« LIVE! From Tarp City, It's Panthers Preseason Hockey | Main | LIVE! From Tampa Bay, It's Panthers Preseason Hockey »

Tampa Bay Wins: Bolts 2, Panthers 1 (OT) ... Gudbranson Staying? ... BONUS! Quotes from DeBoer


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.


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.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

-- Lineups for Saturday (Gudbranson becomes only player to play in all six preseason game):










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.