HELSINKI -- Just made the two-plus hour ride home across Finnish farm country and am back in the big city.
Yes the Panthers lost on Monday. To a club team. One currently ranked sixth in the Finnish Elite League. The last NHL team believed to lose to a club team in exhibition play was the Quebec Nordiques in 1991 against Moscow Dynamo.
The Panthers got goals from Nathan Horton and Mike Duco, taking leads but giving them back both times. After a five minute overtime, the teams went to a shootout with Florida going first. Ville Koistinen, Stephen Reinprecht and Michael Frolik were all stopped. On what was the final shot of the shootout, former NHLer Ville Niemenen beat Scott Clemmensen.
Will have video from Pete DeBoer talking about the loss in a little bit.
-- Sorry about the loss of the live feed during the game. The arena we were in didn't provide electrical outlets much less internet, and the hour I had bought expired just as shootout started. Trust me, it was not worth paying those rates to keep going for a shootout period. I have been told that will not be a problem Wednesday nor this weekend inside Helsinki's Hartwall Arena, so come back on Wednesday for a noon live game chat.
-- Spoke to Randy Sexton about the Dmitry Kulikov situation, and here's what we know: The Panthers have until tomorrow (Tuesday) to sign him or he is on a plane headed back to Quebec. Sexton says if a deal isn't worked out with the KHL by tomorrow, the Panthers are obligated to at least have Kulikov headed back. Kulikov will work out with the Panthers in the morning then see where things stand.
Have video of Kulikov, Mike Duco (who continues to impress this camp), Sexton and Ville Koistinen coming up as well.
-- EDIT: Running into the same internet problems at this hotel as we had in Port Hawkesbury. The Pete video is up, but you're going to have to wait for the rest of it. Just can't get it to go through. Will alert when more video is able to get up online.
-- Stephen Weiss left the game with a groin injury in the second. Doesn't sound serious, but we all know how these things can linger.
-- The Panthers will not practice tomorrow. Guess they have some team building stuff to do. I'm sleeping in, thanks.
-- ESPN is back at realignment again, and according to three of their four NHL columnists, South Florida shouldn't have a team anymore. You can probably discount Scott Burnside dumping the Panthers and keeping the Thrashers since he lives in Atlanta.
And I don't think Barry Melrose likes Sunrise very much since there are no cigar ashtrays on the sidewalks leading from the rink to the team hotel for him to ash in when he leaves a team practice and hoofs it back to the room. Pierre LeBrun? Cool guy, just like the previous two I should note, but he wants to expand into Europe and some teams in North America have to go to fit that plan. Read if you want.
-- ESPN brings back its power rankings, and like TSN to the north, ESPN has the Panthers starting the season at 15th in the league. That's eighth in the conference. To take this poll seriously, though, one would have to ignore Tampa Bay at 10th.
-- Here's Pierre's take on the Panthers as he talks about each team in the east:
Give interim GM Randy Sexton credit: He did the most he could with the lemons he was handed. He got something in return for exiting star blueliner Jay Bouwmeester, acquiring and re-signing defenseman Jordan Leopold. He replaced departing free-agent goalie Craig Anderson with Scott Clemmensen and added forward Steve Reinprecht to help alleviate the offseason losses of forwards Richard Zednik, Ville Peltonen and Anthony Stewart. Defensemen Steve Eminger and Jassen Cullimore also left town. The money-strapped team is for sale, which has tied the hands of management. It's hard to foresee anything but another non-playoff season despite the Panthers' having one of the best young coaches in the game, Peter DeBoer, behind the bench.
Burning question: Which Tomas Vokoun will show up this season? The Czech veteran was both brilliant and brutal at times last season, enough that DeBoer started Anderson for key games down the stretch when the Panthers still had playoff hopes. Clemmensen showed his worth last season in saving the Devils' season, so he will be there to push Vokoun, who has two years left on his deal that will pay him $5.7 million and $6.3 million, respectively. Does he become trade bait if Clemmensen shows he's worthy of the No. 1 job?
-- Speaking of moving teams and expansion, all this talk that the league is headed back to Hamilton just doesn't fly with me. That market isn't big enough to support a pro team and will hurt the Buffalo Sabres more than the Leafs. If you can build an arena out by the Toronto airport, then you've got something.