TAMPA -- Michael Grabner has been waived by the Panthers and if he clears, he'll be starting in Rochester. The Panthers say I will have the rest of the cuts soon. Check back...
LIGHTNING 4, PANTHERS 1
TAMPA – The Panthers expect to see Jacob Markstrom defending their net sometime down the road, but those days won't be for some time.
Markstrom, 20, played his first full game of the preseason Saturday, surrendering three goals in the second period as the host Lightning rolled to a 4-1 victory at St. Pete Times Forum.
Barring a trade of veterans Tomas Vokoun or Scott Clemmensen, Markstrom will be sent to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., in the coming days.
“He's the future of the franchise,'' coach Pete DeBoer said.
The Panthers (3-2-1) end the preseason with three straight losses. Florida opens the regular season Sunday, Oct. 10, in Edmonton.
“They cranked it up and we didn't go with them when they raised the level,'' DeBoer said of the Lightning's three second period goals. “The last 40 minutes were something you would like to forget.''
Markstrom was sharp early on, stopping a couple of big shots from Tampa Bay's arsenal of forwards. But like as he did last week in Montreal, Markstrom struggled when the Panthers defense let the Lightning hang around too long in the Florida zone.
Florida led 1-0 on a nice goal from center Mike Santorelli, but the Lightning jumped all over Markstrom and got three goals within a five minute span in the second period to completely take over the game.
Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was first to score, then Steven Stamkos – who scored 51 goals last year to tie for the NHL lead – fired a puck from the left circle that caught the skate of Florida's Erik Gudbranson and past Markstrom. Stamkos got his second of the night a few minutes later as he picked up the puck off Lecavalier's stick and fired a shot that beat Markstrom shortside.
Tampa Bay got its final goal at 7:44 of the third off a shot from Sean Bergenheim.
“It has been a real fun experience and I had been looking forward to it for a long time,'' said Markstrom, who gave up four goals in the third period of last week's 6-2 loss in Montreal. “You always want to do better, want to do better in the games and in practice. Now I know how it is. I played in 1 ½ games and am really glad to be here. I want to be here as soon as possible – or just stay here.''
CLEAN IT UP
DeBoer was a little dismayed after Florida committed 10 penalties in Friday's overtime loss to the Lightning – and wasn't thrilled with the six infractions called on Saturday.
The Panthers penalty kill came into the game perfect in 32 chances, and stopped Tampa Bay's first power play on Saturday. But the streak came to an end in the second period when Stamkos picked up his first goal of the night.
On Friday, the Panthers had a host of penalties – including two bench minors for having too many skaters on the ice.
“Those are attention to detail issues,'' DeBoer said. “We weren't engaged mentally like we should be.''
With Keaton Ellerby missing two games with his shoulder injury, 18-year-old Erik Gudbranson became the only player to participate in all six of Florida's preseason games.
General manager Dale Tallon said Friday that the Panthers were working on getting Gudbranson signed to his entry level deal. If Florida signs him, Gudbranson could start the season on the NHL roster.
-- Ellerby had a strong training camp after putting on 20-plus pounds of muscle during the offseason, but because he can go to the minors without having to pass through waivers, it appears he'll be joining Markstrom in Rochester.
DeBoer, who didn't give Ellerby much playing time when he was called up at the end of last season, has praised Ellerby throughout the camp. On Saturday, DeBoer all but confirmed Ellerby would be sent back and said he needs to continue to develop.
“This kid is an NHL player and he made a huge stride for me this year compared to the two previous camps,'' said DeBoer. “He came prepared to earn a job and did what he had to do in the gym for the first time. He'll be a full time NHL guy real soon.''
-- The Panthers may make some cuts on Sunday as the roster needs to be pared to a maximum of 23 players by Wednesday. Players who are waived in order to go to the minors would have to clear by Wednesday when the team submits its opening night roster to the league. Florida currently has 29 players on the roster with four players nursing minor injuries.
Pete DeBoer talks hockey while watching college football.
No AFL here tonight, but we do have some hockey as the Panthers and Lightning square off for a second straight night.
Florida lost 2-1 in overtime last night in Sunrise.
Before we get to the LIVE! chat, first some news.
Spoke with Pete DeBoer prior to the game (video uploading) and he pretty much confirmed Keaton Ellerby is heading back to the minors. Ellerby had a strong camp, but there is a lot of depth here and he doesn't have to go through waivers. DeBoer says he wants to see Ellerby become a 30-minute guy and dominate at the AHL level when he gets back to Rochester.
Ellerby missed the final two preseason games with a minor shoulder injury.
-- Lineups for Saturday (Gudbranson becomes only player to play in all six preseason game):
LIGHTNING 2, PANTHERS 1 (OT)
Panthers coach Pete DeBoer spent 45 minutes at the end of Thursday's practice working on special teams.
They say practice makes perfect – and that's what the Panthers penalty kill has been this preseason.
Florida's penalty kill was put to the test Friday night as the Panthers killed off eight infractions but couldn't stop Mike Lundin's shot on a 3-on-3 in overtime as the Lightning beat Florida 2-1 in front of an announced 11,688 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers are now 32-for-32 on penalty kills in five preseason games. Florida (3-1-1) plays its final preseason game Saturday night in Tampa Bay at 7:30 (WQAM-560).
“They had a lot of power plays and we have to be careful with that obviously,'' said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 40 shots. “But our penalty killing was strong, and they have been strong. Hopefully we can improve on what we did last year. That would be a big help. Guys are battling hard, blocking shots. Four guys have to outwork five guys. It's a good first step.''
Florida held a parade to the penalty box in the first two periods as the Panthers took seven penalties in the opening 40 minutes. The Panthers were also slapped with a pair of bench penalties for having too many skaters on the ice. About the only penalty the Panthers weren't hit with was a delay of game when a few fans tossed plastic rats onto the ice during a third period break.
The Lightning were called for four penalties with Florida going 0-for-2 on the power play. The Panthers power play has been a point of contention over the past few seasons as it was ranked 28th in the 30 team league last year.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Simon Gagne goal. Florida tied it up with 5:25 left in regulation as defenseman Jason Garrison charged in, whiffed on a shot then corralled the puck and shot at Mike Smith. Garrison then pulled in the rebound and scored. Garrison, who had two goals last year, ended with eight shots. No other Florida player had more than three.
“I was just trying to get everything on net, that's how you create scoring chances,'' said Garrison.
GUDBRANSON STICKING AROUND?
DeBoer had high praise for 18-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson before Friday's game, saying that he “earned the right to still be here, earned the right to keep playing,'' adding that it was general manager Dale Tallon's call on whether Gudbranson would stick when cuts are made on Sunday.
All signs point to that happening.
Tallon said Friday night that the Panthers are preparing a new contract package for Gudbranson and his agent and will make the offer early next week. Gudbranson would have to be signed by Wednesday to be eligible to play in the season opener Oct. 16 in Edmonton.
Gudbranson was the third overall pick in the 2010 draft and could play in nine games with the Panthers and then be sent back to his junior team before burning the first year of his entry level contract. If Gudbranson was to play beyond that, he could theoretically become an unrestricted free agent at age 25.
“We would like to keep him around as long as we possibly can,'' Tallon said.
Said Gudbranson: “I am just playing it by ear, playing hockey. All that business stuff is out of my control. I'm here trying to make the team, get some wins for the Panthers.''
Dmitry Kulikov, the 14th overall pick in 2009, spent all of last season with the Panthers. DeBoer said Kulikov and Gudbranson aren't in the same situation because, even though both are defensemen, they play a different style of game.
“Erik plays a banging style of game, hits and fights,'' DeBoer said. “These are big guys he’s dealing with here so he has to adjust more than Kulikov did. He's a puck mover, a skill guy. The one thing Erik’s shown is he’s not going to change his game. He’s taken on some tough customers and hasn’t taken a step backwards in preseason.''
-- Kulikov (foot) was one of four who missed Friday's game with injury. Keaton Ellerby, who is fighting for a spot on the opening night roster, has a slight shoulder injury. Byron Bitz (lower body) and Chris Higgins (groin) also didn't play.
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
Radio: WQAM 560; NO VIDEO STREAM FROM FSN AS THEY PREVIOUSLY SAID
-- Lineups for Saturday (Gudbranson becomes only player to play in all six preseason game):
HERE'S WHAT PETE SAID POSTGAME
On Garrison: “He was excellent tonight. He was on his game, he was up the ice, he was getting the puck to the net. I thought he did a real good job.”
On his goal: “I just saw a guy taking charge. They were sitting back, really trapping in the neutral zone and when that happens, your D have to skate with the puck. You don’t have to tell him twice. He got the puck and got moving with a full head of steam and caught them a little flat-footed and I thought made a really good play.”
On getting scoring from the D: “It’s a huge part. We’ve talked about it since day one at camp. They have to be a part of our attack. We weren’t a high-scoring team last year and now we’ve moved Nathan Horton, so we’ve got to find those goals somewhere else. It’s got to come from our back end and those guys have to be a big part of our attack. They’re working on it and I think they’re doing a good job.”
On the penalty killing: “The penalty killing is great, but way too many penalties. We can’t play that way. We have no offensive rhythm. Your best players are sitting there getting cold, your most skilled guys. We can’t take that many penalites in a game. That’s the bottom line. The penalty killing was great, Tomas Vokoun was great, but you’re just playing with fire when you’re taking that many penalties.”
On Vokoun: “He looked great. He’s ready. That was his last start here before the season starts and he looked like he’s ready to go.”
Special thanks to Alain Poupart for getting these quotes and transcribing them for me. I had to race upstairs to file.
Those using the iPhone or iTouch need to let the Cover It Live software load up. It usually takes less than a minute. Then click on the play button and you are in. I made sure to test it out on my phone last week so I know it works. Trust me.
Who's ready for a Party City Party Night presented by Party City?
I know I am.
Let's get this thing started, cool?
If it was, the kid would stay.
Gudbranson, 18, could be in his final days with the Panthers. Florida would have to sign the third overall pick of the 2010 draft by Wednesday for him to be eligible to start his nine game NHL test.
The Panthers can use Gudbranson in nine NHL games and then send him back to the juniors without burning the first year of his contract timeline (basically, if Gudbranson gets a full year of NHL credit this year, he could become a free agent at age 25).
If the Panthers don't sign Gudbranson -- as of Wednesday, the Panthers said they have had just basic conversations with his agent -- they could cut him on Sunday and send him back to the juniors.
DeBoer said Gudbranson has earned his keep but knows there are obstacles. He also said comparing him to Dmitry Kulikov's situation wasn't fair because they play a different style of game.
More from Pete once OnFrozenFilm gets loaded up.
-- The three players we knew were hurt (Higgins, Kulikov and Bitz) are out for the weekend, but should be back to practice on Monday.
DeBoer told us today that Keaton Ellerby is also out for the weekend with a dinged up shoulder.
-- DeBoer says that Tomas Vokoun will play the entire game tonight.
-- Florida's lineup for Friday's game: