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82 posts from September 2010

September 21, 2010

Panthers Preseason LIVE!: Florida 4, Carolina 1 FINAL

This is our LIVE! Blog of tonight's Panthers preseason game.

Just click on the below link and remember it may take a minute or two to load. It also takes a bit of time for me to see -- and approve -- your comments.

Also, new Rochester Americans coach Chuck Weber will joined us in the second intermission answered your questions about the Amerks.


Thanks for tuning in.

Lineup for Carolina

Olesz santorelli repik
Duco matthias grabner
Howden aranason bernier
Grant timmins dadanov

Garrison gubranson
Paetsch callahan
Ellerby weaver


Lineup for Carolina

September 20, 2010

Flying to the Juniors

Flying to the Juniors

Five Back to Juniors

From the Panthers:

SUNRISE, FL – Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has assigned the following players to their respective junior clubs: F Alain Berger (Oshawa – OHL), F Corey Durocher (Kingston – OHL), F John McFarland (Sudbury – OHL), D Alexander Petrovic (Red Deer – WHL) and F Garrett Wilson (Owen Sound – OHL).

Panthers Battle Royale in Practice: Olesz vs. Weiss ... Preseason Begins

Boxing When Stephen Weiss finally made it back into the Panthers locker room following the Monday morning workout, the right side of his face was a little bruised and starting to swell.

The Panthers haven't been too physical during training camps of the recent past, but Weiss found out first hand that this year things are a bit different.

Not only did Weiss get rammed hard into the side boards by rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson during a scrimmage, but he also traded punches with Rostislav Olesz during practice.

“Sometimes you have to change it up, try and spark things, get things going,'' Weiss said with a smile. “We're out there competing. It wasn't a planned thing, it just happens. It's part of the game. We're not in position to coast our way through camp. It's an intense camp. People are fighting for jobs. When you haven't made the playoffs as long as we have, you have to go hard every day and make sure we're ready for the season.''

Weiss said on Saturday that Olesz needed to play with a little anger and helped light that fuse during blocking drills. Olesz, who scored 14 goals last year, has looked to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, drawing raves from general manager Dale Tallon. “Olesz has looked great,'' Tallon said, adding that the message has been sent to Olesz many times that he needs to play more physical.

“It was a good thing that happened and we're still buddies,'' Weiss said. “I think he scored four goals in the drill after that so it just goes to show how he plays when he's fired up. You see what he can do. Maybe he'll have 40 fights in practice this year.''

And it's not just Olesz. The Panthers have a bunch of players trying to impress coaches and staff during this training camp as few jobs are secure. There are a handful of forward working toward a roster spot, and more defensemen than the Panthers have room.

Keaton Ellerby didn't get much of a look by coach Pete DeBoer during his 22 game stint with the Panthers this year but has put on some weight and is playing much more assertively. Mike Santorelli has looked sharp as he jockeys for one of the center spots.

“Sometimes the young guys show too much respect in camp, they just stand by and watch,'' said DeBoer. “The message here is we don't care how old you are, where you are drafted. If we think they can help us win games, there will be a spot. There's no better opportunity than here in Florida. Guys are taking that approach. .-.-. We're not the Stanley Cup champions where it's a love-in. We were the third worst team in the league last year. There should be physical play.''


The Panthers will hold a short practice in Coral Springs on Tuesday morning before flying to Raleigh, N.C., for the first exhibition game of the preseason later that night. The Panthers are basically landing in Raleigh, playing the game, then loading up and flying to Rochester, N.Y.

Rochester is the home to the Panthers American Hockey League affiliate and will be the site of a full workout on Wednesday as well as a preseason game on Thursday against the Bruins.

The Panthers will play four road exhibition games through Monday. Florida will play host to Carolina on Sept. 29 and Tampa Bay on Oct. 1 at BankAtlantic Center. The preseason schedule ends Oct. 2 in Tampa.

“It's nice to skate with the team in practice, but you want to get in preseason games and get your game legs,'' Weiss said. “We're getting ready for the opener now.''

-- DeBoer says expect to see starting goalie Tomas Vokoun get plenty of work in the preseason as “he likes to play, so you might see him more in the preseason than you would expect.''

The Panthers want Vokoun to be as sharp as he can be for the Oct. 10 opener at Edmonton, so they are letting him dictate the playing schedule – to a point. Rookie Jacob Markstrom is expected to get in a lot of work as well.


Practice at Coral Springs Iceplex, 11-11:45 a.m.; Panthers preseason game at Carolina Hurricanes (no TV, radio), 7 p.m.

OnFrozenFilm: Pete DeBoer, Day 3 of Training Camp

September 19, 2010

Panthers Notebook: Chris Higggins Ready to Bounce Back ... Tomas Vokoun Says Back is Good ... Scrimmage Monday

Higginsnydn When Chris Higgins is asked to talk about last season, the Panthers winger just shakes his head.

“I just want to stay healthy more than anything,'' he said. “Injuries have hampered the way I have played the past few years. I want to be the player I know I can be down here.''

Higgins, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent this summer, is one of a handful of players in training camp who are looking to bounce back after a rough couple of seasons. Last year, while playing for the Rangers, Higgins scored just six goals in 55 games despite taking 137 shots. Higgins was traded to Calgary in the Olli Jokinen deal around deadline time, but only scored twice with the Flames.

“We recorded chances [in New York] and I had the second most behind Marian Gaborik. He scored 40 goals and I didn't,'' said Higgins, who scored 27 goals with the Canadiens in 2007-08 but a total of 20 in 124 games since. “No matter what I tried last year, it didn't work. I can learn from that. I just need to keep pushing. Last year taught me more than ever that every game is important.''

On Sunday afternoon, Higgins scored a pair of goals in the Panthers 'Hockey Day' scrimmage in Coral Springs. The Panthers hope he finds his scoring spark as coach Pete DeBoer knows all too well that Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Michael Frolik can't be the only players putting the puck in the net if Florida hopes to have any sort of success.

Selfishly, Higgins needs to produce because he only has a one-year deal with the Panthers. General manager Dale Tallon signed Higgins for a discounted rate of $1.6 million.

“I got great reports on him, talked to Adam Graves who was with the Rangers last year and he told me [Higgins] created a lot of chances and that the coaches loved him,'' said DeBoer. “All the scouting reports on this guy is great. The goals just didn't go in for him. There's no reason he can't bounce back and be what he should be, and that's a 20-goal scorer.''


Vokoun4 Starting goalie Tomas Vokoun gave up one goal in 25 minutes of play in Sunday's scrimmage. Vokoun missed the last week of last season after the Panthers shut him down when he complained of back pain.

Vokoun says the back is fine – he played in the World Championships not long after Florida's season ended – saying doctors told him that rest was needed for his back to return to normal. With the Panthers playoff hopes long gone, it wasn't too hard a decision.

“I played a lot of hockey, did a lot of traveling with the Olympics and everything,'' Vokoun said. “You get a sore back sometimes. I didn't mail it in, I wanted to play. But you don't want to make it worse. It had bothered me for a while and the doctors said it would be better to leave it alone with some rest. And it worked.''

PANTHERS SCRIMMAGE – White 3, Blue 2: Michael Frolik scored late in the second half but the Blue team couldn't beat rookie Jacob Markstrom in the final minutes as the White team held on to win. Higgins scored twice for the White team; Michael Grabner scored the other. The Blue team opened the scoring as Steven Reinprecht scored off a nice pass from Rostislav Olesz.

-- Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov left the scrimmage after apparently getting hit in the skate with a puck. Kulikov was limping as he came off the ice, but looked to be OK as he walked to the locker room. Frolik also got hit hard at the end of the opening half but was back on the ice after missing one shift. Frolik got slammed into the back boards.

Monday's Training Camp Schedule
At Coral Springs Iceplex, admission free

Practice, 10:15-11 a.m.
Scrimmage, 11-noon

OnFrozenFilm: Chris Higgins, Day 2 of Training Camp

OnFrozenFilm: Pete DeBoer, Day 2 of Training Camp

OnFrozenFilm: The Panthers Meet the Kids

OnFrozenFilm: Tomas Vokoun, Day 2 of Training Camp

September 18, 2010

Rostislav Olesz: Playing With an Edge?

Olesz When the subject Panthers forward Rostislav Olesz comes up, coach Pete DeBoer's attitude almost immediately changes.

For Olesz, that's not a good thing.

“All the conversations between me and Rusty are over,'' DeBoer said after Saturday's opening of training camp. “We've talked it to death. It's 'Show-Me' time. He's in good shape, conditioning isn't an issue. He has to come out and show me, his teammates, everyone that he can be the player he's capable of being. Everyone sees the package there. It's getting it done.''

Olesz is perhaps the most maligned player on the Panthers roster, with DeBoer and the Panthers demanding more than the 24-year-old has produced.

Last year was a disaster for Olesz, even though he tied his career high with 14 goals. The seventh overall pick in the 2004 Draft, Olesz showed much promise in his first three seasons with the team. In 2007-08, Olesz scored 14 goals with 12 assists in 56 games. After that season, then-general manager Jacques Martin gave Olesz a six-year deal worth $18.75 million.

When Olesz's game dropped off the following season, players inside the locker room took umbrage at how much he was making. Olesz ended the 2008-09 season, his first with the new pact, with four goals in just 37 games because of various injuries.

Last year, Olesz started the season off well, creating a ton of scoring chances while scoring three goals in the opening month. But as the season wore on, Olesz's game hit a wall. Olesz went an astonishing 21 straight games without registering a single point – something almost impossible for a forward playing 16-plus minutes a game.

“I can't think about last year, I just have to focus on this year,'' Olesz said. “I can't do anything with last year except learn from it. I think everyone will see I am a different player on the ice than I was last year. The season will show. I'm going to be more selfish and that will in turn help the team. The season will show.''

Throughout that stretch, Olesz heard it from DeBoer and the rest of the coaching staff and he seemed to go into a shell. When the season was over, then-GM Randy Sexton talked passionately about trading Olesz just to get him off the team.

Olesz was not traded and says he is glad he wasn't.

“It's a mindset for him,'' said center Stephen Weiss. “When he wants to use his strength and he's mad, you can see what he can do. When he doesn't, like anyone else, they go unnoticed. We need to get him cheesed off more. Get him to play with a chip on his shoulder. When he has that, he's hard to stop. We need him to step it up, take his game to the next level. But he's not the only one. We all need to do that.''

On Saturday, Olesz showed a harder edge and a bigger phsyich. When talking about his travails the past few seasons, Olesz didn't smile, spoke in a monotone and stared straight ahead.

He definitely looks the part of a guy upset with what has transpired on the ice over the course of two seasons. The Panthers hope it's for real.

“We expect a lot of Rusty. I think he's one of our best players. A real horse,'' said team captain Bryan McCabe. “He can control the game when he's on top of it. For us to be successful, he needs to be one of our top guys. He works hard, comes to camp in great shape. Everyone needs to hold everyone accountable and Rusty knows what he needs to do out there. He's come in with a great attitude and I really expect great things out of him.''

Olesz's role on this team has yet to be determined, some thinking he may start the season on the fourth line – making him one of the most expensive grinders in the league. But if Olesz has a strong camp and gets back to his old form of getting in front of the net and working the puck around for his teammates, he could find himself back on a scoring line.

Olesz says he doesn't care where he plays, says he has no individual goals this year. He says he wants to be a better teammate and do his part in snapping the Panthers NHL record-tying streak of postseason futility. Florida hasn't been to the playoffs since 2000. One more season outside the dance and the Panthers take the record as their own.

“I just want to be in the playoffs,'' Olesz said. “That's it. The playoffs.''

Panthers Notebook: Happy to Be Home ... Meet Andrew Peters ... Scrimmage Roster

Floridaair The Panthers World Tour has been postponed this year.

After traveling all over North America and Europe the past five preseasons, the Panthers are kicking it – for the most part – at home.

The team opened training camp in Coral Springs on Saturday morning and will remain in South Florida until leaving for their first exhibition game Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C. The Panthers will also play preseason games in Rochester, N.Y., Boston and Montreal before returning home.

After what the team has been through, that's nothing.

“This is a cakewalk,'' said defenseman Bryan McCabe. “No excuses this year. We're not traveling anywhere. It's going to be fun.''

Since 2005, the Panthers have held parts of training camp in Vail, Colorado, western Canada and Nova Scotia. They have played exhibition games on Prince Edward Island, in Saskatchewan, North Dakota and even in Puerto Rico.

Last year, not only did the Panthers go to Finland for a week, but had training camp in Nova Scotia before embarking on a Canadian tour. Last year, the Panthers were estimated to have traveled 7,000 miles either through the air or on the ground in the preseason. The flight to Helsinki covered over 10,000 miles.

One benefit to staying home is the access to the fans. The Panthers are hosting what they are calling 'Hockey Day in South Florida' on Sunday, with a 1 p.m. practice and a full team scrimmage starting at 2.

Coach Pete DeBoer and his staff will hold a coaching clinic for youth coaches in the morning. The Panthers training facility in Coral Springs will be all things hockey. Admission is free.

“I think it's a great idea,'' said DeBoer. “We have to grow hockey through the grass roots here in Florida. How we start this is these kinds of days, having training camp here, getting the kids and coaches in here. Our players know that. It adds some excitement.''

Added Stephen Weiss: “There's no secret the traveling has been tough on us. We don't need to be burning all that energy and there's no excuse now if we don't get off to a good start. We should go into the season with some gas in the tank. It's nice to be at home and just travel a little bit. It should help.''

-- One player 'fighting' to make the Panthers roster is enforcer Andrew Peters. The 6-4, 250-pound winger spent last season with the Devils but signed on as a free agent with the Panthers after having his contract bought out.

Peters, who has four goals and 80 fights in 229 games, says his brand of hockey is still needed in the new NHL. He has a two-way contract, meaning he can be sent to the minors without having to go through waivers. Peters is expected to split time with the Panthers and the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester.

“This is going to be a very competitive camp,'' Peters said on Saturday. “There are spots available and spots to be won. You can tell by the flow of the practices that guys came here ready to go. I've been impressed with the young guys.''

-- Center Mark Cullen, who was expected to start the season in the minors, missed the first day of camp and could be out a little bit of time after being hurt doing physicals on Friday morning. Cullen is thought to have an ankle injury, but will be examined on Monday to make sure it's not something more serious.

Sunday's Scrimmage Roster









All practices at Coral Springs Iceplex unless noted

Sunday:  1-1:45 p.m.; scrimmage: 2 p.m.
Monday: 9 a.m.-noon
Tuesday: 11-11:45 a.m; Panthers at Carolina, 7
Thursday: vs. Bruins at Rochester, N.Y., 7
Sept. 25: at Boston, 7
Sept. 27: at Montreal, 7:30
Sept. 29: vs. Carolina (BankAtlantic Center), 7:30
Oct. 1: vs. Tampa Bay (BankAtlantic Center), 7:30
Oct. 2: at Tampa Bay, 7:30
Oct. 10: Regular season opener at Edmonton, 8 p.m.

OnFrozenFilm: Bryan McCabe, Day 1 of Training Camp

OnFrozenFilm: David Booth, Day 1 of Training Camp

OnFrozenFilm: Pete DeBoer, Day 1 of Training Camp

September 17, 2010

Fall Training: Panthers to Open Camp Saturday Morning

Mantleftlaud When the Panthers return to the ice on Saturday morning in Coral Springs, it will be the first time the entire team and coaching staff have been together as a whole since the 2009-10 season finale.

That game, a 3-1 loss to the rival Lightning on April 11, was an ugly – if not fitting – end to a disaster of a season.

“It's been a long summer. Too long after not making the playoffs,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, who enters his third season with the Panthers. “We want to fix what went wrong. We all had a bad taste left from how last year ended and anyone with any competitive juices didn't sleep real well this summer.

“We're excited to get back in the competition, back in the hunt. It was a tough year, the toughest year of hockey I've had as a coach. But whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I notice a genuine sense of excitement around here.''

Much has changed around the Panthers since that loss in April. General manager Randy Sexton was replaced by former Chicago GM Dale Tallon in May. Talented winger Nathan Horton was shipped to Boston, with defenseman Keith Ballard sent to Vancouver in a multi-player draft-day deal.

The Panthers come into training camp with little fanfare and even fewer expectations. The Hockey News recently picked the team to finish last in the 15th place Eastern Conference after finishing 14th last season.

Even though few prognosticators are picking the Panthers to end their NHL record-tying streak of nine straight seasons outside of the playoffs, the players say they not only don't listen to such talk – but they don't believe it either.

“If we're flying under the radar, that could be a good thing,'' said center Stephen Weiss, who wears No. 9 and enters his ninth season with the team. “We can only focus on what the 20 guys here do on the ice. I could care less what other people think.''

Added Bryan McCabe: “Last year was unacceptable to all of us. It was a bad year all around. But I don't think anyone around here reads the stuff people write about us. We think we can compete with anyone in the league and get into the playoffs. We want to turn this thing around and make the playoffs. Then we'll see what happens.''

With Horton gone, the Panthers are going to try and find other ways to score goals. The Panthers scored the third fewest goals in the league last year, but hope a healthy David Booth and improved play from newcomer Chris Higgins (27 goals in 2007-08 with Montreal) and winger Rostislav Olesz (14 goals last year) take up some of that slack.

The Panthers go into camp with Weiss centering the top line with Booth (31 goals in 2008-09) and Michael Frolik (21 goals in each of the past two years) on the wings. Steven Reinprecht will likely center a second line with Higgins and Radek Dvorak.

Newcomers Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner – who came to Florida in the Ballard deal with Vancouver -- will be looking to settle in somewhere.

“I just want to get off on the right foot and find my game down here,'' said Higgins, who scored just eight goals with the Rangers and Flames last season.

The Panthers defense will be interesting to watch as players jockey for position. Florida added veteran Dennis Wideman to join McCabe, Bryan Allen, Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison. The Panthers have one starting spot left, with 18-year-old Erik Gudbranson trying to beat out Joe Callahan, Nathan Paetsch and Mike Weaver for a place on the opening night roster.

Tallon likes that there's a little bit of competition going on as camp opens.

“We have a lot of depth at all positions,'' Tallon said. “The key to success is competition, to see who comes to the forefront, who wants it more than the other guy. Those guys will play on our team.’’

The Panthers hold their first practice in Coral Springs on Saturday at 9 a.m., with an afternoon workout and scrimmage scheduled for Sunday. The team will hold a light practice Tuesday morning before flying to Raleigh, N.C., for the first exhibition game of the preseason later that night. The Panthers will play the Bruins in Rochester as well as visit Boston and Montreal before returning home next week.

This format of training camp, which is spent mostly at home or on the east coast, has been welcomed by just about everyone around the organization. Florida has spent camp in a variety of places – from Vail, Colo., to Nova Scotia -- over the previous five years and have gotten off to rotten starts.

“There's no secret the traveling has been tough on us,'' Weiss said. “We don't need to be burning all that energy and there's no excuse now if we don't get off to a good start. We should go into the season with some gas in the tank. It's nice to be at home and just travel a little bit. It should help.''

All practices at Coral Springs IcePlex unless noted

Saturday: 9 a.m.-noon
Sunday:  1-1:45 p.m.; scrimmage: 2 p.m.
Monday: 9 a.m.-noon
Tuesday: 11-11:45 a.m; Panthers at Carolina, 7
Thursday: vs. Bruins at Rochester, N.Y., 7
Sept. 25: at Boston, 7
Sept. 27: at Montreal, 7:30
Sept. 29: vs. Carolina (BankAtlantic Center), 7:30
Oct. 1: vs. Tampa Bay (BankAtlantic Center), 7:30
Oct. 2: at Tampa Bay, 7:30
Oct. 10: Regular season opener at Edmonton, 8 p.m.

OnFrozenFilm: DaleTallon, Training Camp Eve

OnFrozenFilm: Pete DeBoer, Training Camp Eve

Pete DeBoer, Dale Tallon Video Up Soon

Check back later this afternoon for training camp video featuring coach Pete DeBoer and general manager Dale Tallon.