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Florida Panthers Take to the Field, Stay off Montreal Ice

CrashersMONTREAL – After Thursday's lackluster performance in Ottawa, one might expect Panthers coach Pete DeBoer to put his team through the paces, perhaps use the so-called 'bag skate' to send a message.

DeBoer went the other way on Friday morning.

Instead of lacing up the skates and going through a hard workout, the Panthers took advantage of the artificial turf soccer field inside the Canadiens practice facility.

The team held a friendly game of soccer to work off Thursday's frustrations while others tossed a football around. DeBoer and some of his assistant coaches also took part in the Panthers 'field day'.

Soccer “A coach, on a day like this, would like to go out and fix everything that went wrong by battling them, have them bash heads,'' DeBoer said afterward.

“But, sometimes you have to look at the big picture and what's going to make us the best team against Montreal. We just felt we'd do some video, purge last night and have some fun.''

The Panthers have lost two straight games and three of the past four, and its apparent DeBoer doesn't want his players to tune him out so early in the season. The Panthers have no excuse for not coming out fresh Saturday against the host Canadiens as they took Friday off while Montreal played in New York against the Islanders.

Florida hasn't played an opponent coming in the second game of a back-to-back set this season. The Panthers are 0-1 in the second game of such a game themselves.

“We have to play our game and we didn't do that the other night in Ottawa,'' DeBoer said. “They were better in the things we need to do, be on the forecheck, pin teams in. That has to be our game and we need to get back to that. The reality of an 82-game schedule is you don't get that desperation every night, but we have to find a way to get some points. We were up 1-0 at the end of the first. At that point, you manage the puck and find a way to stick around.''

As for the soccer game, Rostislav Olesz won it in a shootout.

“The European players dominated,'' DeBoer joked.

FIRST GOALS

If there were any highlights from Florida's 5-3 loss in Ottawa on Thursday, it was that all three goals were scored by players who had yet to net one this season. Bryan McCabe, Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli all scored for the first time this season.

Higgins, for one, can only hope his goal Thursday gets his game going. Higgins scored 84 goals with the Canadiens from 2005-09, but only has nine in the two seasons since leaving.

Gudbranblood -- DeBoer said enforcer Darcy Hordichuk would be in the lineup Saturday but said a decision had not been made on who would sit against Montreal.

Hordichuk, who fought for the first time this season on Thursday, could drop the gloves again on Saturday.

During the preseason, Montreal's Travis Moen took a cheap shot at Florida rookie Erik Gudbranson by punching him while he was wrapped up by the referees.

SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT CANADIENS
Where, When: Bell Center, Montreal; 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FS Florida; 560-AM
The series: Panthers lead 29-28-6
The game: Montreal, coached by former Florida bench boss and GM Jacques Martin, had won three straight going into Friday's game against the Islanders. Montreal is 1-0 Jmandolli in the second game of a back-to-back this season. Tomas Vokoun returns to defend the Florida net. Montreal counters with Carey Price. Florida and Buffalo are the only NHL franchises with winning records against the Canadiens.

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