Good afternoon hockey fans. I didn't cover the team today, but I'm back tomorrow. Today's coverage is from Didier Morais. Enjoy.
BY DIDIER MORAIS
Chris Higgins is still adjusting to the constant shift in systems. Playing on his fourth team in just as many seasons, the Panthers forward said he remains in the process of breaking free from old tendencies in order to grasp to coach Pete DeBoer’s schemes.
But the results are slowly starting to come for Higgins – who previously played for Montreal, Calgary and New York. After sputtering through seven games without recording a single point, Higgins has rebounded by notching two goals and one assist in his last five games.
“It has been a challenge,” Higgins said of the system adjustment. “I’ve been with a bunch of different teams the last couple years and it takes a little bit to see exactly what the coach wants me to do. It’s got to become part of your instinct.”
Higgins, however, has managed to flourish despite being out of his element. When Cory Stillman was sidelined with a shoulder injury during Friday’s game against Carolina, Wiggins shifted down from Florida’s first line to the third line to fill the void.
And the move ultimately benefitted Higgins, considering he finished the night with one score and a season-high eight shots on goal.
“That's the game we're looking for from Higgy,” DeBoer said. “Sometimes when you come to a new team the details paralyze you a little bit, the system, where you're supposed to be.
“[Friday] he just played, used his instincts. He's becoming more comfortable. He's starting to play. It hasn't come easy for him. He looks like he's turning a corner.”
To get to that point, though, Higgins said he constantly consulted the team’s coaching staff and general manager Dale Tallon to gain a stronger grasp of the intricacies of the Panthers system.
“I wanted to get back to my gameplan, more of a relentless style,” Higgins said. “And when I have my best games its when I’m skating and being a dynamic player out there. Hopefully, I got all those things ironed out now.”
-- The Panthers received encouraging news Monday morning when Stillman returned to ice for practice.
After sustaining a shoulder injury during Friday night’s second shift, the winger looked to have suffered damage to his rotator cuff and was expected to miss up to a month for Florida.
But DeBoer was optimistic that the club wouldn’t have to call anyone from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
“It doesn’t look like it’s as bad as we thought,” DeBoer said after Monday’s practice. “I would still say he’s day-to-day. He’s doubtful for Wednesday and we’ll see how the rest of the week goes.”
-- Darcy Hordichuk knows the Panthers didn’t acquire him from Vancouver last month for his goal-scoring abilities.
Mired in a yearlong scoring drought, the winger – who had 18 career goals entering the season – could actually remember the manner in which he tallied his last score, which came on Nov. 5, 2009.
“It was a slap shot, high cheese against Minnesota,'' Hordichuk said, describing the goal.
But one year and one day after the anniversary of his last score, Hordichuk ended his scoring slump by firing a goal in the third period of Saturday’s 3-2 loss against Carolina.
“Great players make great plays,” Hordichuk joked after the game.