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Coming in from the Cold

Miamisnow OTTAWA -- I know it's cold in South Florida right now, but I can't wait to get back.

We're heading home from the Canadian tundra and looking forward to it.

Not much to add other than that.

Here's my early story for Monday's paper. It's a cold-weather bonus for y'all. Those who care, anyway.

Stay warm!

-- The Panthers have been desperately searching for a scoring line to take some pressure off their top three forwards.

They hope to have made some progress in that quest on Saturday.

In Saturday's 3-0 win against the Senators, the top line scored first as Nathan Horton followed up a rebound to score in the first period. But in the second period, it was the trio of Rostislav Olesz, Cory Stillman and Steven Reinprecht doing the heavy lifting.

Olesz scored twice – taking passes from both Stillman and Reinprecht in the process. Stillman and Reinprecht have played together with some success in the recent past, although they'd been broken up with Stillman missing more than a month after suffering a left knee injury Nov. 20 in Detroit. Olesz is a newcomer to that line, replacing Radek Dvorak two games ago.

So far, so good. Olesz's first goal Saturday came as he camped out by the net and Reinprecht almost surprised him with a pretty no-look backhanded pass from the slot.

“He's starting to play well and starting to understand the way we play, the system we have of give-and-go,'' Stillman said of Olesz. “He got rewarded for it. It's great for him. He was camped out on the first one, was in the neutral zone and shot on the second. We're reading off each other. We have to play in their zone. We have a big body with him going to the net.''

The top line of Horton, Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik has hit a lull the past few games as perhaps the pressure of having to carry Florida's offensive load has been a hindrance. In the past seven games, that line has three goals and eight assists. Of those totals, Horton has two goals and five assists.

“We're not going to win if everyone doesn't contribute,'' said Horton. “I want to help the team, do whatever I can. When we're playing good, it gives our team a little lift. Tonight, Rusty and their line came through. It's good to have all the lines rolling. We need that. It keeps everyone in the game.''

-- Tomas Vokoun is used to facing a ton of shots during the course of a game, so he was a little bored on Saturday as he was only forced to make 24 saves as he notched his fourth shutout of the season.

Vokoun has faced 1,176 shots this season – second in the league, 43 shots behind Colorado's Craig Anderson. In four games this month, Vokoun has surrendered all of four goals.

“That was unusual for me, a different set of circumstances,'' he said with a laugh. “You have to deal with whatever is going on that day. It's part of the job. You have to try and deal with whatever the amount is.''

-- With 9.6 seconds left in the second, the Senators lost center Jesse Winchester when he went to smash Keith Ballard into the boards and Ballard avoided the hit. Winchester rammed what appeared to be his right knee against the boards and had to be helped off. He didn't return to the game.

Montreal lost Andrei Kostitsyn for the next six weeks after he needed surgery on his left knee after being checked into the boards by Ballard on Dec. 31 in Sunrise.