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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.''

VOKOUN: BACK FINE

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


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Please show us a Marky's new mask GR!

get a interview with grabner

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