice.

1 NE 57 39 10 8 86 192 130 19-4-4 20-6-4 5-2-3 Lost 4
2 ATL 57 37 17 3 77 179 141 19-10-1 18-7-2 8-2-0 Won 4
3 SE 57 36 16 5 77 191 163 22-4-1 14-12-4 6-2-2 Won 2
4 ATL 55 30 16 9 69 179 161 16-7-3 14-9-6 6-4-0 Won 2
5 NE 57 30 21 6 66 172 172 17-6-4 13-15-2 3-7-0 Lost 1
6 ATL 57 30 21 6 66 143 160 17-9-3 13-12-3 3-5-2 Lost 2
7 SE 56 28 20 8 64 160 155 15-7-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Lost 1
8 NE 57 29 22 6 64 168 159 16-11-2 13-11-4 5-4-1 Lost 1

9 SE 57 28 24 5 61 146 166 14-12-1 14-12-4 6-4-0 Won 1
10 ATL 57 27 25 5 59 171 175 15-12-2 12-13-3 4-5-1 Lost 1
11 NE 56 21 25 10 52 171 206 10-10-6 11-15-4 4-3-3 Won 1
12 NE 54 21 25 8 50 135 155 12-9-5 9-16-3 5-4-1 Won 4
13 SE 56 19 26 11 49 142 176 10-11-7 9-15-4 4-5-1 Lost 1
14 SE 57 20 32 5 45 165 198 9-17-2 11-15-3 3-7-0 Won 1
15 ATL 55 16 33 6 38 134 187 10-12-4 6-21-2 4-4-2 Lost 5

February 15, 2009

Here Come the Capitals ... Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers ... Scoreboard Watching on a Sunday Afternoon

Presidents Good afternoon hockey fans and greetings from beautiful Sunrise FLA.

The Washington Capitals are in town after sandblasting the Lightning 5-1 last night in Tampa. Mike Green makes NHL history by becoming the first defenseman to score in eight straight games. He got two against the Cats last week at Bellsouth Mobility Center in Washington.

Florida didn't get a lot of help from those in front of it in the standings yesterday, with Philadelphia getting two more points to take a three point lead on the Florida Cats, and Washington's lead in the Southeast is now 11.

But, very importantly, the teams below the Panthers didn't gain any ground. Both Pittsburgh and Carolina lost, leaving the Panthers with a five point cushion. Not too shabby. With Pitt off tonight, the Panthers could make that a seven point cushion with a win today over the Ovechkins.

Carolina is playing Buffalo, so Florida will be rooting for the Hurricanes in that one.

Today's Schedule

Flyers@Rangers, 1 (NBC): Flyers are up 4-0 in the second, Henrik Lundqvist has been pulled and the MSG fans are listless and vocal. Is it too late for NBC to pull out and go to another flex game? Rangers look awful.

Sharks@Devils, 3: Panthers won't catch Devs, but will probably root for Sharks just because.

Avs@Wings, 5: Panthers have no dog in this fight, but Avs are horrible so put money on Wingers running away with this one.

Canes@Sabres, 6: Florida is rooting for Carolina only because Florida and Buffalo Bison are tied in the standings (yes, the Panthers have a game in hand).

Thrashers@Ducks, 8: Meh.

Habs@Luongos, 10: Florida definitely rooting for Vancouver to keep the heat on Montreal. If Habs didn't get to play in Colorado the other night, their losing streak would probably still be alive.

Today's Standings courtesy of NHL.com

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10 Streak
1 NE 57 39 10 8 86 192 130 19-4-4 20-6-4 5-2-3 Lost 4
2 ATL 56 36 17 3 75 173 136 18-10-1 18-7-2 8-2-0 Won 3
3 SE 56 35 16 5 75 187 161 22-4-1 13-12-4 6-2-2 Won 1
4 ATL 54 29 16 9 67 174 159 16-7-3 13-9-6 6-4-0 Won 1
5 NE 56 30 20 6 66 170 168 17-6-4 13-14-2 3-7-0 Won 1
6 ATL 56 30 20 6 66 141 155 17-8-3 13-12-3 3-5-2 Lost 1
7 SE 55 28 19 8 64 158 151 15-6-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Won 3
8 NE 56 29 21 6 64 168 156 16-10-2 13-11-4 5-4-1 Won 1

9 SE 56 27 24 5 59 143 166 14-12-1 13-12-4 6-4-0 Lost 2
10 ATL 57 27 25 5 59 171 175 15-12-2 12-13-3 4-5-1 Lost 1
11 NE 56 21 25 10 52 171 206 10-10-6 11-15-4 4-3-3 Won 1
12 NE 54 21 25 8 50 135 155 12-9-5 9-16-3 5-4-1 Won 4
13 SE 56 19 26 11 49 142 176 10-11-7 9-15-4 4-5-1 Lost 1
14 SE 56 19 32 5 43 157 194 9-17-2 10-15-3 3-7-0 Lost 1
15 ATL 55 16 33 6 38 134 187 10-12-4 6-21-2 4-4-2 Lost 5

February 14, 2009

Pitchers, Catchers and Cats ... Sunday: Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers ... No Lineup Changes

Miamistadium Well, spring is officially in the air as the big leaguers are starting to report for spring training around Florida and Arizona.

Not so many teams for us Grapefruit Leaguers as there were in the past, what with Los Angeles, Cleveland and Cincinnati heading off to new digs in Arizona.

At least we still have the Orioles. For now, anyway.

-- Not a lot of activity at Pantherland today, the team going though a fairly short workout at Incredible Ice.

Miami-stadium Pete DeBoer says he's not changing the lineup for tomorrow's game against the Capitals. Washington has a strange turnaround, playing a 7:30 game in Tampa tonight and then coming down here for an early evening game against the Panthers.

-- Also spoke to Jacques Martin about what's going on with the trading deadline bearing down on us. He says talks are ongoing with Jay Bouwmeester, and that he is talking with teams to see what they have to offer.

He says he won't make a move just to add a player, not with the team playing so well. ''If I can imprrove the team, I will,'' he said. He also aluded to Jay not neccisarily wanting to stay in Florida, saying there are plenty of players who do want to play for the Panthers. He used Cory Stillman signing here as a free agent and Bryan McCabe waiving his no-trade to come south.

-- Here are your NHL standings for Saturday, and the games you -- as a Panther fan -- might want to pay attention to today. Enjoy your day.

Saturday's games:

Islanders @ Philadelphia, 1: Panthers are rooting for the Isles; Florida is one point behind the Flyers for sixth

Edmonton @ LA, 4: No interest, although this should be a fun game

Columbus @ Carolina, 7: Panthers are five points ahead of Hurricanes; they are rooting for Blue Jax

Pittsburgh @ Toronto, 7 (HNIC, NHL Network): Again, five points ahead of Leafs; Cats say Go Leafs

Washington @ Tampa, 7:30: Panthers are nine points back of Caps and probably not going to catch them. So whatever.

Boston @ Nashville, 8:  No bearing on Panthers

Ottawa @ Minnesota, 8: Ditto

Dallas @ Chicago, 8:30: X3

Calgary @ Phoenix, 10 (HNIC, NHL Network): Should be a fun game as the Keenans play the Jokinens

1 NE 56 39 10 7 85 190 127 19-4-4 20-6-3 6-2-2 Lost 3
2 ATL 56 36 17 3 75 173 136 18-10-1 18-7-2 8-2-0 Won 3
3 SE 55 34 16 5 73 182 160 22-4-1 12-12-4 6-2-2 Lost 1
4 NE 56 30 20 6 66 170 168 17-6-4 13-14-2 3-7-0 Won 1
5 ATL 56 30 20 6 66 141 155 17-8-3 13-12-3 3-5-2 Lost 1
6 ATL 53 28 16 9 65 169 158 15-7-3 13-9-6 5-5-0 Lost 1
7 SE 55 28 19 8 64 158 151 15-6-5 13-13-3 7-3-0 Won 3
8 NE 56 29 21 6 64 168 156 16-10-2 13-11-4 5-4-1 Won 1

9 SE 55 27 23 5 59 142 161 14-11-1 13-12-4 6-4-0 Lost 1
10 ATL 56 27 24 5 59 169 169 15-12-2 12-12-3 5-4-1 Won 1
11 NE 55 20 25 10 50 165 204 9-10-6 11-15-4 3-4-3 Lost 2
12 SE 55 19 25 11 49 141 171 10-10-7 9-15-4 5-4-1 Won 1
13 NE 53 20 25 8 48 130 152 12-9-5 8-16-3 5-4-1 Won 3
14 SE 56 19 32 5 43 157 194 9-17-2 10-15-3 3-7-0 Lost 1
15 ATL 54 16 32 6 38 133 182 10-12-4 6-20-2 4-4-2 Lost 4

February 13, 2009

Ask Gary Bettman ... On Frozen Poll: Helsinki Edition

Bettman Good afternoon and greetings from sunny Sunrise (where the sun meets the ice).

The Panthers are in good spirits these days, what with Tuesday's mega-comeback against Toronto followed by a 5-0 pasting of Carolina on Tobacco Road.

The Panthers play host to the Rangers tonight, one of the teams Florida is chasing in the Eastern Conference. A regulation win, and Florida is one point back of the Rangers and the Flyers. That's pretty unreal.

(On a side note, The Jerk is on HBO Comedy right now. Awesome. Naven Johnson is one of my heroes. True story. Says something about me, too.)

Anyway, the Commish is in town tonight. Yep, Gary Bettman is here and is going to meet with the media before joining season ticket holders. For those of you who can't make it, feel free to offer up some questions you would like me to ask. Just leave your question under this post as a comment. Keep it clean, and keep it relevant. The NHL Commish doesn't care about the Heat trade nor whether or not the Marlins will be getting a new ballpark.

Feel free to ask questions about Steve Martin's early comedy work though.

-- Today's On Frozen Poll has to do with the Panthers agreeing to play Chicago in Helsinki, Finland next season. Do you think it's a good idea? Is the exposure worth the week of travel and having to recover from that upon return? Will you miss seeing the Blackhawks in SoFla next season? Your answers, next!

February 12, 2009

Where's Olli? Helsinki, Here We Come ... Florida Panthers vs. Chicago Blackhawks in Finland

Villeolli RALEIGH, N.C. -- Ville Peltonen had big news for his teammates on the bus ride to RBC Center this morning.

The Panthers are going to Finland. Here's the story on MiamiHerald.com

Team president Michael Yormark told me today that yes, the Panthers will indeed open the 2009-10 season in Europe, although he refused to tell me where. We had all heard Prague, but I had been told they were having trouble matching money to teams so they are apparently out.

Peltonen, who as a free agent this summer, filled his teammates in this morning.

Finland Peltonen told me this morning that he's very excited about the prospects of playing on true home ice with the Panthers next season. ''I hope to be there and play in that game,'' he said.

Maybe he wants to play for Chicago, but I think this could put to bed reports out of Europe that he wants to go back and play there next year.

Everything I've seen with Peltonen is that if the Panthers offer him another contract, he'll stay. Pete DeBoer obviously loves the guy, so it may just be that simple.

-- Florida and the Hawks will play at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, a modern arena that has hosted international hockey and is the home to Jokerit Helsinki. The place holds 13,400 for hockey, so we may get a Miami Arena kind of feel to this game. Here is the link to the arena.

Detroitswedes -- The other teams going to Europe include Detroit and St. Louis; they will open the season in Stockholm, Sweden. That trip makes a lot of sense for the Red Wings because they are very popular in Sweden -- and should be.

The Wings are stocked with Swedes, including Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Andreas Lilja, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg.

Tar Heel Hysteria ... Florida Panthers @ Carolina Hurricanes ... Tomas Vokoun IN ... Lines Back to Normal ... Big News Coming

Chapelhill RALEIGH, N.C. -- Took in last night's mega-huge Duke/North Carolina game from scenic Chapel Hill.

It was Steve X's idea to stay the night near the North Carolina campus so we could soak up the atmosphere, and I have to say, it was one solid idea.

The game was played on Duke's nearby campus in Durham, so all the college kids were out and about to watch the game on television.

Once the game was done -- the Heels stomped out the Blue Devils in pretty strong fashion -- the streets were flooded with people ready to cut loose. I saw Chapel Hill police gathering outside our spot midway through the second half, and one officer told me I had no idea what would happen if UNC won.

Chapelhill2 He was right.

It was a mob scene, with thousands pouring into the streets for some good old fashioned revelry. You would have thought the Heels won a national title or something. Fans were dancing, crowd surfing and setting bonfires in the streets. The police let everything go, turning around traffic headed down Franklin Street before closing it off.

I wonder what will happen tonight if the Hurricanes beat the Panthers? Will Raleigh survive?

Somehow, I think it just might.

-- Not a whole lot going on at today's morning skate. Tomas Vokoun is back in net for the Panthers, with Pete DeBoer saying he hasn't thought about who would play tomorrow night against the Rangers.

DeBoer says Vokoun hasn't been overworked just yet, but if he did notice some fatigue, Craig Anderson would get the call without hesitation.

-- PDeB also said he's going back to the line combinations in place early in Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs. That means the Sawgrass Express is back on the shelf; the Stephen Weiss-Nathan Horton-David Booth trio spent most of the third period together on Tuesday and they looked pretty comfortable playing alongside each other again.

If the Panthers don't get much going tonight, you might just see them back together.

-- Spoke to Radek Dvorak today about whether teams who have to fight and scratch and claw their way into the postseason have an advantage over teams who have known they are in for months. Dvorak, you may recall, was on an Edmonton team in 2006 that was the No. 8 seed in the west.

The Oil barely made the playoffs that year, but came into the postseason on a roll. All they did was knock off top-seeded Detroit in the opening round and work their way into the Stanley Cup Finals. Carolina needed seven games to knock off that Edmonton team in the Finals.

-- Big news coming in a few minutes on the Panthers. Will be a separate file so make sure you come back and visit. Cool? Cool.

February 11, 2009

Maple Leafs Aftermath ... Off to Raleigh

Barney Just throwing out a quick post this morning as I sit in Fort Lauderdale waiting for my plane to Carolina.

Unbelievable win for the Panthers last night, the first time the team ever rallied from a third-period, three-goal deficit to win a game. It's the second time in a week the Panthers have torn out the heart of the Maple Leafs; last week, Bryan McCabe's overtime goal lifted Florida to a 4-3 win after it trailed 3-1 going into the third.

Last night, Florida was down 4-1 before Nathan Horton scored; then it was Ville Peltonen and two from Richard Zednik. It was hard to tell if Richard was happy after the game, although the smile that never went away would lead one to believe he was indeed cool with the two goals.

Pete DeBoer was so fired up, he gave the team the morning off. That's why I have no real news. If I get something, will forward it.

February 10, 2009

One Year Ago Today: Richard Zednik ... Postseason Guarantee? Not So Fast Pal ... Radek Dvorak IN ... Toronto Maple Leafs @ Florida Panthers

Zednik2 It's been one year since Richard Zednik's gruesome accident in Buffalo, one year since Richard almost lost his life if not for quick thinking on his part as well as the fast reactions of team athletic trainer David Zenobi and Buffalo team doctor Les Bisson.

Richard met with the media today in Sunrise, saying he's well aware of the anniversary. He adds he's ready to put this whole thing behind him.

"Fortunately, I'm still playing hockey,'' Zednik said. ''I'm enjoying it right now and like I said, the team's doing very well, so I just want to enjoy the hockey right now."

When asked how his perspective has changed since the accident, Zednik said, ''you enjoy everything a little bit more. You enjoy your time with your family, and like I said, with the guys in the locker room and playing hockey.
''Yes, I don't like to think about it. I'm just looking forward and I just want to enjoy it. I don't want to go back and think about what could happen, what happened. I'm glad I'm here and I still can enjoy hockey.''

Said coach Pete DeBoer: ''It's amazing. When something like that happens to you, all kinds of things cross your mind, including whether or not you want to suit back up and get back out there. Considering where he was, it hasn't been easy for him. He's had a battle the first half of the year, but he's starting to play the best hockey at least since I've been here. That's a good sign.''

As far as Richard being more aggressive, PDeB says ''I don't know, but he's playing with more confidence, getting involved more. Getting into those battle areas. Where I think his game has picked up is in the battle areas with the defensemen on the other teams. Probably with the injuries, engaging in those areas is the biggest thing you have to overcome and not worry about. He seems to be above that.''

-- DeBoer and the Panthers are reiterating that the 'Playoff Promise' is just that. A promise.

And they made sure I knew the word guarantee was my word. Sure, that word wasn't included in the press release, but if it looks like a cat and smells like a cat, well, it might be a smelly cat.

''I think we all know we're trying to sell the game down here,'' PDeB said. ''From a team perspective as coaches and players, I think the word was we would give the fans a promise that we'll do everything we possibly can to get into the playoffs this year. I don't think there's any secret in that. The promise you're talking about is that it's a promise on the business end that they'll reward fans with tickets next year.

''But I think guarantee is too strong a word. It never came up in my conversations. You better re-read [the press release]. But it's important. We want this market excited about this team. These guys have worked awful hard to put ourselves in a position here with 30 games left that we're challenging for a playoff spot for the first time in seven years. We want people in the seats, we want people here. We're going to do everything we possibly can to make sure these last 30 games are our best.''

-- Radek Dvorak was back on the ice today and should play against the Leafs.

February 09, 2009

Ad Genius: Panthers Putting Tickets Where Their Mouth Is ... Playoffs? Guaranteed

Madmen Give the Panthers' marketing brass credit for one thing: They're creative. Oh, and they have plenty of brass. So make that two things.

The latest out of One Panther Parkway comes a playoff guarantee.

Basically, the team is saying if you buy a four-game pack of tickets to this year's playoff run and the team doesn't make the postseason, you score four freebies next year.

Which you can probably parlay into tickets for 2010-11 if they don't make the playoffs again next season. It could be the gift that keeps on giving!

In a press release I got from Barry Jackson (yet, interestingly enough not directly from the Panthers), Pete DeBoer is quoted as saying “I thought it was important to let fans know, to promise them, that our team will do everything possible to be successful on the ice over the next 31 games.

Playoffs ''We’ve made no secret of our goal to make the playoffs this year, and we want fans to get excited and support us during the stretch run.”

Here's what Chad 'C.J.' Johnson, the team's VP for sales and marketing says about the ploy:

“Our marketing department worked directly with Coach DeBoer to come up with this new, innovative campaign.

“The purpose of the campaign is to activate the South Florida marketplace and let everyone know – whether you’re a hockey fan or just a casual sports fan – that we are in an exciting playoff hunt and we need their support. Every game is a big game and we want to make the BankAtlantic Center the best home ice advantage in the NHL.”

My take: Putting this out there now is a bit risky, and it'll be interesting to ask the players what they think of this tomorrow.

The team hasn't made the playoffs in nine years, and this only amps up the pressure (not the giving away tickets thing. They give away tickets to various people for various reasons).

Panpromise For the consumer, this is a great deal -- just another good deal in Panthers history. I mean, where else can you spend $17 for a professional sports ticket and get free parking, a food voucher and other stuff?

But you can bet the Toronto folks in town tomorrow are going to get a whiff of this promotion and have themselves some fun with it.

Of course, the Panthers front office could give a flying flip what the Canadian media thinks of them. Doesn't matter what the team does, they're going to get made fun of. They're kind of an easy target.

But if the Panthers make the playoffs, no harm, no foul.

And CJ is right. The team is doing their part on the ice (for the most part); now it's time to get some fannies in the seats and get that playoff atmosphere going.

Back to Work ... Radek Dvorak Misses Practice ... Tomas Vokoun Still In

Sopranos The Panthers were back on the ice Monday, with Pete DeBoer looking as animated as we've seen in a while.

DeBoer was all over his players today, joking later that he was ''well rested.''

PDeB had them working hard, and held more short-ice drills where players fought for the puck. 

''We were too easy to play against offensively against Washington,'' DeBoer said. ''The guys know that. We're at the time of the year where we know what we need to do to be successful. We know what doesn't work for us. When we stray from those areas, we get in trouble.''

-- Radek Dvorak wasn't out there today, PDeB saying that he twisted his knee when he was taken down along the boards early in the third period when Florida was trying to kill off a penalty. Dvorak couldn't clear the puck (''there should have been a penalty,'' PDeB said) and the Capitals scored moments later on Mike Green's first of the night.

PDeB said Dvorak could have skated Monday but held him out for precautionary purposes. Expect him to play tomorrow against the Toronto Van Ryns. But, if he doesn't, Anthony Stewart was up on the CPR Line in Dvorak's place.

CPA Line? Sure the Panthers would have no problems finding a sponsor for that one.

-- Tomas Vokoun back in net tomorrow.

February 06, 2009

The Economy Strikes Again ... THE AHL on NHL

Ratpack Just got an email from the Panthers Foundation that they have had to postpone the annual Ice & Dice charity event scheduled for later this month at the Westin Diplomat (once home to Hollywood Squares on the beach for you old timers like me).

That's usually a pretty good event, one that raises a bunch of money for charities associated with the team, including the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood.

The team says they are going to reschedule, but who knows if they'll hold one this year. They sent out an earlier email saying they raised $50,000 at the most recent golf tournament, and if that's true, good for them. That's a nice chuck of change for a golf outing.

Not a lot of fun talking about the economy these days. Our parent company just announced it was freezing our pension and matches on our 401k (the Panthers stopped matching contributions late last year). Sucks right now. Just have to trudge along and hope things get better. And soon.

Sidenote: Nathan Horton told me he had so much fun playing golf at the tournament this year he's thinking of taking up the game in the offseason. I told him golf was fun, and asked how he hit the ball.

''Good,'' he said. Then, laughing, he said ''better than last year.''

As you may recall, Nate and Olli Jokinen were two of the early birds at last year's tournament, drawing much criticism for bailing on the tournament just after it started.

-- The NHL Network, in another effort to bring you, the hockey fan, great programming, is going to broadcast a number of AHL games in the coming weeks. For some reason, they seem to be fans of the Panthers' affiliate in Rochester. The Americans will be featured in three of the six games televised starting with Saturday's game against Binghamton. Here's the rest of the schedule:

Saturday, Feb. 7 – Binghamton @ Rochester at 2:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, Mar. 7 – Rochester @ Lake Erie at 1:00 p.m. ET
Friday, Mar. 13 – Toronto @ Rochester at 7:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Mar. 22 – Grand Rapids @ Lake Erie at 5:00 p.m. ET
Friday, Mar. 27 – Springfield @ Worcester at 7:00 p.m. ET

Friday, Apr. 10 – Manchester @ Worcester at 7:00 p.m. ET

Richard Zednik Heating Up ... Zednik's Goal: No. 2 on SportsCenter (U.S. Version, eh) ... Florida Panthers 3, New York Islanders 2

Zednik Richard Zednik is playing some terrific hockey (he had been playing terrific baseball) for the Panthers in the past month. Now, his hard work of crashing the net and going strong into the corners is starting to pay off statistically.

Zednik has two goals and an assist in the past four games, those two goals coming in TSN SportsCentre classic fashion.

ESPN makes Zednik's goal No. 2 top play of the night, just behind Tennessee coach Pat Summitt winning her 1,000th career game. Congrats, coach. Huge milestone. Huge.

But, my bet is Canada's all-sports station ranked Zednik's goal ahead of UT women's hoops. Just a hunch.

As many of you may remember, Zednik was really turning things on at this time last season, then that game on Feb. 10 happened in Buffalo. Sure everyone remembers that game. Anyway, if the Panthers are going to be serious contenders for the postseason this year, they're going to need Zednik to be on.

Check out this quote from one Peter DeBoer: ''He's a game-breaker. Your best players have to be your best players down the stretch, and he's in that group of guys. Right now, he's delivering.'' Here's the rest of the story from tonight.

Oh, and here are the goals:

This is the one from tonight, the one that held up as the game-winner.

This is the one from Thursday against the Habs.

Both are terrific. Both will be part of the Panthers post-season highlight DVD. If they make Florida Panthers highlight DVDs. I don't know if they do.

Funny, but both goals gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

-- Your Carolina Hurricanes played a pretty nice game tonight in San Jose, winning in a shootout after being down 2-0 and 3-1 on the road. Carolina pulls to within a point of Florida for eighth.

But look at those standings. Here we are in February, and the Panthers aren't eight points out of eighth. No, they are one point out of seventh (Buffalo), three points out of sixth (Philly), five points out of fifth (Rangers) and six points out of fourth (Expos) in the Eastern Conference.

Pirates But, as the creepy talking skull warns on Pirates of the Caribbean, rough waters are ahead.

Of Florida's next 12 games, 10 come against teams now in a playoff position (including Chicago on the West Side), one against the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes and one against a team that woulda, coulda, shoulda beaten the Panthers on Tuesday in Toronto (one guess who that was, and no, it wasn't the Argos).

Have a good night.

The Panthers, as nice as things look right now, have a lot of work to do.

February 05, 2009

Florida Marlins Meet the Florida Panthers ... New Jersey Nets @ Florida Panthers ... Turn up the Heat ... Jassen Cullimore is in Stitches ... Speaking of That, Don King in the House ... AdWatch: Scoreboard

028 The Panthers are about to take on the Islanders, with a few members of the Florida Marlins coming to pay a visit.

Judging by what the crowd looks like, the Fish should feel right at home.

The Marlins and the Panthers began their run down here as brothers of a sort as then-Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga parlayed his baseball success by bringing hockey here in 1993.

Of course, Wayne parted ways with both of those franchises, but I think it's good for both the Marlins and Panthers to do a little cross-promotion. It can't hurt either.

Taking in tonight's game are infielders Jorge Cantu and Wes Helms, outfielder Cody Ross and catcher John 'Ponch' Baker.

Pitcher Scott Olsen has been known to enjoy his hockey, but I would guess he's probably a Capitals fan these days.

-- Speaking of cross promotion (and yes, I know this story is a couple days old), the Panthers and Nets have teamed up for what's being called a 'Snowbird Ticket Exchange.' Basically, season ticket holders of the New Jersey Nets basketball team can attend Florida Panthers games when they are down here clogging up our highways, and vise versa (honestly, sounds like a better deal for fans of the Netropolitans).

As everyone knows, Panthers president Michael Yormark's twin brother Brett runs the Nets.

-- Winger David Booth and goalie Tomas Vokoun were back in the lineup Thursday after both missed Tuesday's game in Toronto with illness. Booth had been out since Saturday's game against the Islanders in New York.

Booth says he wasn't suffering from the flu, but the virus he caught brought him ''the most pain I've ever been in. I was pretty miserable there.'' Upon returning from Toronto on Wednesday, Booth skated for about an hour, then was on the ice early Thursday.

''I felt fast, but my endurance may not be where it needs to be,'' Booth continued. ''Maybe I need to keep my shifts shorter.''

Gmanwild -- Only a few members of the Panthers were brave enough to wear their usual post-practice uniform of shorts with sandals on Thursday, most bundling up against the unusual South Florida chill.

Pete DeBoer has spent most of his life in Canada, but even he was looking for warmth on Wednesday when temperatures in western Broward dipped below 40 degrees.

''I was running around the house looking for the furnace so I could turn on the heat,'' DeBoer said with a laugh.

''The guy was telling me 'there are no furnaces in these houses.' So what, you have a heating element in the air conditioning?

''I'm afraid to turn it on. I don't know what will happen.''

-- Defenseman Jassen Cullimore took three stitches after being struck by an errant puck Tuesday in Toronto. Cullimore was hit just centimeters from his right eye, but was OK. He was back on the ice moments after being stitched up.

-- Jay Bouwmeester is Panthers' defensive player of the month.

Perhaps for the last time.

Ministanley -- Don King just dropped the opening puck wearing his custom Panthers jersey. He stood on the ice during the anthem as well, waving his handful of mini-flags (next to Mini Stanley, of course).

Only in South Florida, baby.

-- The team has taken its own name off the scoreboard, replacing the small 'Florida Panthers' billboard with the name of a cable provider who will remain nameless. Of course, with the crummy resolution on these scoreboards, I wouldn't brag about it being their 'Vision.'

Booth, Vokoun Return ... New York Islanders @ Florida Panthers

CHILLY SOUTH FLORIDA -- Welcome to Florida, where a nice warm spot today wasn't the beach, but a big ice arena on the edge of the Everglades.

Yes, the Panthers are home if only for a day or too. Then it's back to the true chill.

Anyway, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun are both back after illness and will be in the lineup tonight. Noah Welch and Nick Tarnasky are out.

More later....

George Richards

The Miami Herald

NHL/Florida Panthers


February 04, 2009

National Signing Day ... Panthers Day of Rest ... Homeward Bound

Deboersign TORONTO -- The Panthers are off to a good start here on national signing day, and could have a top 10 class, according to rivalstarprepwatcher.net

So far today, the Panthers signed St. Thomas Aquinas goalie Rob Timpson (national three star by rivalstarprepwatcher and a 4 1/2 star by whatyoutalkinboutwillis.com).

Florida has also received signed scholarship papers from Fort Lauderdale Dillard defenseman Steve Blake (13 goals, 11 assists last year for the BCAA runners-up) and Cooper City's Luke Daniels (he's a center now, but is probably going to be a winger, coach Mark Rael says).

The big name so far has to be five-star prospect Ronnie Booth, cousin to Panthers' winger David Booth, a senior at East Lansing Senior High in Michigan. They say the kid can fly.

''Yeah, I sold him on the Panthers,'' David Booth said. ''Detroit offered him, but not until real late in the process. The Panthers were right with him all the way. He felt comfortable here, he likes the coaching staff. Mike Kitchen was his recruiter and was at a lot of his hockey games. They went fishing. Detroit just visited once or twice.''

Pete DeBoer and Jacques Martin are still out recruiting right now, and plan on having a big signing day press conference in Sunrise later on this afternoon.

We'll have updates throughout the day as we are waiting on Orlando Bishop Moore's Dave Karpowski to decide on the Panthers, Tampa Bay or Chicago. He's said to be a soft commit to Chicago, but the Panthers think they can land him. We'll see.

-- Slow day for the Panthers, save for the big national signing day festivities and all. The team pulled a rare move and stayed the night in Toronto, a move that looked even better after they came back and won. Seriously, that was one of the most exciting wins I've witnessed in my years covering this team. Down 3-1 in the third, on the road, fairly hostile environment. Good win for sure.

Mccabe4 We were talking about this last night, but not only does Pete DeBoer have to be in serious running for coach of the year, but Jacques Martin has to be in the discussion for executive of the year. If this team makes the playoffs, you have to think both will get serious nods.

JM has made some pretty good moves this year, no? You like Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman, Keith Ballard and even DeBoer?

Say what you want about him locking up Rostislav Olesz long-term to big bucks (that isn't looking real good now, but patience), but JM's other moves have been pretty good.

Of course, the big test comes in a few weeks with one Mr. Bouwmeester.

-- The Panthers have today off after flying home this morning, on ice tomorrow at the arena at 10:30. Kickoff against the Islanders at 7:30.

-- Oh, big surprise here! TSN is reporting that Immokkalee's Javon James -- cousin to Javarris and Edgerrin -- has just signed with the Panthers after committing early to Phoenix, apparently to be closer to Edge.

Javon James is a bruising forward, setting the Immokkalee record for goals and points in a career and he got to the Florida Frozen Four in Lakeland twice. This is a big signing for the Panthers, and should cement their standing as having a top five class this year. 


February 03, 2009

Toronto Sick Bay: Craig Anderson Versus Toronto ... Tomas Vokoun Has the Flu ... Fidel Castro and the Toronto Maple Leafs

Ferrisnurse In quite the surprise, Craig Anderson is in net tonight against the Leafs.

Vokoun is sick and isn't on the bench for the start of the game. He was apparently here for warmups, so he's probably resting in the locker room.

So maybe that's what the Rochester rumors were all about? Think they might have had trouble getting a flight for someone? I don't know. More as we go. Enjoy the game.

-- UPDATE: Vokoun is indeed the official backup goalie; he is sitting in the Panthers locker room and he is still in his pads just in case Anderson gets hurt. Vokoun is starting the second period on the Florida bench, drinking Gatorade. Or a Hot Toddie. He's drinking something.

-- Joe Nieuwendyk is here. He sends his best to everyone. So does Nik Hagman. He just said hello to Craig Anderson and the back of the net.

Cuba 001  -- Now here's a sponsor even the Panthers would say no to: On the boards just past the Leafs bench is an advertisement for Cuban tourism.

Daily flights to Habana from Toronto and Montreal. All aboard!

OK, maybe not.

-- Oh, and to be timely, enjoy this exchange between Anderson and some dude named Erik. What's a Leaf?

UPDATE: Changes in Lattitude: Another Day in T.O. ... No Callup from Rochester ... Florida Panthers @ Toronto Maple Leafs ... David Booth Out ... Mike Van Ryn Says Hello

Goldiecuba TORONTO -- News Flash: It's still cold in Canada.

Today we had some snow, some salad and some Tim Hortons coffee. Yes, Gameday for the Panthers is finally here.

The hockey team from Sunrise, Fla., has been here since early Sunday morning, and will finally get to play some hockey. The Florida squad will be facing a team of locals from here in Toronto, and it should be a good show for all.

Spoke with former Panther Mike Van Ryn today and he says he's digging it up here. He gets to see a lot of friends and family, and they ''finally get to cheer for the team they really like.''

Mike and his wife Amber are expecting their first child (a girl) in June, so congrats to both. Good people Mike Van Ryn is.

-- UPDATE: No one is coming up from Rochester. Richard Zednik is out on the ice.

Gmanxm -- Special thanks to all the good folks over at XM Radio here in Toronto. Got to visit the studios and do a little session with Gary Green (chillaxing in FLA) and Mike Ross.

Thanks to Jim 'Boomer' Gordon for setting the deal up, also was nice meeting Dan 'The Voice' Blakeley, Terry Mercury and Joe Thistel. Good hockey people all.

Gmanxm2 -- Here's a shot of me resting my eyes on that very comfortable leather couch out in the hall. I was in deep thought. By Jack Handy.

-- David Booth was back with the team after a couple of days of extreme illness. It got so bad, Booth had to go to a local hospital here yesterday to get an IV. He also had an IV on Saturday when the team was playing the Islanders, but he's struggled to keep in fluids.

He worked out and skated today, but is out until at least Thursday. Pete DeBoer thinks he'll be ready to play then, but Booth didn't sound so optimistic. He's weakened from the illness and may need a few more days of skating.

"It was good to get out and skate again, but I felt terrible out there,'' said Booth. ''I couldn't even make it around the rink once. But I haven't had any food in three days, so that's to be expected.''

-- News Flash II: Jay Bouwmeester was a big topic of discussion here today, with the gathered media gathering around him to hear him say the same things he's been saying for months. No news flash here. But, I did ask Pete about his role in trying to keep Jay and he says he's not going to get all that involved. ''We're going to let our actions speak for themselves,'' he said.

As far as Pete talking to JM and putting his two cents in on whether Jay should be moved at the deadline or not, he said he was pretty much steering clear of the whole thing.

''My job is to coach the players I have day in and day out and Bouwmeester is here every day,'' DeBoer said.

"Am I going to be able to talk Jay Bouwmeester into staying? No. I've taken the approach since Day 1 that we'll try and let our actions speak for us, try to show him long term this is the place he wants to be. That's all I can do. I'm not going to talk Jay Bouwmeester into anything. He's going to make up his own mind."