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Welcome to Sunrise, Quebec: Canadiens @ Panthers, 7:30 p.m. (RDS) ... A Whopper is on a Bun, Tomas Vokoun a Roll ... Repik IN, Nick OUT


Greetings from high atop Le Panneau-Publicitaire (The Billboard) here in southeastern Quebec.

It's Canadiens Night here in Florida!

The Panthers have struggled against Montreal in the past, but are always happy when they make a visit to the sunny southern province.

This joint may not be packed to the rafters like on New Year's Eve, but judging on the traffic getting in, should be a very good -- and bilingual -- crowd. 

In a big shock, Tomas Vokoun -- the one-time Canadien -- is in net for la Floride.

Vokoun hasn't been off since Dec. 27.

By giving him a game to rest, DeBoer gave Vokoun almost a full week to get ready for a stretch of heavy work. Vokoun hasn’t been off since that Christmas break. Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens was his 13th straight start – including four games that came on back-to-back nights.

There is no goalie 1 and 1-A unlike in past seasons when Craig Anderson was chomping at the bit and jostling for playing time. If the Panthers are playing, Vokoun is the goalie.

“He’s been outstanding for a few months now,’’ said DeBoer. “We have to make hay and win games when he’s playing like this. .-.-. Our tandem last year worked. This year, we have a clear cut No. 1 guy and it’s working too.’’

It’s obvious Vokoun digs the situation. DeBoer’s faith in his goalie was brought into question a few times last season but you don’t hear those whispers anymore.

DeBoer praised Vokoun’s work ethic this summer when Vokoun came to South Florida a month earlier than usual to get a jump start on his workouts and hasn’t been quick to pull Vokoun as he had earlier in their relationship.

And why not? When the Panthers won two of their first 10 games to start the season, very little blame was thrown Vokoun’s way. In his previous 12 starts, Vokoun has only six wins to show for some fantastic goaltending as he has stopped 411 of 432 shots faced (95 percent stopped).

In the four games before Tuesday’s game, Vokoun had two shutouts and surrendered two goals on 133 shots (98 percent). Vokoun came into the night with the second-highest save percentage in the league, although he’s faced almost 100 more shots than leader RYAN Miller of Buffalo. His six shutouts (three since Jan. 9) are second most in the league, one shy of Martin Brodeur.

 “It’s always nice when you get on a roll and play a lot,’’ said Vokoun. “I’m not doing anything different if I wasn’t playing good or we weren’t winning. Sometimes you get focused and find some luck. It’s working right now. I hope it keeps going.’’

(*) Rookie Michal Repik was recalled from the minors but Steven Reinprecht (foot) is out there and looks to be OK. BUT, Pete is going with Repik instead of Nick Tarnasky.

(*) A reporter from the Associated Press asked DeBoer if he knew that President Barack Obama was scheduled to give his State of the Union address on Wednesday.

DeBoer did not (he did admit to knowing about the Conan O'Brien/Jay Leno spat, however). DeBoer did offer up a nice unscripted State of the Panthers address to the gathered media.

“I think a lot like the country, we’re on the rebound, we’re in a good spot,’’ said DeBoer. "There's light at the end of the tunnel here. We have some great players coming back sooner than later. .-.-. We have great opportunity here over the next two, three months.''

-- Almost had a record tonight as Graham did the Anthem in 1:52, two seconds off his personal best. He did O! Canada in a crisp and clean 1:15.

And that rhymed.