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It's Andre Dawson Night in Montreal

Expos MONTREAL -- Good to be back in Montreal, especially on a day when Andre Dawson was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.

I know that was yesterday, and I was here.

The newscasts led with the Dawson news and it was a front page story here in Montreal. In both languages. So that's pretty cool.

Anyway, enough baseball talk.

Here's some hockey stuff for you. Not much going on, but ...

-- Stephen Weiss admits that there is pressure on his line to produce goals for the Panthers this season as sometimes if they don't score, no one does.

The Panthers would like to see a more diverse scoring group, but Weiss says he enjoys the pressure to perform.

“It's a good pressure,'' he said. “We put that on ourselves as well. We have to contribute every night and our team needs that to win. We don't go into the game looking for other guys to score. We want to be the line that does it. If we get it from all over the place, it's a bonus.''


Of the Panthers 120 goals going into Thursday's game (which was tied for 10th in the league and third in the east), 98 had been scored by forwards.

The combination of Weiss, Nathan Horton and Michael Frolik accounted for 44 of those goals, or 45 percent of all goals scored by forwards and 37 percent of Florida's totals.

In the Panthers 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, both goals came from defenseman Bryan McCabe with Horton the only one of Florida's big three getting a point. He had the second assist on McCabe's second goal.

“That pressure comes with the territory with that group,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “That's what you pay top-line players to do, to handle that pressure the right way. We know what those guys are going to bring. They're not going to score every night, but they are going to create chances every night and they haven't been a liability on defense.''

And with Florida's top line clearly defined, DeBoer is giving them the bulk of the icetime both 5-on-5 and on power plays.

“We need to score for us to be successful and like the pressure being the line that has to contribute,'' Weiss said. “We know we're going to get our chances on the power play and we have to capitalize on that.''


-- DeBoer was asked by a local television reporter whether the Panthers were going to send rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov back to his junior team in Quebec once his knee heals.

“No chance, no chance,'' DeBoer said laughing. “I coached junior for a long time and I have been in that position before. I know they have their fingers crossed .-.-. But he's shown himself to be an NHL player and is a big part of our lineup and we miss him when he's out.''

Kulikov, 19, suffered a knee injury on Dec. 18 and is still a few weeks away from returning. The Panthers could send Kulikov back to his junior team despite him playing in more than nine games this season. Kulikov would still have burned a year of NHL status and would be paid by the Panthers if he was sent back – which isn't going to happen.

-- The Panthers tied Montreal in points last season, yet lost a tiebreaker and watched the Canadiens take the eighth and last playoff spot in the east. Had the Panthers earned one more point to overtake the Canadiens, Florida would have halted its postseason drought at seven seasons.

Now, the Panthers are in danger of tying the league's all-time mark for playoff futility if they fail to make it for a ninth season.

“We tied for the last playoff spot last year and are in the mix this year,'' said DeBoer. “What happened before I got here or other guys got here .-.-. I don't think one guy has been here for the entire nine years. It's not a record anyone wants and we know it's there. But all we can control is what we do here. I think the organization is headed in the right direction.''

PS: My email is back up and operational.

grichards@miamiherald.com

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