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68 posts from October 2010

October 22, 2010

Florida Panthers Notes: Line Changes, Vokoun Starts Again, Bill Torrey Night

Just a quick hitter as I sit down and write my notebook for tomorrow.

First, Tomas Vokoun -- as expected -- will be back in net tomorrow.

Second, Pete DeBoer has changed up the lines again after last night's sleepwalk in Sunrise. David Booth is back on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik.

The former line of Chris Higgins, Weiss and Frolik was a combined one goal with two assists. Weiss has the goal and an assist, Frolik assisted on the Weiss goal.

No wonder he wants to change things up.

Here's what we gots for tomorrow against the surprising Islanders:

Booth-Weiss-Frolik

Stillman-Santorelli-Dvorak

Higgins-Reasoner-Olesz

Reinprecht-Matthias-Bernier/Hordichuk

-- The Panthers are having a special ceremony to honor team founder Bill Torrey before tomorrow night's game. The team asks that everyone be in their seats by 7 p.m. for the banner raising ceremony.

"I never thought my name would be among the greats like Celine Dion,'' Torrey didn't say.

October 21, 2010

Panthers Run Out of Sunrise: Stars 4, Florida 1

STARS 4, PANTHERS 1

All the fun the Panthers had in Saturday's home opener disappeared pretty quickly against Dallas on Thursday.

Tomas Vokoun, the NHL's first star of the week, not only had his two-game shutout streak come crashing to a close, but he was benched after giving up four goals in the first two periods as the Panthers got throttled 4-1 at BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers avoided being shutout for the first time this season after Stephen Weiss scored with 3:06 remaining in the game.

“It's disappointing: Our effort, our preparation, attention to detail,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We got beat at all the things we're supposed to be taking pride in, out working teams. They were better in all those categories than us, and we're not going to win if we're not good there.''

The Stars win was their fifth in six games this season, the only blemish coming Monday in Tampa Bay. Florida had five days in between games and definitely looked rusty as the Stars jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening period before tagging on two more in the second. The Stars were very opportunistic at the end of periods, with Tom Wandell scoring with 20.1 seconds remaining in the first and with 33.9 seconds left in the second.

After the Stars made it 3-0 midway through the second, it looked like coach Pete DeBoer was going to give Vokoun the rest of the night off as Scott Clemmensen appeared to get ready to come into the game. Vokoun stayed in, however, but was on the bench for the start of the third.

Vokoun, who had gone 140:47 without giving up a goal, ended up stopping 19 of 23 shots in 40 minutes of work on Thursday. Before Steve Ott scored with 3:04 left in the opening period, Vokoun hadn't surrendered a goal since Daniel Sedin scored his second of the night in Vancouver's 2-1 victory on Oct. 11. Vokoun shutout Calgary on Oct. 14 and Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

“There was no rust. This is what we do,'' Weiss said. “The chances they had, they put them in. A couple goals late in the period at this level will kill you. It wasn't a lack of effort. We tried doing the right things. But when you stand around, teams will pick you apart.''

The Panthers had won two of their first four to open the season and looked to jump on the Stars early. Florida got an early power play chance but failed to do anything with it – as has been the case for much of the past few seasons. Florida's power play unit was ranked 29th of 30 teams last year and came into Thursday ranked 26th. The Panthers went 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 5 and have just one goal in 18 chances.

Florida had a great opportunity to take a 1-0 lead early in the first as goalie Kari Lehtonen (who went 12-5-4 against the Panthers while with divisional rival Atlanta) lost sight of the puck as he scrambled to make a save. The puck was sitting there in front of an empty net with defenseman Mike Weaver crashing in to try and put it into the net. Weaver didn't, and the Panthers were denied the lead.

“I didn't even really see it, it was going to the far side,'' said Weaver, whose stick is the longest allowed by league rules. “I guess I need a longer stick. I have to write a letter to the NHL for permission. I was a second behind. Hockey's a game of inches. It was just out of my reach.''

Later in the period, Ott broke through as he scrambled for a rebound, getting in front of defenseman Keaton Ellerby and beating Vokoun. Wandell got his first of the night as he camped out on the right side of the net and was able to get an easy goal just before the first intermission.

Florida had a few chances against Lehtonen in the second, but it was James Neal who got a goal, putting the puck between Vokoun's skates.

Wandell's second goal was a pretty one. Wandell took the puck, skated around the goal cage and into the right circle, one-timing the puck over Vokoun's shoulder.

The appearance by Clemmensen was his first in almost a month. Clemmensen was held out of Florida's final three preseason games, meaning he hadn't seen live game action since he beat the host Bruins in a preseason shootout on Sept. 25. Clemmensen ended up making six saves.

“I'm still waiting for my first start, so I'm preparing myself every day,'' Clemmensen said. “These weren't the circumstances we wanted.''

 


 

Florida Panthers News: Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk Back Together Once More ... Keaton Ellerby Is Sleepy ... Bill Torrey Sees Red

Robertsnieuwy PANTHERS NOTEBOOK

When Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts signed with the Panthers minutes after the 2005 free agency period opened, they said they did so to end their careers together.

Nieuwendyk's back didn't hold up that end of the deal, however, as he was forced to retire after playing in just 15 games in 2006. But the two are back together once more, the childhood pals from suburban Toronto helping get the Dallas Stars back on the right track.

Nieuwendyk is now in his second full season as general manager of the Stars. Last week, he officially put Roberts on the Dallas payroll as a player development consultant. Roberts spent parts of two seasons with the Panthers from 2005-07 before being traded to Pittsburgh at the 2007 deadline. He ended his career with a one-year stint with the Lightning in 2008-09. The two have their pictures in the redecorated Panthers locker room.. The action shots are, naturally, side by side.

“I've known Gary my whole life and I know he's excited about it,'' said Nieuwendyk, whose Stars made their lone visit of the season to Sunrise on Thursday. “Gary's going to work his way into a lot of different areas with us. He's going to teach these kids how to be pros.''

Roberts missed the 1996-97 season after undergoing two neck surgeries that some thought would end his career. Roberts came out of that challenge as a fitness freak, his workouts and supplement use becoming legendary in hockey circles. When Roberts was with the Panthers, it was commonplace to see buckets of different powders in the locker room with a number of blenders going at all times.

"I got a second chance then, and I learned how much training and nutrition can make a difference in your life," Roberts told The Dallas Morning News. "That allowed me to play to the age of 43, and I am truly thankful for all of that time. Now, if I can help other players have careers that long, I want to do that."

After his retirement, Roberts has become popular with NHL players and their offseason training near Toronto. Panthers center Stephen Weiss is one of Roberts' clients, as is Tampa Bay phenom Steven Stamkos. Nieuwendyk says Roberts will be allowed to continue his business with other NHL players during the offseason although he sees Roberts being more involved with Dallas' young players and prospects.

“He's worked with so many players, and they've all gotten something out of it,'' Nieuwendyk said.

-- Defenseman Keaton Ellerby didn't get much sleep Thursday as his plane from Rochester, N.Y., didn't land in Fort Lauderdale until 1:30 a.m. To make matters worse, the previous guest in his hotel room left the alarm set at 4:30. “I couldn't believe that,'' Ellerby said, his head in hands. “Thanks a lot.''

Still, even sleep deprivation couldn't contain Ellerby's joy at being back with the Panthers. Ellerby had a strong training camp, but a shoulder injury at the end helped facilitate his return to the minors. With Jason Garrison out with a groin injury, Ellerby was quick to be recalled.

“You can't expect things at this level, you have to work for everything you get,'' Ellerby said. “Gary's hurt right now, but there's still six guys here. I have to do everything I can to stay here, work hard in practice. If I stay, I stay.''

-- Bill Torrey, honored by the Panthers on Saturday, said he had to fight with then-owner Marti Huizenga regarding the team's colors and uniforms back in 1993. Said she prefered the Marlins black-and-teal color scheme, which then, was all the rage.

Then she saw the red jerseys on opening night in Chicago "and she came up to me and told me how much she loved them.''

I asked if he missed those red jerseys, gone now since the Reebok redesign. I take it he's not a fan of the new Tampa Bay BlueRays.

"We'll get 'em back,'' he said.

October 20, 2010

Dale Tallon Gets His Ring


Dale Tallon Gets His Ring

Dale Tallon Gets His Ring

Dale Tallon Gets His Ring

Panthers Give Back, Donate $400,000 to Children's Hospital ... Dale Tallon Gets Blackhawk Bling ... Keaton Ellerby Up, Byron Bitz Has Surgery

Evert2 When the elevator doors open on the eighth floor of the Chris Evert Children's Hospital at Broward General, you are greeted by wall murals depicting fans at a Panthers hockey game rooting on their team.

Truthfully, it's the Panthers backing the children at the hospital.

The Florida Panthers Foundation officially opened the hockey-themed pediatric oncology unit on Wednesday afternoon, making a $400,000 donation to the Broward Health Foundation.

Players Stephen Weiss and Cory Stillman attended the ceremony at the hospital as did owner Cliff Viner, team president Michael Yormark, foundation chairman Stu Siegel, general manager Dale Tallon and coach Pete DeBoer. All vowed the large donation and renovation of the oncology unit would not be the end of the Panthers involvement.

Evert3 “I know a lot of the guys were looking forward to getting to see how this came out, and they will all get that chance,'' said Weiss, who along with Stillman and Bryan McCabe plan on purchasing a suite for patients and their families to enjoy during games.

“Anything to get their mind off what they are going through is special. I'm looking forward to coming back. We don't need to be invited. We can come over, hang out, play some hockey. We're welcome here and that's neat to see. I enjoyed seeing the kids. The looks on their faces was pretty cool.''

When Viner and Siegel took over managing the Panthers last year, they both stressed the team would become more involved in the South Florida community and that the Panthers Foundation would become more focused in its work.

Evert1 “We wanted to do something that was meaningful and to our strength,'' said Viner, who is now the sole managing partner of the franchise. “We're a family-oriented franchise. While we can give for research or renovation of the hospital, what we can really provide is a tremendous amount of support by our family for the kids, the parents, the grandparents. When they come here, they know people care.''

Pediatric cancer was targeted as the foundation's main beneficiary. Goalie Tomas Vokoun, whose image adorns one of the elevators on the eighth floor, was known for his work with young cancer patients at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Hospital as a member of the Predators.

“I can't think of a better cause for us to get behind,'' said DeBoer. “As a father of three young children, I can't imagine what these parents go through, and more importantly, what these kids go through being here on a daily basis. Any way we can brighten their day, we'll do it.''

Evert4 On the eighth floor, the walls are decorated with fan shots from BankAtlantic Center with player and mascot murals on the three elevator doors. The floor looks like a hockey rink – complete with a goal cage – so children can shoot pucks with the sticks the team has provided. Stillman left a large black smudge after he showed a youngster how to properly fire a slapshot.

“We focus so much on wins and losses, sometimes we lose sight of what this is all about and that is giving back to our community,'' said Yormark. “This is a proud moment for us. This is a collective commitment.''

NEWS, NOTES

Defenseman Jason Garrison (groin) missed practice again on Wednesday and will not be able to play Thursday against Dallas. Garrison could play Saturday against the Islanders. Keaton Ellerby was recalled from the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., to play Thursday.

-- Winger Kenndal McArdle cleared waivers on Tuesday and was in the lineup for Rochester later that night. McArdle scored a goal in the Amerks 5-2 loss to Hamilton.

Tallonring1 -- Tallon celebrated his 60th birthday on Tuesday in style as he received his Stanley Cup championship ring. Blackhawks president John McDonough flew to South Florida to present Tallon – who was Chicago's GM from 2004-09 – with the large ring worth an estimated $30,000.

“It's bigger than I thought it would be,'' Tallon said with a smile.

-- Winger Byron Bitz had sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia and will miss at least the next six weeks.

THURSDAY: STARS AT PANTHERS
Where, When: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise; 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FS Florida; 560-AM
The Series: Tied 10-10-3
The Game: The Panthers have won two straight against the Stars, including last year's 6-5 shootout win in Dallas. Steven Reinprecht recorded a hat trick in the opening period of that game. .-.-. The Panthers have won their past two as Tomas Vokoun has recorded consecutive shutouts. Dallas won its first four to open the season before losing 5-4 in Tampa Bay on Monday. .-.-. Florida's five goals allowed are fewest in the league.

October 18, 2010

Florida Panthers News: Tomas Vokoun NHL 1st Star ... Kenndal McArdle Waived ... Jason Garrison D-2-D

Vokoun2

Nice honor for Tomas Vokoun today as he was named the NHL's First Star of the Week.

Marian Hossa and Ryan Getzlaf were also honored by the league. Here's the official NHL release:

FIRST STAR -- TOMAS VOKOUN, G, FLORIDA PANTHERS

        Vokoun stopped 89 of 91 shots in posting a 2-1-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage, highlighted by back-to-back shutouts. Vokoun turned aside 33 of 35 shots in a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Oct. 11, stopped 27 shots in a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames Oct. 14 and made 29 saves for his 40th career shutout as the Panthers blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-0 in the home opener at BankAtlantic Center Oct. 16. Vokoun improved to 2-2-0 on the season with a 1.26 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. Entering his fourth season in Florida after an eight-year stint with the Nashville Predators, Vokoun is one of just three active goaltenders to have posted 20-plus victories in each of the past seven seasons, joining Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco.

SECOND STAR -- MARIAN HOSSA, RW, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

        Hossa recorded six points (four goals, two assists) in four games last week, helping the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks post a 3-1-0 record. Hossa scored two goals, including the game-winner, in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres Oct. 11, registered an assist in a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators Oct. 13, recorded one goal and one assist in a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Oct. 15 and closed the week by recording one goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres Oct. 16. The 31-year-old Stara Lubovna, Slovakia native leads all NHL scorers with nine points (five goals, four assists) and has recorded points in all six games -- his best start since 2000-01, when he recorded points in each of his first nine contests. Hossa missed the first 22 games in 2009-10 following off-season surgery.

THIRD STAR -- RYAN GETZLAF, C, ANAHEIM DUCKS

        Getzlaf led all scorers last week with eight points (two goals, six assists) in four games as the Ducks posted a 2-1-1 record. The new Anaheim captain sparked his club to its first win of the season by recording a goal, three assists and a +2 rating in a 4-3 decision over the Vancouver Canucks in the home opener at Honda Center Oct. 13. He notched one goal and one assist in a 5-4 shootout loss to Atlanta Thrashers Oct. 15 and closed the week by recording two assists and a +3 rating in a 3-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Oct. 17. Getzlaf rose to fourth in the NHL scoring race with 2-6--8 in six games.

-- Winger Kenndal McArdle was placed on waivers today at noon so he has one day to clear. If he does, McArdle will be off to Rochester. You had to have seen this coming; McArdle only played in one of the first four games and got just over six minutes of time in that one.

If he's going to sit in the press box every night, he might as well go to Rochester and get some playing time. Just my opinion.The risk is, you might lose him in waivers. But at this point of the season, I would guess the Panthers feel that risk is minimal.

-- Defenseman Jason Garrison (groin) is being listed as day-to-day after being hurt on Saturday night.

October 17, 2010

Scott Clemmensen: Remember Him?

Clemm With the way Tomas Vokoun is playing for the Panthers these days, fans may not remember the team has a backup.

Yes, Scott Clemmensen is still with the team.

Remember him?

Vokoun has started each of Florida's first four games this season and has been terrific. When the league announces its three stars of the week on Monday, don't be surprised to see Vokoun listed. After beating the Lightning 6-0 in Saturday's home opener, Vokoun has pitched consecutive shutouts, stopping 56 shots in the process.

In four games, Vokoun has stopped 99 of 104 shots (95 percent). Coming into Sunday, that was second best in the league for goalies who have played three games or more.

Florida doesn't play in a back-to-back contest until a home-and-home series against the Hurricanes on Nov. 5-6.

If coach Pete DeBoer sticks to his plan to let Vokoun keep going, that means Clemmensen may go more than a month without game-time experience. Clemmensen hasn't played since beating Boston in an exhibition shootout on Sept. 25.

Goalie coach Robb Tallas says that Clemmensen is completely prepared and doesn't think rust will be a factor when Clemmensen finally does see some time. Clemmensen got two starts in the opening month last season.

“Sometimes it is a concern because you want to keep people fresh,'' said Tallas. “But Clemmer showed us last year that he can wait in the weeds and be ready. The important thing for him is practice time. He's taking it serious and it's my job to make sure at the end of practice that he gets shots that he would see in a game, not just open ice practice. That helps him stay fresh.''

POWERED UP

The Panthers became the final team in the league to score a power play goal on Saturday as Dennis Wideman – a right-handed shot brought to Florida to help the power play – ended Florida's long drought. The Panthers hadn't scored a power play goal since April 10.

Florida went 1-for-4 on the power play, giving them a success rate of 6.7 percent this season – ranked 27th in the league.

“That was huge for us,'' said David Booth, who scored twice on Saturday. “Our special teams are going to make a difference for us. I hope that goal gets us going.''

On the flip side, Florida's penalty kill has been outstanding since new assistant coach Gord Murphy took over. The Panthers were strong killing off penalties during the preseason and that carried over into the regular season.

Florida and Washington are the only teams to have not surrendered a power play goal. The Panthers are 8-for-8 in killing off penalties as Florida has been good about staying out of the penalty box. Washington has killed off 21 penalties.

October 16, 2010

Panthers Notebook: Reinprecht Returns ... Plante is OK ... Don't Walk

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK

It has not been a good couple of weeks for Steven Reinprecht from a professional standpoint.

Florida's second line center for a good chunk of last season, Reinprecht found himself moved to the fourth line during training camp before being moved from his natural position to winger.

Reinprecht, who played in all 82 games for the Panthers last season, was then benched for Florida's first three games. Reinprecht finally made his 2010-11 debut on Saturday as he was the left winger on a fourth line with center Mike Santorelli and right winger Steve Bernier.

With Reinprecht playing, Darcy Hordichuk and Kenndal McArdle (who played just 6:54 Thursday in Calgary) were the healthy scratches.

Reinprecht made quite an impression in his first game, scoring Florida's third goal of the night.

“It's nice to get in because as a player, it's tough to sit out and watch. You want to contribute,'' Reinprecht said before Saturday's home opener. “He's the coach and makes the decisions. You have to be ready when you get in the lineup, show I don't want to come out. The team's playing well, I want to contribute and help the offense get something going.''

Coach Pete DeBoer said in camp that he wanted to create some internal competition for playing time, and with two extra forwards, he's gotten that. Of the first four games, Reinprecht and McArdle have sat for three of them; Saturday was Hordichuk's second straight scratch.

“Everyone is on notice. I told [Reinprecht] this is nothing personal but we're going to put the best lineup on the ice that we can,'' said DeBoer. “Our competitiveness has to be high every night for us to compete. One way to do that is to shuffle the lineup. I'm sure we're going to get a hungry player.''

 PLANTE OK

Panthers goalie Tyler Plante is apparently OK after passing out while on the bench during an AHL game on Friday night in Rochester, N.Y.

Plante, who backs up Jacob Markstrom for the Americans, had to be helped into the locker room by teammates and staff. He was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

Florida goalie coach Robb Tallas and assistant general manager Mike Santos both confirmed that Plante has had a rapid heartbeat at times, although Santos said dehydration likely led to Plante's episode on Friday. He will continue tests this week.

PAY UP

The Panthers have a new rule in their locker room, one in which players will be fined $500 for walking on the carpeted team logo in the middle of the room. The same fine will be administered if a player allows his practice or game jersey to hit the floor.

“I had a conversation with our captain, Bryan McCabe, and we had this rule way back with the Islanders and he was the captain there,'' said Santos. “It's about having respect for your locker room and your organization. It's simple. You can see in our first three games that there's a lot more pride from these guys. It translates.''

The team also redecorated the room with large action photos of retired former Panthers hung from the walls. The late Roger Neilson, who coached the team in its first two seasons, is included as are the likes of Scott Mellanby, John Vanbiesbrouck and Brian Skrudland.



Panthers Win Second Straight, Beat Lightning 6-0 in Home Opener

PANTHERS 6, LIGHTNING 0

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Panthers coach Pete DeBoer has often said that for his team to win, scoring needs to come from all over the ice.

In the first period of Saturday's home opener at BankAtlantic Center, just about everyone got onto the score sheet.

Eleven different players notched at least a point in a rousing first period as the Panthers jumped all over Tampa Bay with four goals. With Tomas Vokoun looking as good as ever, that lead was more than enough as Florida pummeled the Lightning 6-0 as the new-look Panthers continue to impress.

Saturday's win evened Florida's record through the first four games as the Panthers outscored Calgary and Tampa Bay 9-0 in consecutive wins. With 38 shots to Tampa Bay's 29, the Panthers have now outshot all four of their opponents this season.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun notched his second straight shutout and the 40th of his career. The Lightning were shutout five times last season.

“Things are improving from a confidence standpoint on this team,'' said Vokoun, who has stopped 99 of 104 shots faced in four starts to open the season. “We played two good games and didn't win either of them but we stuck to the gameplan. We were good again tonight, hung around the net and scored a lot of goals by our standards.''

The Panthers didn't waste any time in going after goalie Dan Ellis, firing off four shots in the opening shift. Ellis stopped those, but 1:50 into the period, Cory Stillman took advantage of some nice passing from Bryan McCabe and Radek Dvorak, beating Ellis from the slot to make it 1-0.

Florida continued to pester Ellis and sent him to the bench later in the period as the Panthers scored twice within a 48 second span. David Booth got his first goal by slipping the puck past defenseman Randy Jones to make it 2-0.

With 4:47 left in the period, Steven Reinprecht made it 3-0 when he corralled a loose puck near the crease after Ellis made a save and popped it into the open net. With that, Ellis' night was over as Mike Smith took over between the pipes.

“It was a nice start at home,'' said McCabe. “We're only 2-2 but could easily be 4-0. We're going to win a lot of games if we keep playing the way we are. We're hard to compete against. It's really nice to see.''

The large opening night crowd continued to enjoy the party later in the period as Dennis Wideman got Florida's first power play goal since April 10 when he sliced a shot from the left circle. Florida's power play – ranked 29th out of 30 teams last season – had gone 0-for-11 this season until Wideman's big shot beat Smith.

In the third, Booth picked up his second goal of the game as he and Olesz rushed down on a 2-on-1 chance, with Olesz's pass going between the skates of Mike Lundin. Booth fired at Smith and the puck skipped off his skate and into the net. Olesz later finished his three-point night off as he got his second goal of the season off a pass from McCabe.

The Panthers shutout of the Lightning is impressive on its own since Tampa Bay has as powerful a top two lines as any team in the league with the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. And Florida did so with only five defensemen for much of the night after Jason Garrison left the game with a groin injury.

“You never relax, not with a team like that,'' DeBoer said. “We were squeezing it right to the last buzzer. You're not going to have nights like that, so it's nice to do it front of our home fans in the home opener.''

LIVE! From Tarp City, It's Panthers Opening Night

We're going to have a LIVE! chat here tonight.

I have to approve everyone to get online so if you send a question and don't see it right away, that means I haven't gotten to it yet.

For those using the iPhone app, you have to give the software I use a second or two to load. Just click on the play icon in the box below and we're ready to go.

Enjoy the game....

Florida Panthers Urinal Debate Whizzes Right Along

Seems like there has been quite a bit of interest in my latest post regarding the Panthers fining players for walking on the team's logo in the locker room, yet allowing fans to relieve themselves on said logo in the arena restrooms.

I first wrote about this in 2009 and figured those decals would be replaced pretty quickly. Very surprised they are still there.

Anywho, here's the original post including quotes from team president Michael Yormark.

I will not be asking him for comment on this tonight since he explained his position on it back in the day. I doubt his position has changed.

Panthers to Fine Players for Walking on Logo (One Which is Still in Urinals)

Lockerroomlogo The Panthers redecorated the locker room at the Sunrise arena while the team was away. Got to say, mad props to whomever came up with this idea.

First, gone are the red "Respect" signs on the wall. In years past, players had their photos above their stalls.

Locker1 Now, all along the walls, are photos of retired players from years past.

Players like Pavel Bure, John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Mellanby and yes, Billy Lindsay and Gord Murphy have their photos lining the wall.

Side Note: A number of players commented how much they liked those old red jerseys. So, you fans are not alone.

Anyway, it's a classy homage to the past. Above the goalie stalls are photos Locker2 of Vanbiesbrouck, Mike Vernon and Ed Belfour. By the medical training room, photos of Bill Torrey and the late, great, Roger Neilson adorn the walls.

Again, these are retired former Panthers so Gary Roberts is there, but Roberto Luongo is not.

And it looks pretty darned good.

Anyway, onto the logo (pictured at top).

When the Panthers held their first practice of training camp in Sunrise, the carpeted logo was roped off.

Locker3 The ropes are gone, but there is now a sign at the far end of the room reminding players to "Respect the Logo.''

Players who are caught tromping on the logo in the middle of the room will be fined $500.

Same goes for any player who lets their practice or game jersey touch the floor.

The sign says 'no exceptions' although I don't know if this is self policed or what. We noticed one player walk across the logo in his skates at least three different times today.

Which player? Ha! I'm no snitch.

I also have no problem with the Panthers doing this. I've never walked across the logo intentionally (although I probably have when in a hurry) and it's not that big of a deal. I think it's good the organization is trying to stress that this franchise does have a little bit of history, that these guys should be proud to play for the Panthers (as Stephen Weiss surmised the other day).

Urinallogo That said, those decals in the urinals have got to go.

You cannot have it both ways.

The organization says that there is nothing wrong with the urology group using the small Panthers medical logo in their advertising -- even if it is placed in urinals inside the arena.

Two seasons ago, Michael Yormark said the logo is used on all sorts of merchandise one might consider disrespectful, such as a mat one would wipe their feet on.

I don't think that is a good comparison, and I would guess that the person (Pete DeBoer or Dale Tallon) who came up with the idea of fining players for "disrespecting'' the logo by letting it hit the floor or walking on it would probably agree.

Urinal1 Walking on a piece of carpet (placed on the floor) is disrespectful, but using the logo for 'target practice' in a urinal is not?

And, yes, the decals are still there. The photo was taken this morning.

It's Finally Hockey Night In South Florida: Panthers vs. Lightning, 7:15 Kickoff

Vokoun The Panthers kickoff their 2010-11 home season tonight in Sunrise as the Lightning return to Tarp City for the second time in a month.

The Lightning are an impressive 3-0 after beating Atlanta, Montreal and Philadelphia -- the last two coming on the road.

The Panthers will be wearing their Tampa Bay BlueRays (get used to them) as the team promises an in-game experience we've never seen down here before. We'll see how that goes.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m., but with team introductions and all that, the game won't start until 7:15.

-- As for the hockey stuff, Tomas Vokoun is in net for the fourth straight game.

-- Darcy Hordichuk and Kenndal McArdle are the healthy scratches, meaning Steven Reinprecht gets into the lineup for the first time this season. The top three lines will remain the same.

-- Scary moment in Rochester last night when goalie Tyler Plante had to be helped off the bench after he fainted during the Amerks game with Hamilton. Plante was taken to the hospital but I don't have an update on his status as of yet.

According to goalie coach Robb Tallas, Plante has a "heart palapatation problem'' that the team has known about. "He's lived with it his whole life,'' Tallas said. "It may have been that, or it might have been a hydration problem. Let's hope for the best.''

Will try and get an update from Mike Santos tonight at the game.

-- Oh yeah, Round 4 of LIVE! Panthers Hockey Chat comes your way around 6:30. For those of you who aren't going to the game, pull up your laptop or iPhone and join us.

-- The game is said to be close to being sold out. For those who asked: Yes, the tarps are up tonight. Which means we should have the lowest attendance for a Panthers opening night since the Miami Arena days.

 

October 15, 2010

Panthers Plan: Play a Team Game, All the Way Through

Hoosiers2CALGARY – The Panthers came out of their opening roadtrip with just two of six points, getting their first win on Thursday in Calgary against the host Flames.

There is little doubt, however, that the Panthers feel pretty good about themselves as they play their home opener Saturday night against the Lightning in Sunrise.

The Panthers dominated the Flames on Thursday just as they had the Edmonton Oilers in Sunday's season opener. The Panthers have played nine complete periods since the season has started, losing 3-2 to the Oilers off three fluke goals and dropping a 2-1 decision to Vancouver thanks to superb play by goalie Roberto Luongo and Daniel Sedin.

“This is the best start we've been off to since I've been here although the record isn't,'' said David Booth, who picked up his second assist in the first three games. “We keep playing games like this and we're going to win. In the past, we would be happy with just playing two good games or two good periods. We played nine good periods this trip and we have to keep rolling like this.''

In all honesty, the Panthers could be coming home with five or six points instead of just two. In years past, however, losing those close games probably would have meant disaster for the Panthers in Game 3. The Panthers have been a fragile bunch, but it appears general manager Dale Tallon's makeover in his first months on the job have been a success.

Yes, the Panthers still need scoring and have to play a perfect game to even hope to pull out a win. But the Panthers have shown they are willing to do anything to win and go after opponents from horn to horn.

“I think we deserved better in the first two games, so it was nice to be rewarded for the hard work,'' said Marty Reasoner. “This is something we've been building to and would like it to be the standard for the rest of the year. If we can do that, we're going to have success. You never feel good about losses, but we knew we were playing the right way. Sometimes you don't get the bounces in this game.''

After dismantling the Flames on Thursday, the “peppy Panthers'' as the Calgary Sun described them, may have converted at least some of the naysayers. Both The Hockey News and Sports Illustrated picked the Panthers to end the season last in the Eastern Conference. Florida went into Friday with the same amount of points as the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

“They're great right now. The way they played reminded me of how we played two years ago,'' said Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard, traded west over the summer. “Lines one through four are all buying in, doing the same thing. They just need to be consistent and do it every night. They can't count on one or two guys doing it all.''

DVORAK BRINGS IT

Radek Dvorak got the Panthers off to a great start on Thursday, scoring a pair of goals within the opening eight minutes of the game. The Panthers carried that 2-0 lead into the third period, with Shawn Matthias taking a nice pass from Radek Dvorak and beating Mikka Kiprusoff for the final tally.

“Every time you play with the lead you're more relaxed,'' said Dvorak. “We played with more confidence. We were good on the forecheck and the backcheck. Overall, I think we owned the game.''

SATURDAY: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS
When; Where: 7 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FS Florida; 560-AM
The Series: Panthers lead 49-33-10
The Game: This is Florida's home opener. The two cross-state rivals split the season series for the second straight year. The Lightning won the final two games of the 2009-10 regular season, helping the Panthers secure the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. .-.-. The Bolts are off to a 3-0 start under new coach Guy Boucher, with wins over Atlanta, Montreal and Philadelphia. Steven Stamkos, who has six goals and four assists in 11 games against Florida, already has four goals this season. .-.-. The team is asking fans to wear blue for Saturday's game.


Panthers Are in the Win Column: Florida 3, Calgary Flames 0 ... Tomas Vokoun 27 Saves, 39th Shutout

Fall2010 600 PANTHERS 3, FLAMES 0

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

CALGARY – Radek Dvorak said on Wednesday that it was too early to give his new line combination a nickname.

If Dvorak and his elder statesmen keep this up, they'll have a moniker by next week.

Dvorak scored a pair of goals within the first eight minutes on Thursday night as the Panthers rolled to a 3-0 victory over the host Flames for their first win of the season. Goalie Tomas Vokoun didn't have much work early on, but ended with 27 saves as he picked up his 39th career shutout and 18th in four seasons with the Panthers.

Calgary, which had just 10 shots in the first 40 minutes, had 17 in the third period alone. Vokoun has stopped 70 of 75 shots faced this season.

“That was the key: Vokoun was as solid as I've seen him,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “It looked like they could shoot all night and nothing was getting through. We weathered the storm well. When they did put pressure on, early on, we weathered it. Late, we weathered it. Defensively we were great.''

Vokoun4 The Panthers have now won their past two contests at the Saddledome dating to the 2008-09 season and avoided their second 0-3 start since the 2007-08 season.

The team is expected to land in Fort Lauderdale early Friday morning and take the rest of the day off.

The Panthers play their home opener Saturday against Tampa Bay at BankAtlantic Center.

Dvorak's AARP Line (by NHL standards) boasts of 43 years of NHL experience. On Thursday, the 33-year-old Dvorak got his first goal after backhanding a puck off the blade of 33-year-old Marty Reasoner and past Calgary goalie Mikka Kiprusoff at the 4:20 mark.

The goal gave the Panthers their first lead of the season.

Later in the period, Dvorak zipped a shot from the right circle, the puck clipping the iron of the goal cage before skipping back out. That goal gave the Panthers a 2-0 advantage they would not relinquish.

“It was huge. Every time you play with the lead you're more relaxed,'' said Dvorak, who had his first two-goal game since last season at Atlanta. “We played with more confident. We were good on the forecheck and the backcheck. Overall, I think we owned the game.''

Centuryvillage All told, Dvorak and his line of Reasoner and Cory Stillman (age 37) combined for two goals and three assists. Defenseman Dennis Wideman was credited with the second assist on Dvorak's second goal.

Florida's stout defensive play continued on Thursday. After outplaying Edmonton (and holding the Oilers to 13 shots) on Sunday, the Panthers stifled the Flames, holding them to just 10 shots through the first 40 minutes.

“I've been here a long time and that was one of the best, if not the best, games I've seen this team play,'' said Vokoun, who has stopped 70 of 75 shots this season. “We played games in the first two games and didn't get rewarded. What can I say? It was a great effort by 20 guys playing hard, playing the right way. It was nice.''

Calgary, which has lost two of its first three, came out slinging in the third period but Vokoun turned the Flames back. Midway through the period, Rostislav Olesz came racing up the ice and fed Shawn Matthias with the puck. Matthias, now centering the second line, shot through the slot and beat Kiprusoff for his first goal of the season.

“I thought we complimented each other very well,'' said Matthias. “We had a solid unit as a line, solid as a team. This is something we can expect more of. We have a hard working team and we're having fun. Everyone wants to compete and win. We played hard and as a team. That was a great game.''

The Panthers – facing old mates Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman – once again played a solid 60 minutes and frustrated the banged up Flames in the process.

Bouwmeester, who left the Panthers as a free agent in 2009, didn't do much against his old team aside from taking a penalty in the first period.

The Panthers, as has been the case all season, didn't cash in on the penalty.

Florida's power play, which ended last season ranked 29th in the 30 team league, has yet to score a goal. The Panthers are 0-11 with at least a man advantage through the first three games.

On the flip side, the Panthers penalty kill has been very effective – something they showed during the preseason. Florida only committed two penalties in the opener and none in the second, so the penalty kill units didn't have much to do. On Thursday, however, the Panthers were called for three infractions. Florida killed them all off and are now 5-for-5 on the kill.

October 14, 2010

LIVE! Florida Panthers at Calgary Flames, 9:30 (FSN, WQAM-560)

We're going to have a LIVE! chat here tonight.

I have to approve everyone to get online so if you send a question and don't see it right away, that means I haven't gotten to it yet.

For those using the iPhone app, you have to give the software I use a second or two to load. Just click on the play icon in the box below and we're ready to go.

Enjoy the game....

 

 

Shawn Matthias Getting Good Opportunity With Panthers; Thursday vs. Flames

Matthias1

CALGARY – Shawn Matthias made his NHL debut in 2008, a fresh-faced 19-year-old joining the Panthers on an emergency loan from his junior team in Belleville, Ontario.

Jacques Martin, the Panthers coach at the time, wanted to make the transition as easy as possible for Matthias, putting him up on the top line and asking captain Olli Jokinen to slide over to wing to make room for the kid.

Jokinen so did without question, helping Matthias get two goals in the four games he played in before being sent back to the bus league.

Until Thursday night, Matthias hasn't really been surrounded with that much offensive skill.

Matthias, now 22, was scheduled to line up as the Panthers second line center for Thursday's game against the Flames. On his left side was former 30-goal scorer David Booth. Rostislav Olesz, who scored 14 last year, was on his right.

“It's a solid line with two good, hard-working wingers. I think we're going to compliment one another,'' said Matthias. “We're all big guys who like to play with speed, go to the net, go into the corners. I want to take advantage of this. They've both played real well, so it should be a fun night. If I get the puck on their stick, they're going to do something with it.''

The opportunity to do create something hasn't been lost on Matthias who spent much of his rookie season in the minors. Last year, Matthias started the year in the minors but was called up and found a niche on the third and fourth lines. He scored seven goals and a strong training camp helped him secure a spot on the opening night roster.

Coach Pete DeBoer says he has faith in Matthias' abilities, only he needs to see a more consistent effort on a nightly basis. As is the case with young players, Matthias can disappear for entire games. At other times, like in Monday's loss to Vancouver, he can be hard to miss.

“He has a history, at least with the two years I've been with him, of bringing a great game to the rink one or two nights, then taking his foot off the gas,'' said DeBoer. “He needs to bring desperation every night. That created by where he plays in the lineup. If he's going, he's capable of being a second, third line centerman. If he's physical and using his strength. If he doesn't, he's a fourth line guy or a scratch.''

On Monday, Matthias had a strong game, driving the slot and putting pressure on goalie Roberto Luongo. Matthias had a chance to give the Panthers a lead with seven minutes remaining after Luongo left the net open for just a moment after making a diving save. Matthias crashed hard on the loose puck and tried to shovel it in, but Luongo recovered just in time and made the block.

A few minutes later, Daniel Sedin scored in a pileup near the net and helped the Canucks escape with a 2-1 victory.

“We're playing strong for 60 minutes and good things are about to happen,'' said Matthias. “This is a team that can get hot, be good for a long stretch of time.''

Finding a home with the Panthers hasn't been easy for Matthias. After his strong four-game debut as a rookie player, fans and media weren't the only ones who penciled Matthias into the Panthers lineup as a rookie in 2008.

Matthias came into camp not really expecting how hard he would have to work to make it. When the Panthers decided his poor first camp meant a trip to the minors, Matthias went to Rochester, N.Y., and admittedly sulked and pouted. Even when he got called up to the Panthers, he wasn't very assertive and ended up skipping between the two teams.

That all changed for Matthias in 2009 as he changed his attitude and came into camp in good shape. He lost a numbers battle for a roster slot, but went to Rochester with a determined effort. When he came back up to the Panthers, he was a different player than before. Today, Matthias appears to be more mature and much more assertive. Matthias fits in more than he has in the past and seems much more comfortable in his surroundings both on and off the ice.

“It's like night and day. He's much more assertive than he was when he first came up,'' said Olesz. “He's so strong on the face-offs now, that's great for a center. He's played well, can skate with anyone. That's helped with his confidence. I think he's getting much more confidence in his game and that leads to control during a game.''


 

Jay Bouwmeester Deflects New-Found Critics ... Olli Jokinen Wishes Cats the Best

Stayjay

CALGARY -- When Jay Bouwmeester traded in the near autonomy of being a hockey player in South Florida for Canada, he knew he was diving into a media fishbowl. 

Bouwmeester, who grew up a few hours north of here in Edmonton, knew how much hockey meant to these communities and how media coverage borders on fanatical.

“It is what you make of it and how much you pay attention to it,'' Bouwmeester said Thursday morning before his Flames took on the Panthers at the Saddledome. “No one wanted things to go the way they did here last year. People take it a little more hard here.''

In 2009, then-GM Randy Sexton traded the Bouwmeester's negotiating rights to Calgary as it was apparent Bouwmeester would never sign a long-term deal in Florida.

Once Bouwmeester signed the five-year, $33.5 million contract, the rules changed. Fans expected a lot  -- and felt let down when he scored just three goals after 15 in each of his previous two seasons. The Flames missed the playoffs, and a lot of blame was placed on Bouwmeester.

Just before the season started, Bouwmeester was taken to task by former player and current Canadian broadcaster Michael Peca. On TSN, Peca said that “I enjoyed playing against him. He turned pucks over, he made the game easy to play. He wasn’t a tough guy to play against, he didn’t play tough.''

Bouwmeester chirped back that he doesn't listen to television analysts and didn't remember much about Peca as a player himself. “He was on the tail end of his career when I played him,” Bouwmeester said.
Bouwmeester's image as a player, all but untarnished in Florida, took a hit.

Earlier this month, ESPN.com called Bouwmeester – along with fellow ex-Panther Olli Jokinen and current Florida captain Bryan McCabe – as three of the NHL's five most overrated players.

“He knew what it would be like here, but he doesn't read papers or pay attention to it,'' said Jokinen, in his third season with the Flames. “He was getting criticized a lot last year and we got asked 'what's wrong with Bouwmeester' all year. But for 82 games, in 75 he was the best player we had.''

While Bouwmeester gets the blame heaped upon him, he remains a pretty popular figure among the Panthers. Bouwmeester remains friends with a number of players and coach Pete DeBoer, who only had Bouwmeester for one season, continues to rave about his talents.

-- Jokinen, the Panthers former captain and the franchise's all-time leading scorer, says he is hopeful the franchise is going in the right direction.

“They've gone through a lot of changes and I hope for the best, I hope they have it figured out,'' said Jokinen, who keeps his offseason home in Broward County. “It looks like they have a good guy now leading the charge in Dale Tallon. It's been tough times for the fans in South Florida. They still have fans and support, but it's tough for them year after year missing the playoffs.''


 

October 13, 2010

Panthers Mix Things Up in Calgary ... Huffing and Puffing ... Beezer is Honored

Calgary CALGARY – The Panthers have played two strong games to open the season, only a lack of scoring has kept them winless.

Florida has scored just three goals in losses at Edmonton and Vancouver, so heading into Thursday's game against the host Flames, coach Pete DeBoer – who expressed he's not married to any line combinations – has switched things up.

“We have to find scoring and don't have the luxury to wait 10 or 15 games and hope it works,'' said DeBoer. “We have to move things around until we start putting the puck in the net.''

DeBoer changed his lines in the third period of Monday's 2-1 loss to the Canucks and unveiled new combinations in Wednesday's afternoon practice at the Saddledome. David Booth is off the top line, with Chris Higgins joining Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik.

Booth will join center Shawn Matthias and winger Rostislav Olesz on the second line.

“I don't think it came from bad play, we just need to get some goals,'' said Weiss. “It's a long season and you will have to switch things up at times. We have a lot of new players. We need to find some chemistry.''

The third line has quite a bit of experience as veterans Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner have joined forces. That trio has a combined 43 years of NHL experience between them. It would be easy to come up with a nickname for this line, but Dvorak says it's way to early for any of that.

“We have a lot of experience because we're old,'' said Dvorak, now in his ninth season with the Panthers. “It's good to play with these two, we've all been in the league a long time. We know each other and know what to do. It's nice. Hopefully we contribute some offense and help the team win some games.''

It appears Kenndal McArdle will come off the bench and play in his first game Thursday. He's on the fourth line with Mike Santorelli and Steve Bernier. Darcy Hordichuk and Steven Reinprecht appear to be the healthy scratches.

-- DeBoer split the team up for a shootout drill in which if a player missed a shot his team had to skate up-and-back sprints from the side boards. If the other team scored, the losing team also had to skate. Well, one side did most of the skating as it was made up of mostly defensemen.

Starting goalie Tomas Vokoun didn't let up, leading some players to joke that if Vokoun faces a lot of shots on Thursday, he'll know why.

“It's his own fault, he left us out to dry out there by not letting us score,'' said a sweat-soaked Bryan McCabe. “When you have to skate back-and-forth 40 times in five minutes, you're going to get gassed. The odds were stacked against us. Hey, we're saving our goals for games.''

Beezer -- Former goalie John Vanbiesbrouck will become the second member of the Panthers to be inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 9. Vanbiesbrouck was Florida's first pick in the 1993 expansion draft and led the team to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

Vanbiesbrouck never played a game in Broward County as a member of the Panthers because he was traded to Philadelphia just before the Sunrise arena opened in 1998. Panthers alternate governor Bill Torrey is also a member of the Broward Hall.

THURSDAY: PANTHERS AT FLAMES
Ollicalgary Where, When: Calgary Saddledome, 9:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FS Florida; 560-AM
The Series: Flames lead 11-7-3
The Game: The Panthers won the previous meeting in Calgary on Dec. 12, 2008, when Stephen Weiss scored the shootout winner. Florida lost to the Flames in Sunrise last season. .-.-. Calgary, featuring former Panthers Olli Jokinen and Bocalgary Jay Bouwmeester, is pretty banged up with eight regulars nursing some sort of injury. .-.-. A loss in regulation would give Florida its second 0-3 start since 2007-08.

October 12, 2010

CANUCKS 2, PANTHERS 1: Daniel Sedin Gets Two, Louie Gets 41 Saves

CANUCKS 2, PANTHERS 1

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

VANCOUVER – Panthers coach Pete DeBoer knows they don't give out style points in the NHL, so if Florida can find success with its grind-it-out team game, that's cool with him.

Of course, the NHL also doesn't award teams who play strong games but don't win.

DeBoer wished they did.

The Panthers played yet another good game on Monday night but found themselves on the wrong side of the final score as the host Canucks got two goals from Daniel Sedin and a strong outing from Roberto Luongo to drop the Panthers 2-1 at Rogers Arena.

Florida is 0-2-0 this season despite outplaying Edmonton on Sunday and giving the high-powered Canucks (1-0-1) all they could handle. The score was tied until Sedin scored with 5:08 remaining. The Panthers, for the second straight night, outshot their opponent. On Monday, Florida had 42 shots to Vancouver's 35.

“We've strung together six good periods and are creating chances,'' said DeBoer, whose team concludes its western Canada road trip with a game Thursday in Calgary. “This is a real trap game with them waiting for us fresh and us playing in a back-to-back situation. I thought we competed for 60 minutes and had plenty of chances. We could be sitting here at 2-0 right now, although I know that doesn't make anyone feel any better. But that's the truth of it. Our guys have battled hard.''

Said Stephen Weiss: “There's nothing wrong with our effort or our systems. We've played two solid games and probably deserved a better fate in at least one and probably both. It doesn't mean we're satisfied by any means. We need to score some goals. We just couldn't get one past Luongo. Tip the cap to him.''

Sedin's first goal came at 12:39 of the first after Tomas Vokoun left a rebound at his feet. Sedin would get the game winner with 5:08 left when he shoveled in a loose puck past a downed Vokoun.
Rostislav Olesz tied the game late in the second period when he fired a shot from the left boards apparently looking for teammate Mike Santorelli who was crashing the net.

The puck slipped through Santorelli's skates, however, struck Vancouver's Alex Elder and skipped past Luongo.

“We worked hard and couldn't bury all our chances. We needed the bounces to go in our favor,'' said Santorelli. “We need to keep digging, get those greasy goals.''

-- Winger David Booth said Monday's game was “the most fun I've had playing in a while,'' countering that by saying he wished his team had won. Why not? Booth looked like he was back in college, playing on just about every line as he had 27 shifts – tied for most in the game. Daniel Sedin also had 27 shifts.

“I really enjoyed it, was in the flow and in the game,'' said Booth, who tied Olesz with a team-high six shots. “I wish I could have helped contribute and get us a goal late in the game. It was fun. I don't remember having that much fun in a game. I wish we would have won, but it was exciting especially after missing most of last year. Just to compete like that in front of a big crowd.''

-- Luongo is now 4-0-1 against the Panthers, his only loss coming in a shootout in Sunrise in 2008.

-- The Panthers haven't won in Vancouver since the inaugural season of 1993-94. Florida is 1-6 with five ties all-time in Vancouver.