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30 posts from December 2009

December 10, 2009

Off to Jersey, Wiseguy: Scott Clemmensen IN vs. New Jersey Brodeurs

Rutgers COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Still in the great state of Ohio, getting ready to fly off to a real garden state. Actually, there are parts of New Jersey that are very pretty. Very few of those parts are near Newark.

So, if you are really depressed about the State of the Panthers these days, fly on up to Newark this weekend. You'll feel better about things, hockey notwithstanding, in no time.

Pete DeBoer gave the guys a rest day today; some went to the Newark Maximum Security Arena -- AKA The Rock -- for a skate, others just worked out at the hotel and watched News 1.

Scott Clemmensen will be back in net at The Rock tomorrow, only it will be for the Panthers. Tomas Vokoun returns Saturday in Florida's final game at The Igloo -- unless, of course, they make the playoffs and face the Pens.

So, we can just say Saturday is the final Cats game in The Igloo, right?

Pete on Clemmensen starting: "[Being in NJ] is part of it, playing back-to-backs is part of it. We’re in a tough part of the schedule and him playing his old team makes some sense, although ask me about that tomorrow night after the game and we’ll see.’’

As far as Clemmensen's psyche goes, Pete doesn't seem so concerned. Clemm was pulled in his last game, but that was circumstantial and I think he knows that. The team in front of him was playing like horse pucks so Pete made a move to try and create a spark.

"I hate to rehash a game from a week ago, but we needed a spark at that point. In that situation going into Washington, we were on the backend of a back-to-back and really needed a first star performance from someone, the goaltender or someone else. As a coach, you have to roll the dice sometimes. Guys at this level have to have thick skin about some things. Guys are paid to handle things like this.''

So how does Pete keep his team's head up? Accentuating the positive.

“The games we’re playing aren’t getting any easier. We just have to keep looking at the good things we are doing. I think our work ethic has been pretty good, our attitude toward team play has been pretty good.  We’re just not finding that key goal right now, either the one that puts us ahead and allows us to win or one that ties a game. We seem to be in every single game.

“We had a chance here last night to tie it late. We have to keep pushing ourselves to be better and to find those ways to get ahead.  With the lineup we have, we’re not going to score five goals. But we have to find a way to be on the right side of these 1-1, 2-2 games at the end.''


December 09, 2009

Shutdown in C-Bus: Campbell Still Out, Matthias Up ... Ville Koistinen Clears ... More Layoffs in Sunrise

Brutus COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Panthers lost another game and lost another regular to injury on Wednesday.

Gregory Campbell is out with concussion-like symptoms although general manager Randy Sexton says those symptoms have cleared up. Campbell was hurt when he hit the ice face-first after colliding with teammate Bryan Allen at the end of the second period.

Sexton says Campbell has to clear another test Thursday before he could be cleared to rejoining the team.

“We won’t get the results until Friday,’’ Sexton said. “I talked to [Campbell] today and he was feeling better. But he was still, you know; he still needs to finish all the tests. It’s related to his ability to process information. We’re just being careful, being cautious.’’

Campbell was replaced Wednesday by Shawn Matthias – the fourth player on the current roster who has logged significant time with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

The Panthers have four regulars on the shelf because of various injuries, with the team hopeful that winger Cory Stillman can return from a left knee injury in the coming weeks.

David Booth, who led the team in goals last season, has been out since being blindsided by Philadelphia’s Mike Richards on Oct. 24. Richards received no fine nor suspension for the hit, but Booth hasn’t yet begun skating.

The team says they hope Booth can return sometime after Christmas, but that timetable seems very optimistic.

“This is what you have a farm team for,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said before Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jackets. “In a perfect world, you hope your injuries are few and far between or at least spaced out so it’s more manageable.”

(*) Bad loss on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets were really hurting and ripe for picking. Only the Panthers failed to do much of anything offensively and have now lost nine of 10.

I know everyone points to the standings, but playoff teams usually don't go through streaks like these Panthers are. They started the season winning just two of 10; they have currently lost nine of 10.

Tonight was only the second shutout of the season however. Remember the first? That's right HelsinkiHeads, it came on Oct. 3 against the Blackhawks.

(*) Defenseman Ville Koistinen cleared re-entry waivers on Wednesday meaning he remains property of the Panthers as no other team wanted him despite basically getting him for half off.

Koistinen signed a two-year deal worth $2.4 million as a free agent on July 1. Had a team claimed him, the Panthers would have split the remainder of the money with that team.

Sexton said the Panthers would keep Koistinen in Rochester but could call him back if Florida has any more injuries.

“We have four games in six days here so we’ll see where we are after that,’’ he said. “If we don’t start to get healthy soon; Rochester is missing 10 guys. It’s getting to almost epidemic proportions.’’

(*) Columbus came into this season with high hopes after the team made it to the playoffs last spring for the first time in franchise history.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Jackets this season as they sit 11th in the Western Conference and like the Panthers, came into Wednesday’s game with losses in eight of nine games.

 (*) The Panthers worked on their shootout skills at the end of Wednesday’s skate at Nationwide Arena, with DeBoer saying it was an “open tryout.” ‘

The Panthers have been better in shootout this season, but it would hard for them not to have been: The Panthers are 5-5 in such games this season, 3-8 last year.

(*) Got word that a few of my friends lost their job last week when the Panthers downsized some more with four good people shown the door.

Just wanted you all to know I feel for you and make sure to call if I can do anything for you. Best of luck.

December 08, 2009

Soup isn't On ... Ville Koistinen on Way Back?

COLUMBUS -- Greetings from C-Bus, a town best know for college football. But the Buckeyes play hockey too.

The Panthers are in the air on their way here as we speak. The team is being very secretive on the status of one Gregory Campbell. He isn't on the flight here because he is still being evaluated by team docs after being crushed by teammate Bryan Allen in another only-with-the-Panthers moment at the end of the second period last night. Soup could be cleared and meet with the team tomorrow. Or not. The team is giving up nothing on the subject.

Also have confirmed that d-man Ville Koistinen was put on re-entry waivers today. He has until noon tomorrow to be claimed by someone else at a Black Friday half off bargain basement price, or clear. The Panthers aren't saying what they will do if he clears.

More, maybe, when I get to Blimp City...

And, yes, it's cold.

Soup isn't On ... Ville Koistinen on Way Back?

Soup isn't On ... Ville Koistinen on Way Back?

COLUMBUS -- Greetings from C-Bus, a town best know for college football. But the Buckeyes play hockey too.

The Panthers are in the air on their way here as we speak. The team is being very secretive on the status of one Gregory Campbell. He isn't on the flight here because he is still being evaluated by team docs after being crushed by teammate Bryan Allen in another only-with-the-Panthers moment at the end of the second period last night. Soup could be cleared and meet with the team tomorrow. Or not. The team is giving up nothing on the subject.

Also have confirmed that d-man Ville Koistinen was put on re-entry waivers today. He has until noon tomorrow to be claimed by someone else at a Black Friday half off bargain basement price, or clear. The Panthers aren't saying what they will do if he clears.

More, maybe, when I get to Blimp City...

And, yes, it's cold.

December 07, 2009

Gregory Campbell OK

Just got word a few minutes ago from the Panthers that Gregory Campbell is OK and is up and walking around the team locker room. He did not return to Monday night's game after being caught by teammate Bryan Allen in the final shift of the second period.

Campbell landed flat on his face after being walloped by Allen as the two were coming across center ice. Allen went for a hit and missed, instead ramming into Campbell.

Campbell was treated on the ice by medical staff and a stretcher was rolled onto the ice. Campbell regained consciousness and refused to get onto it and instead came off with help of head athletic trainer Dave Zenobi.

December 04, 2009

Vokoun is Back ... New Coach in Philly

Vokoun5 Well that didn't take long.

Tomas Vokoun practiced for the second straight day and apparently feels good enough to go. The Panthers sent Alexander Salak back to Rochester.

Scott Clemmensen could still start tomorrow against the Thrashers but this is good news for the Cats.

-- Just got word from Philadelphia that John Stevens has been fired as coach of the Flyers. Peter Laviolette -- former Hurricanes bench boss -- could be taking over.

December 03, 2009

Keith Ballard: Goalie Enemy No. 1?

Mask2 About to get on a plane to head up to Washington DC for tonight's Southeastern tilt between the Panthers and Caps.

Thanks to astute reader Andy, just got forwarded a Tweet from someone named 'Jose Theodore.' Apparently he's a goalie.

josetheodore hope my new mask gets here in time to face Ballard & the Panthers http://bit.ly/5UhDyF

So is this a low blow from the Caps goalie?

Nope. It's a fake Twitter account, so says pal Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post.

But there's no doubt people in hockey (save for Adam Foote) are having fun with the Keith Ballard situation. In case you missed it, Ballard knocked out teammate Tomas Vokoun with a blow to the head on Monday, then bowled over Colorado's Craig Anderson and knocked him out of Wednesday's game in overtime.

ESPN made sure it had highlights of it on SportsCenter last night, and it seemed Denis and the NHL Network crew had fun with it as well.

Does Ballard go 3-for-3 tonight against the real Jose Theodore?

Doubtful. There's little doubt that Ballard didn't mean to hurt either guy; he's friends with both for goodness sake. Last night he was playing hard, coming hard at the net with a chance to win the game for his team. Andy was out of the crease and there was a collision. A hard collision. These things happen.

They just seem to happen to Keith Ballard more than anyone else these days.

December 02, 2009

Christmas Gifts? David Booth, Cory Stillman Expected Back Sometime

Cousineddie The good news: David Booth and Cory Stillman should be back around Christmas time.

The bad news: See above.

Pete DeBoer said today that they aren't expecting David Booth until after the Christmas break. And he didn't sound very convincing of that. Do you realize that Booth hasn't been working out in weeks and hasn't skated since being knocked out on Oct. 24?

That means Booth has been off the ice for more than five weeks -- probably the longest stretch for him in a long, long time. He's going to need more than a few weeks just to get his legs and timing going. So I don't think we see him until mid-January at the earliest.

As far as Stillman goes, his knee continues to heal and I haven't seen him limping around. Once he gets the all-clear to start skating, it should take him a week to 10 days to get back.

Booth told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that he started working out a few weeks after the concussion so he could get back on the ice and make it to the Olympics. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. You have to feel for Booth because this was a huge dream of his, and this concussion -- on a cheap play, I don't care what the rule book says -- is going to screw it all up.

And if the Panthers don't start doing something and soon, this season may be over by the time these guys make it back. A huge batch of games upcoming, starting with tonight's tilt against the Quebec City Andersons.

-- The Panthers avoid Ovechkin again. Hasn't worked out to their advantage so far.

-- Kenndal McArdle is going to be out at least a few weeks it appears.

So Sorry: Tomas Vokoun, Keith Ballard are Cool ... Three Up, Two Down

Tommy-boy Sorry so late in getting this post up, but had quite a few errands to run. They are tough to run on the road, so I have to squeeze everything into today.

Anywho...

The big deal at practice was that Tomas Vokoun and Keith Ballard both spoke at length today, both showing a little humor in all the media gathered at practice. Heck, Channel 7 had a live truck going in the parking lot.

All for a team riding a five-game losing streak?

Not quite.

They were all there to talk to newcomers Mike Duco, Alexander Salak and Jeff Taffe. OK, they weren't. And Steve MacIntyre and Shawn Matthias weren't there either. They are on their way to Canada to join up with the Rochester Americans.

Now, onto Vokoun and Ballard.

TOMAS VOKOUN

"I feel fine, basically a cut on the ear. I didn't have a concussion, so we go day by day. Once I can put a helmet on without any pain in the ear I should be back.

Vokoun3 "At first I though ... I saw the play, saw him put the puck in the net and thought someone was backchecking. That's what I was thinking. I was trying to sweep the puck out of there. I thought when he went by me I got kicked in the head. Obviously I didn't see. I was looking to the other side. I was looking straight forward when I was hit.

"I think he felt so bad. Like I said, it was an accident. I'm sure it's a lot easier for me to have a cut ear because he feels so bad. It's not a big deal. It's a freak thing. I get mad myself so many times and throw myself and I'm fortunate I never hit anyone with it. Like I said, it's not a big deal to me.

"They told me in the hospital. I was curious to what happened. The impact didn't feel like a slash or being hit with a stick. It felt like being hit very hard by a knee or a foot. It would be hard for me to believe. It's not a big deal. The poor guy had some tough luck for a couple games and we all get frustrated. I'm not surprised he got mad. I saw it myself. He didn't know he hit me (laughing); he went to hit the post again and skated away like nothing happened.

"I played with Bally the last couple of years and I know the kind of person he is. I know how bad he feels. Lets just hope its quickly out of the highlights and the media so he doesn't have to hear about it more. And me too.

"I was surprised the stick could do so much damage. It looked worse [than it was]. NHL policy, when there is a hit to the head and a player is down; I told them I could get up and skate off. They didn't want me to move. It looks scary on TV. They had 10 people working on me and a stretcher and putting the neck brace on. It's for the one reason, and maybe some day someone is really hurt and it saves their life. It's worth it. It looked a lot scarier than it was.

"I have a nasty cut on my ear. That doesn't happen to goalies. Players get cut all the time. It was such a freak accident and the stretcher and going to the hospital. At first I was groggy; I could have gotten up and been stitched up at the rink. It was no big deal.

"I remember the whole thing. I was fine. I was just sick from seeing my own blood and that's just the way I am. I get sick when they draw my blood in the hospital. It looked worse than it was.

"He came to me as soon as I got on the plane. Everyone was laughing because my head was all wrapped up. I knew Bally, the game with Toronto there were a few plays. When you struggle, things aren't going your way. I just wanted to let him know things were fine, it wasn't his fault. We need him. He's one of our best defensemen. I have something at stake here too. I want him to feel good and know the guys are going to back him up no matter what.''

KEITH BALLARD

"It was terrible, something I never want to do again. I got caught up in the moment. Thankfully Tomas is OK. It could have been a lot worse. It's something everyone wants to put behind them.

Ballard3 "When we found out he was OK, it was tough playing that night not knowing what was going on. He sat next to me on the plane and we talked for a while. He was more concerned about me. He was 'are you OK,' kind of laughing it off. He made it a lot easier on me. I had no idea what to say to him. It was stupid on my part and ended in a bad way.

"I had no idea. I saw it on tape and it looks awful. Sad thing is people see this, kids see this and think that this is how pros act. It's not something that I've ever done and will ever do again. I am terribly sorry. when it happened, I was so caught up in the moment that I didn't realize that I did hit him. I didn't know until I got to the bench and saw the trainers hop over. Then the guys told me. At that point, I was in shock.

"It wasn’t so much that they scored. It was just built-up frustration. We’ve lost five games in a row, I haven’t played well, everything just boiled over. I obviously did not handle it in a good way at all. They scored and I just snapped a little bit. It’s not acceptable.

"It’s been tough. I haven’t watched a lot of TV. Thankfully, I was pretty busy doing things around the house. But when you do something like this and you’re in the spotlight, that’s the consequences. We’re in the media every day, we’re on TV, and stuff like this gets on tape you have to expect that it’s going to be all over.

"I’ve gotten a lot of support from my teammates, my family, my friends, a lot of guys around the league have called and sent messages and e-mails. That part has been good. But it’s the people who don’t really know me --  that’s their only impression of me, and I guess that’s part of what I have to deal with.

"People have told me to keep my head up, it was an accident, it could have been them.

"You've got to think a little bit. I know it’s a fast game, and things happen fast, and it is an emotional game, but ultimately you are responsible for your actions. And you do have to think, regardless of how intense or emotional times get, I found out, you're responsible for your actions.

"I feel terrible about it, but I don't need people feeling sorry for me. It's something I did, something I brought on myself. Being in the public eye, you take the good with the bad.

"Vokie’s a good friend of mine to begin with. The way he handled it, that eased my mind the most. He said in two months, we’re going to laugh about this. He’s like, 'I’m fine, my head’s fine.' He’s got a cut on his ear. He said, 'Don’t worry about it just forget about it, it’s not a big deal.' So that’s been great.

"I just felt terrible. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know how many times I apologized. We talked for a bit, then he came back and sat with me, and then we talked for a while longer. Fifteen or so minutes, I don’t know how many times he apologized. Finally, he’s just like, 'Don’t worry about it. That's enough. Stop.'

"I didn’t really think of not playing. I had already let guys down enough. I made a dumb decision. And I think not playing would have left us shorthanded on the back end. Once I started playing, it was tough. I was more scared, I just didn’t know what happened. I mean, they carried him off on a stretcher. And the best case scenario is how it ended up. But I was thinking of the worst.

"I don’t think I’ve done it often. But I don’t remember the last time. But it’s probably not the first time, no.

"I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if he had a broken neck, a concussion, what it was. I feared the worst. I felt awful about it.

"The two situations, how they ended up, with Zednik, he was seriously injured. That was a complete freak accident. You can see how Olli felt terrible about it. This was stupidity on my part. That can be eliminated and that can be controlled. Something like that, a freak accident, I can see how they can scare you. This was me being stupid and letting my emotions get the best of me."

December 01, 2009

Keith Ballard: Reaction from Around the League (UPDATED)

Ballard2 There seems to be a little difference of opinion when it comes to what happened last night in Atlanta.

In speaking with Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer, the thought is everything is OK. Tomas Vokoun and Keith Ballard spoke on the plane last night and there are no hard feelings. The league isn't going to suspend Ballard and neither is the team.

For the record, I agree with this on both sides. Ballard made a mistake; he wasn't being malicious and he definitely wasn't trying to hurt his teammate. He wouldn't do such a thing even if he didn't like him -- and there is no evidence to support such a theory.

Spoke to a couple of my beat writer pals, and this was a hot topic around the league today. Here's what I have been able to cull together. Will add more as they roll in tonight and tomorrow.

Let me know what y'all think:

Coyotes PHOENIX COYOTES, From Scott Cruickshank, The Calgary Herald

"I feel for Bally," says Shane Doan, the Phoenix Coyotes captain and a three-season teammate of Ballard’s. "Because that’ll be remembered — and shown — for a long, long, long time. He’ll never live it down. Bally, he’s a guy that it’ll just eat at him.

"There’s no discipline that anyone could give him that’ll even be remotely close to what he’s going to do to himself."

"Keith, he’s going to have to live with the fact that he pretty much two-handed his goalie across the face . . . and put him in hospital," says Scottie Upshall, sitting in the Coyotes dressing room after Wednesday morning’s practice.

"Right there, that’s enough grief and enough penalty to place upon someone.

"You know, behind closed doors, when you come in the dressing room, you can go off in the corner and punch the wall, do whatever you want," says Upshall. "But when you’re out on the ice, you’re a professional, you’re setting an example and you have a stick in your hand that, really, can be used as a weapon. When I first saw it, it was really shocking. And till it happened in your own room, you wouldn’t know what to do or what to say.

"I’m sure Ballard feels awful about it. But, at the same time, what if his actions took out Vokoun for the whole year? It’s serious stuff. It should definitely be looked at as, ‘You’ve got to keep your emotions in check.’ Swinging a stick, which seems harmless, can really be harmful."

Adds Vernon Fiddler: "Watching it on the highlights for the next six months is going to be enough punishment for the guy."

"A quality person," says Doan. "Meet Bally on the street, he’s the most gentle, nicest guy. One of the top guys I’d want on my team."

Oilers EDMONTON OILERS: From Jim Mathisen, The Edmonton Sun

"I respect the anger of the moment but as we've seen there are consequences you don't plan on. Only way it could have been worse was if he'd hit him again with his second swing. I'm sure when he's 85, they will still be calling it up on Bloopers." said coach Pat Quinn.

Expos MONTREAL CANADIANS: From Pat Hickey, The Montreal Gazette

"I hope he's (Vokoun) ready for the Olympics," fellow Czech Jaroslav Spacek.

"I've never seen anything like it before," said Jacques Martin. "Obviously it was a moment of frustration for Keith . They're both very competitive individuals. Obviously it was an accident and it shows they've very competitive."


Avs COLORADO AVS

From Adrian Dater, The Denver Post


Spoke to Craig Anderson briefly about it last night and his two word reply was: "anger management."



MINNESOTA WILD
From Mike Russo, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel  Minneapolis Star-Tribune


Nick Schultz:
 

Wild Heat of battle? “It’s a frustration thing. You’re chasing a guy back, you stop on one side, he’s on the other and score. I mean, obviously he’s not trying to hit his goalie. It’s a reaction thing. I mean, I can’t even imagine how bad he felt. It looks bad. He just tries to turn around and hit the goal post. Frustration.”


Have you done same before? “I’m not one for really breaking my stick. It happens where you’re pissed off. You see some guys break them over the bench and the stick goes flying up and can hit someone. When you react on the ice like that, it’s something where this can definitely happen. Strange things have happened, freak accidents like that. It’s a freak incident.”


You know ballard? “Yeah, you know he’s not swinging at to hit Vokoun because he let the puck in. He’s swinging because he’s frustrated at himself. It’s a reaction thing, frustrated. It’s just one of those freak accidents.”


Derek Boogaard


"If I did that to Backstrom, I would have had my gear off before I even got to the bench. I would have went straight to the dressing room and hid underneath the bus. And I would have gotten suspended.
Pretty intense though during game.

"He just skated away."

Shane Hnidy:


"It’s a level of frustration. He’s mad and not thinking. It’s such a game of reaction and emptions take control sometimes. I’m sure it’s something he’d love to take back. It’s just a moment of frustration where you’re not thinking and you don’t expect that to happen. It’s usually just your stick.


"Everybody’s done it, in games in practices, on goal posts, over the boards, anytime. MacInnis did that to somebody. It’s just one of those things. It’s rare, it’s unfortunate, but it happens. I can tell you I’ll try to remember this if I ever come close to doing it. I feel bad for him. He has no intent to hurt his goalie. He’s just frustrated at himself."


Cal Clutterbuck


"The thing that kills me, and we were all talking about it in here, is after he hit him in the head, he continued to break his stick over the post. You might want to see if you’re buddie’s OK, you just two-handed him in the face. You know? You would think you’d like bend over and see if he’s alright. He just left him on the ground, smashed his stick and skated to the bench. As we was getting carried off, the whole team’s around him and I couldn’t find Ballard anywhere.


"I’ve smashed my stick over a post before. It’s a bad break for him, but at the same time, he was in the middle of the net. You either break your stick over the crossbar or you swing it at the post from the right. You don’t baseball swing your stick from the middle of the net. Heat of the battle or not, there’s a lot more places you can break a stick than over your own goalie’s head.


"Obviously he didn’t mean to. I’m sure he feels terrible, but from the outside looking in, yeesh."


Niklas Backstrom:


"It’s a bad thing. It’s an accident. It happens. That’s what happens when you play with a big heart and emption, and you really care. Sometimes it’s tough not to show your frustration out there. It could happen to me. It could happen to the guy next to me. He didn’t mean to do it. It’s an accident. Accidents happen."
 

Sharks SAN JOSE SHARKS

From David Pollack, The San Jose Mercury News


 
“I’ve smashed my stick a few times,” Dan Boyle said. “I saw it this morning. That’s pretty unfortunate. . . . I’d feel terrible if I smacked Nabby over the head. Vokuon’s all right, isn’t he?”


Should the team or the league suspend Ballard?


“I don’t think so,” Boyle said. “That’s an accident. It’s emotions – it’s not something you think about doing. It’s just a reaction.”


The same question got a different answer from Evgeni Nabokov.


“I think the team has got to suspend him,” the Sharks goalie said. “I would never probably talk to the guy again.”