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30 posts from December 2009

December 31, 2009

Panthers Practice, Goal for Reinprecht

The Panthers will hold a special Winter Classic practice Friday at Incredble Ice. Starts at noon. Will be indoors however. Sorry.

Also, Steven Reinprecht gets late credit for the final Florida goal tonight, thieving it from Radek Dvorak. Just kidding. He stole it.

Happy New Year y'all. Be safe.

Panthers Practice, Goal for Reinprecht

A Decade of Futility: The Florida Panthers 2000-09

Bure Well, it's almost 2010 and the Florida Panthers are in the running for a playoff berth.

Been a while since they've made it, eh?

The last time we were changing over a big digit on the year clock, the Panthers were 20-10-3-3 after losing 2-1 in Chicago on Dec. 30, 1999.

Florida survived Y2K well enough, beating the Lightning 7-5 on New Year's Day. It was a great start to what turned out to be a very crummy decade.

That Panthers team -- led by Pavel Bure -- ended up earning the most points in franchise history. They went to the playoffs. They got swept by the Devils in the opening round. Then nada.

Sure, there have been some feel-good moments with the Panthers this decade, but some of their best moments -- hello Richard Zednik -- came on the heels of something bad.

In the past 10 years, the Panthers have had three ownership heads (H.Wayne, Alan Cohen and Cliff Viner/Stu Siegel), seven coaches (Terry Murray, Duane Sutter, Mike Keenan, Rick Dudley, John Torchetti, Jacques Martin and Pete DeBoer) and seven GMs (Bryan Murray, Bill Torrey, Chuck Fletcher, Rick Dudley, Keenan, JM and Randy Sexton).

They stole Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo from the Islanders, only to give both up later on. They didn't draft all that well but stole many a headline around draft time for their different trades.

It's been a tough 10 years for this organization, but they feel they are moving into 2010 with a little momentum. Few people I have met in this business are as enthusiastic as Cliff Viner, and you have to be rooting for these guys to make things work here in South Florida.

What are some of your favorite Panthers moments from the past decade? The ones you hate? Leave 'em below.

-- The Panthers go into Thursday's game 286-317-108 with 31 ties this decade. That's a winning percentage of 39 percent. But that doesn't include the playoffs. So throw four losses in there if you feel like it.

-- And since this has probably already come out, here is my Florida Panthers All-Decade team as submitted to The Hockey News. Now, some of these guys only played on the 1999-2000 team, but they were here long before that so they made it. And, I put the Sawgrass Express line together, just for fun.

Plus, who else you gonna put on there?

Let me know your thoughts on that as well.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ALL-DECADE TEAM

2000-2009

G: Roberto Luongo, Tomas Vokoun

Mark Parrish-Olli Jokinen-Pavel Bure

David Booth-Stephen Weiss-Nathan Horton

Kristian Huselius-Viktor Kozlov-Ray Whitney

Gary Roberts-Joe Nieuwendyk-Scott Mellanby

D

Jay Bouwmeester-Robert Svehla

Bryan McCabe-Sandis Ozolinsh

Paul Laus-Bryan Allen

Merry New Year: Jacques and the Canadiens are Back

Beef Jerky- First off, Happy New Year's to everyone. Hope you have a safe night out and about.

We have one more game left in the 2009 calendar year and Montreal is here for it. Should be a fun night here at The Billboard.

Just got done talking with Jacques Martin, the former coach and GM of the Panthers. He looks tan and fit and ready to get the Habs back into the playoffs. But it's going to be a dogfight -- and the Panthers are one of those teams nipping at Montreal's heels.

We talked to JM the former GM about a number of subjects regarding the Panthers. Here's what I wrote. It'll be in tomorrow's paper, but I'm sure a bunch of you aren't getting up early tomorrow to read it so consider this a New Year's bonus.

Have a good one folks.

-- As expected, a great crowd on hand for tonight's game. Of course, a lot of them are rooting for the Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge.

Nice, classy move by the Panthers by bringing in an anthem singer to sing part of O! Canada in French.

Not to be outdone, Graham went 1:50 doing the American anthem.

Anyway, on to the JM story.

When the Montreal Canadiens came calling last summer, it didn’t take Jacques Martin long to answer.

Martin’s had a number of reasons for leaving his job as Panthers general manager.

First, the opportunity to coach a legendary team like the Canadiens – a team he grew up idolizing in Quebec – doesn’t come along very often. And second, Martin figured he was fighting an uphill battle in South Florida.


Miami Ownership had given him plenty of money to fund the payroll (Florida spent about $52 million last season), but Martin knew creating revenue was tough in this non-traditional market and that money could have dried up at any time.


“I had a good relationship with the ownership here and enjoyed working here,’’ said Martin, who returned to BankAtlantic Center Thursday for the first time since leaving the Panthers in June.


“What made it difficult, and when I look back, last year we increased the player budget by over $10 million. We made great strides over when I came here with Mike [Keenan]. I knew it would be a struggle though. That was one of the issues. This is a difficult market.’’


That said, Martin still believes in the Panthers – and in South Florida as a hockey market. As he said when he was with the team, winning will cure all ills. If the Panthers win, they will come.


“Look at most of the teams, hockey or anything else, they’re supported when they win,’’ he said. “The Miami Heat is a good example. They were struggling. Then they became a powerhouse and started filling [its arena].’’


Martin spent five years with the Panthers, hired to coach the team in 2004 soon after he was fired in Ottawa. Martin didn’t get to coach the 2004-05 season because of the NHL lockout, but his three years behind the bench made him the most tenured coach in history. After the team failed to make the playoffs in 2008, owner Alan Cohen fired him as coach but gave him a new pact to stay on as general manager.


Current coach Pete DeBoer was hired by Martin and says he will always be indebted to Martin for the chance to coach in the NHL. Martin says it’s apparent DeBoer was a good choice.


“He had a lot of success in junior hockey and has a good mind for the game and a good relationship with the players,’’ Martin said. “I felt he was the best candidate for the job and has done a great job. The team has kept progressing.’’

December 27, 2009

UPDATE: Afternoon at The Billboard: Scott Clemmensen in Net ... Rostislav Olesz OUT, Kamil Kreps IN

MOVIE Happy Sunday to you from high atop The Billboard in beautiful North Weston.

The Panthers are entertaining the Boston Bruins in a special going-against-NFL Sunday afternoon game. Kickoff for this one is 5 p.m.

Despite the football deal, looks like we might have a nice crowd here. We're 10 minutes away and there are quote a few folks in the upper reaches of the upper deck.

Should be a pretty good game Come on down if you have the time.

The ice looks good, the glass is finally in place and we're about ready for hockey.

Scott Clemmensen is in net today for the Cats although I don't know Pete's rationale for this so don't ask. Will get the explanation after the game.

Assuming Pete wanted Clemmensen to get some work in; he hasn't played since losing to Carolina on Dec. 19. But that was only two games ago. Now, you're looking at Tomas Vokoun getting eight days between starts figuring he plays New Year's Eve against those pesky Canadiens.

Saw Tomas yesterday and he didn't look sick, although he may have come down with something overnight. And that was pure speculation on my part. Comes free with your paid admission to the blog.

UPDATE: Pete told Clemmensen he was going to start Sunday before the Christmas break. He says he wants to give Tomas some true time off.

-- Rostislav Olesz does have the flu and is out for today's game. Shawn Matthias was called up yesterday to take his place. Kamil Kreps, out since the Atlanta game, is back in.

-- Panthers are wearing the Pittsburgh/Carolina blues today. Bruins in their traditional whites with black pants.

-- The Panthers will practice at 10:30 a.m. in Coral Springs on Monday.

December 26, 2009

Festivus for the Buff in Us

Festivus2 Festivus may have come and gone, but for hockey fans, this new video by the Sabres could become a new holiday tradition.

Or not.

It's basically Buffalo's Drew Stafford espousing his love for the pre-Christmas holiday made famous by Frank Costanza and Kramer on Seinfeld.

And former Panthers defenseman Steve Montador has an appearance, giving Festivus the same relevance as Canadian Thanksgiving.

Good stuff. Enjoy.

But don't forget: I got a lot of problems with you people!

UPDATED: Stephen Weiss, Team Canada and other Panthers Olympic Roster Talk

Weiss23 There is no doubt Stephen Weiss is in the midst of a career season.

But will that be good enough for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team?

It doesn't appear so.

At least not now.

Weiss said today that he would love to play for Team Canada, but he hasn't spoken to anyone there as of yet. Hockey Canada will announce its team on Dec. 30, and Weiss won't be part of that.

But he still could make it because the final rosters don't have to be turned in until Feb. 15 -- one day before the games start.

So, if Weiss keeps up his play and there are some injuries, he could be a late addition. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure Jay Bouwmeester was a late addition to Team Canada in 2006.

Here's what we can assume: There are two center (OK, centre) spots that are secure and they belong to Sidney Crosby and Joe Thornton.

Then you have the other guys. I think Weiss deserves a look when we're talking about Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Vinny Lecavalier, Mike Fisher, Rich Peverly and Patrick Marleau. Will Weiss get that chance? Probably not. He wasn't part of the orientation camp this past summer, and he plays for a team that doesn't get a lot of attention.

But people in Canada know what Weiss is doing and I can assure you, they are paying attention. If he keeps up his strong play and some guys drop out of the mix either by bad play or injuries (once a player is named to the team, he can't be dropped unless there is an injury but Weiss' stock could improve among those others left off), who knows what can happen in the coming weeks.

Boothusa -- Speaking of the Olympics, what does Team USA do with David Booth? They can assume that he'll be back playing by the time the Games roll around, but do they know what kind of player Booth will be in those first few weeks?

I would think Booth will be in fine shape in time for the Games and no one will give coach Ron Wilson and Team USA a better effort if he is named to the team.

But there's probably too much uncertainty surrounding him and his concussion for him to be named to the team this week. And that sucks for him. But we'll see.

Vokounolympics -- Tomas Vokoun is a lock to make the Czech Republic team and he may even start for them. That will be cool.

Michael Frolik could be on that team as well. Rostislav Olesz could end up playing in Vancouver for the Czechs, too.

-- Dennis Seidenberg will make the trip and play in the prelims with Germany.

-- UPDATE: Sweden announced its team yesterday and Panthers goalie-of-the-future Jacob Markstrom did not make it as the third goalie.

That would have been yet another great experience for a kid who is playing way beyond his years and it's still possible he makes it depending on injuries and such.

Markstrom and Sweden kicked off the World Juniors in style today, beating Czech 10-1. Markstrom made 20 saves.

Goldie -- Forgot about one member of the Panthers who will be in Vancouver, injury or not.

Steve 'Goldie' Goldstein will return to the Games to do radio work. Rumor is he'll be paired with Jeremy Roenick. That should be interesting.

Congrats Goldie (and don't forget to bring me something). I'll be watching from afar. Somewhere warm and afar.

Welcome Back Panthers: Rostislav Olesz Sick, Shawn Matthias Recalled ... Nick Tarnasky in vs. Boston

Customs All members of the Florida Panthers made it home from Christmas safe and sound, although it sounds like Gregory Campbell and Cory Stillman had quite a bit of fun fighting the security lines today coming back from Canada.

Seems that clown from the Detroit flight has made things a little tighter and put security on edge. Nothing like a little knee-jerk reaction to make everyone feel safer.

The Panthers had a full practice at Incredible Ice this afternoon and quite a few fans showed up to watch. Was nice to have a little atmosphere at the rink.

Stillman and Victor Oreskovich were late to practice because of their flights home, but both ended up working out on the ice following practice. Rostislav Olesz is suffering from the flu and missed practice, with coach Pete DeBoer saying he'll probably miss tomorrow's game against the Bruins.

Shawn Matthias was recalled from Rochester on Saturday night and will likely take Olesz's spot in the lineup.

Because of the compressed schedule, the Panthers have had little to no practice time. It's been morning skate or nothing since this run of 24 games in six weeks started in Boston on Nov. 12.

"It felt like I hadn't run a practice in a month,'' DeBoer joked.

-- Nick Tarnasky was on the ice today and will be in the lineup tomorrow against the Bruins. He's wearing a visor, something he's not used to doing. He was trying to explain why today, as if embarassed about it, but the guy had a bone in his face broken in a fight and had other problems that went with it. He needs to wear that shield.

-- Ville Koistinen was at the rink today, talking to his teammates. DeBoer thinks he's going to have surgery on his injured knee soon.

-- Dmitry Kulikov will not need surgery on his injured knee, but he's out for a bit. Expect him back in mid-January.

-- Same with David Booth. He skated before the rest of the team took to the ice.

-- Cory Stillman is expected back Thursday against Montreal. Pete joked that he didn't have any setbacks "passing out the presents.''

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas: Now get to Rochester

NEW YORK -- Jumping on a plane so making this quick: Mike Duco and Shawn Matthias have been sent back to Rochester. Have a great day!

Merry Christmas: Now get to Rochester

December 23, 2009

Christmas in the City: Panthers vs. Rangers

Xmas6 NEW YORK -- Greetings from Times Square where it's cold, raw and actually quite nice.

Everyone in the city (save for those girls at the M&M store) seems to have the holiday spirit and are enjoying the sights and sounds.

That said, we have a hockey game to play.

The Panthers will go with the same lineup tonight against the Rangers at MSG as they did Monday in Philly. That means Kamil Kreps is still out.

Here's the news from today:

(*) Cory Stillman was out there practicing again today, but he won't be playing on Dec. 27 as expected. Pete DeBoer says they are going to play him on Dec. 31 against the Montreal Martins instead. The theory is that the Panthers haven't really done any hard practice lately and they will before the Montreal game. So Stillman will miss a game but get some serious work done before hand.

(*) Nick Tarnasky has been recalled from Rochester and will join the team tonight. He will not play.

(*) Tomas Vokoun back in net tonight.

(*) David Booth was on the ice today and could start practicing after the Christmas break. DeBoer says he expects Booth to be back in the lineup in mid-January.

(*) Speaking of Christmas, going to post some pictures from my little trip around town today. Happy Holidays everyone.

Xmas1 Xmas3 Xmas4 Xmas5

Xmas7 Xmas8 Xmas9 Xmas10




Xmas2

December 21, 2009

Boother Likes It: Florida Panthers 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1 (KO)

Boxer PHILADELPHIA – The Panthers hit the Flyers where it really hurt on Monday night.

The scoreboard.

Sure, the Panthers and Flyers had a few brawls as expected, but Florida dominated play from start to finish as it rolled to a 4-1 victory at Wachovia Center.

The Panthers were playing the Flyers for the first time since Philadelphia captain Mike Richards knocked out David Booth with a shot to the head here on Oct. 24. Booth, who suffered a serious concussion, hasn’t returned since but enjoyed every minute of Monday’s bashing.

“That was exactly what we needed to do,’’ Booth said after the game. “Guys didn’t back down. We played strong, came hard. .-.-. The guys also played well and that’s the best part, getting two points.’’

The two teams have been going in opposite directions since that previous meeting. The Flyers – a hip preseason pick to win it all -- have lost 11 of 13 games and sit in 14th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The Panthers have won five of seven and currently occupy a place within the conference’s top eight.

There were three fights in an opening period in which the Panthers took a 1-0 lead, but Florida did most of its damage in the final 40 minutes – a span that saw just one fight. The Panthers scored three goals off goalies Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in the final two periods.

Boucher left the game after the second goal after a hard shot from Michael Frolik apparently injured the goalie’s hand. Frolik ripped off a shot on the power play that Boucher sprawled to save; he didn’t get back into position as Stephen Weiss pounced and shot into the open net.

After that, the Flyers didn’t seem to have much interest as the home crowd showered them with boos and catcalls for the rest of the evening.

After a first period that featured three fights and the possibility for quite a few more, the Panthers settled into a simple game plan that frustrated the Flyers.

The headline bout in the first was between the two captains as Bryan McCabe and Richards squared off at center ice less than four minutes into the game. The fight wasn’t much, but it was something anyway.

The Panthers didn’t do much retaliation when Booth was hit, but Gregory Campbell and Ian Laperriere dropped the gloves (as the arena rang a boxing bell) less than two minutes into Monday’s game. Florida captain Bryan McCabe was the one to take on Richards, those two dancing less than two minutes later. Duco fought Laperriere later in the opening period.

“I think we righted some wrongs and that’s why Bryan McCabe is our captain,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said. “He took care of business and set the tone for us. We just competed hard for 60 minutes tonight.’’

Said McCabe: “[Richards is] a consummate professional. He knew that he had to answer the bell with someone tonight and it just happened to be me.’’

Nathan Horton got his first of two goals in the opening period. The Panthers led 2-0 going into the third and didn’t let up, with Frolik redirecting a McCabe shot 1:30 in. Horton got his 16th multi-goal game of his career at 5:54 of the period.

“We worked as a team and played as a team,’’ Horton said.

With 7:02 left, Ian Lapierrere got into his third scuffle with the Panthers after he creamed Victor Oreskovich behind the Florida goal.

Pacifist Dennis Seidenberg was ejected (as was Lapierrere) after coming to Oreskovich’s defense. According to hockeyfights.com, Seidenberg had been in just one fight in his seven-year NHL career before Monday.

The Flyers spoiled Tomas Vokoun’s shutout bid moments after the Seidenberg incident as Braydon Coburn got a power play goal with 6:13 left.

“I don’t know how to fight,’’ said Seidenberg with a grin. “I had to respond to it. But that’s not my style.’’

 

Monday Night Raw Visits Philly: Panthers Looking for Revenge? ... Panthers @ Flyers; 7 p.m. FSN

Thunderlips

PHILADELPHIA – People from around the league are looking forward to tonight's Panthers-Flyers game and it ain't because of the hockey.

The two teams are playing for the first time since Flyers captain Mike Richards flattened David Booth with an open-ice hit on Oct. 24 at Wachovia Center. Booth was knocked unconscious by the blow and was carted off the ice on a stretcher.

Booth suffered a major concussion from the hit, one he is just now recovering from. Booth was back in Philadelphia on Monday; while his team skated on the ice, he was doing sprints in the hallway by the locker room.

Florida brought up enforcer Steve MacIntyre and fourth-line hitter Mike Duco from the minors on Monday in expectation that the Flyers’ might continue to take runs at players.

This could get fun.

“You don’t want to make more of it than what it is: This is a tough team and this is a tough place to play,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said before the game. “We have some toughness in the lineup and that allows the other guys a chance to play. .-.-. If they’re not in the lineup, teams sometimes feel they can take liberties with your players.

“It’s nice to have those guys here, but this isn’t a retribution game or a WWF rematch, cagematch.’’

In the moments following Florida’s loss here in October, players like Bryan McCabe and Keith Ballard expressed a disappointment that the Panthers didn’t do much of anything to extract some revenge for Booth. But at the time, DeBoer explains, the Panthers heads were somewhere else.

Richards was not suspended for the hit on Booth, but was assessed a litany of penalties during the game.

The Panthers were trailing 3-1 at the time, and chose to try and score during the long power play that ensued rather than go head hunting. The Panthers had two other players hurt by the Flyers in that game as Radek Dvorak injured his knee and Dominic Moore broke his nose.

Hansons“There was a lot of shock that night,’’ DeBoer said. “Everyone’s main concern was with David. It wasn’t like your star player got run and he limped off. This guy was carted off on a stretcher. No one really knew. I don’t hold anyone accountable for their reaction. We didn’t know how bad it was.’’

On tonight: "Everyone knows what happened out there.''

(*) Center Kamil Kreps (ribs, shoulder) did not play again Monday and is day-to-day. He’s been out since being rammed into the boards just as the door to the Panthers bench opened last Wednesday.

“It’s up to him and his pain tolerance,’’ DeBoer said about Kreps’ return.

Kreps, Booth and Cory Stillman are on the trip, with Stillman practicing with the team during Monday’s morning skate. Stillman is expected back Dec. 27.

(*) DeBoer on the struggling Flyers: "I don't know [what their problem is]. We have our own problems. People in glass houses don't throw stones. We're worried about our own team and glad they're having some issues.''

 

 


December 20, 2009

Getting Tougher

RALEIGH -- In a shocking turn of events, the Panthers have sent Jeff Taffe and Michal Repik back to Rochester. Mike Duco and Steve MacIntyre are coming to the Panthers.

We must be going to Philly...

December 19, 2009

Dmitry Kulikov: Knee Injury is "Significant''

Kulikov RALEIGH, N.C. -- Greetings from RBC Center in Raleigh, the useless banner capital of the United States. They really have a banner for just about every player, broadcaster and coach who ever played for N.C. State basketball, although I don't see anything honoring Celine Dion so I will cut them some slack.

Big news out of the Panthers is that rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is probably out for at least a few weeks after injuring a knee Friday night against Carolina.

Coach Pete DeBoer said Kulikov had an MRI done today and the results aren't known yet.

But...

"I think I would call it significant,'' DeBoer said, "but the initial guess is no surgery or anything like that."

Kulikov's injury is the first this season for a Florida defenseman.

"We've haven't been as fortunate up front,'' DeBoer said. "We have been fortunate on defense and we do have some depth in the organization. I think we're deeper on defense than any other position with Koistinen -- up til this point -- Ellerby and Garrison. We have guys down there who aren't first year players, they are experienced players we have available to us. You can never have enough defensemen.''

Ellerby could join the team later but couldn't do so today because of the terrific weather everyone is enjoying up here.

UPDATED - Travel Wonderland: Keaton Ellerby Grounded; Bryan Allen IN

Planes FORT LAUDERDALE/HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN DANIA BEACH BUT NEAR LAUDERDALE LAKES, HALLANDALE, COOPER CITY AND DEERFIELD BEACH -- Delayed here in Fort Lauderdale, but it looks like I will make it to Raleigh for tonight's game. Good thing the Cats are playing in Carolina and not Washington, Philly or New York today. I would have just headed home.

And I'm not the only one trying to travel today: Keaton Ellerby WAS on his way to Carolina but was grounded because of travel. He will not make his NHL debut tonight.

Word from the Panthers is that Bryan Allen WILL play. Randy Sexton said last night that Allen would be questionable for tonight.

Also, I hear the team has talked about bringing Steve MacIntyre up for the Philly-buster game on Monday but nothing has been decided. Nick Tarnasky fought last night, something they were happy to see (since he had surgery and obviously came out OK). Nasty Nick might be the guy getting the call since they have to bring him back eventually.

More from Carolina -- when/if I get there...

December 18, 2009

Bryan Allen Out (for one) ... Stillman Skates

Bryan Allen will be held out for one of these games against the Hurricanes to give his knee a rest. That's why Jason Garrison is on his way up. Talked to Dmitry Kulikov and he's sore from getting a puck to the neck but he's fine. He also took a skate to his right ankle and suffered a cut. ''Great night,'' he quipped.

Cory Stillman skated with the team for the first time since being hurt in Detroit. He should be back after Christmas.

Pete also confirmed that Ville Koistinen's knee injury is pretty serious. Will get an update from Randy Sexton before kickoff.

Four games left 'til the mini break...

December 17, 2009

Ville Koistinen Hurt; Jason Garrison Coming Up

Taking a break from Christmas shopping for some news. First, word out of Rochester is Ville Koistinen suffered a major knee injury and may have to have surgery soon. Also, Jason Garrison is apparently on his way up. Don't know who he would be replacing or if someone was missing today. I wasn't there. Going to make some calls. Check back...

December 14, 2009

She's a Pool Waitress, Russ: Panthers @ Islanders ... Back to Rochester ... David Booth Skating

Brinkley UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Panthers are finally finishing up this road trip, one that took us from Ohio to New York back to Pittsburgh and to New York again.

Thanks, NHL schedule makers. Good planning.

Anywho, we're all ready to come home -- if not for a few days.

Mark down Dominic Moore and Jordan Leopold in tonight's lineup. They're playing.

That's good news for the Panthers, but bad news for two Panthers.

Jason Garrison, called up this morning as a precaution for Leopold, was sent back to Rochester. Mike Duco is headed back as well.

(*) More good news for the Panthers on the injury front as Gregory Campbell and David Booth have been skating.

Campbell could be back in the lineup Wednesday, but DeBoer says he hasn't taken any contact. He Andygirls would probably have to have a few hard skates with the team before, so you might just have to wait until Friday. But we'll see.

Booth, out since Oct. 24 thanks to the blindside open-ice hit delivered by Philly's Mike Richards, is back to doing light workouts and light skating. DeBoer stressed the 'light' on the skating part. Says he's been doing that for a few days. And that's a step in the right direction for Booth. So there's some good news for ya.

Game Day Decisions

Looks like both Dominic Moore and Jordan Leopold will play tonight. Tomas Vokoun in net.

More Good News

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Well Dominic Moore is out here for the morning skate although we don't know if he will play tonight.

Jordan Leopold, who took a puck off his skate on Saturday, is not skating. Jason Garrison is up from Rochester.

December 12, 2009

One Last Trip Down Memory Lane: Panthers Say Goodbye to the Igloo

Mellon

NEWARK --Taking the long way to Pittsburgh today, and that's probably no shock to many of you who check in here from time to time.

Hopefully I make it to Blitzburgh in time for kickoff.

Or at least the 9 p.m. showing of 'The U' on ESPN. Figure I'll watch that in Randy Sexton's box atop Mellon Arena. He has a TV in there, you know.

With ESPN taking a look back at the glory years of The U tonight, the Panthers will get one more game on the site of this franchise's biggest achievement. It was here, on Pittsburgh ice, where the Panthers stunned the hockey world and upset the Penguins 3-1 in Game 7 of the 1996 Eastern Conference finals.

The Panthers, a third-year hockey team with many players no one had ever heard of, was going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I know some of you get tired of us bringing up the 1996 team all the time, but I don't apologize. For those who were living in South Florida at that time, it was a magical run with a team it was hard not to fall in love with. Yes, the Panthers were very popular in South Florida at one time, with that '96 team getting Wayne Huizenga his arena out in the Everglades. Without that, this team would have been in Kansas City or Nashville a long time ago.

Hard to believe how the Panthers have absolutely lost their cache in our market in such a short time. And it wasn't just the Miami Arena '96 team that was popular, either. It was actually hard to get a ticket to games in Sunrise back in the day. Of course, they didn't give them away at Quarterdeck or offer them online for less than a buck, either.

Anyway, spoke to Bill Lindsay, Radek Dvorak and one Doug MacLean yesterday for a story I wrote on Florida's final game in The Igloo.

My favorite part of the story got chopped out because of space concerns. I can just picture this scene, can't you?

Both MacLean and Bill Lindsay recall the late-night bus ride to the Pittsburgh airport with great fondness. The Panthers weren’t ready to end their celebration when they left the arena, so the team bus pulled up to a local bar and picked up some supplies for the road.

“That was the best moment of my hockey life,’’ said Lindsay, a winger on that team and now Florida’s television analyst.

“That bus ride was one you’ll never forget. We had the beverages and the cigars going, all the windows on the bus wide open. It was the best bus ride and plane ride I ever had.’’

Added MacLean: “It was amazing. The team bus just pulled up to a bar and got takeout service. It really was something out of Slapshot. That was the ultimate team building experience and one of the great group of guys of all time. I think about that team all the time.’’

This is the Panthers second and final game in Pitt this year, with the Penguins moving across the street to new digs next season.

So unless the Panthers make it to the playoffs and face the Pens, this is it for the Igloo.

I'm going to miss the press box.

No I'm not.

See you in Pittsburgh. Maybe.