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Happy Thanksgiving: Florida Panthers Close, Not Good Enough ... Steve Bernier Skates ... Bill Thomas Returned

Lions Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving today.

Enjoy the day.

Here is my notebook from this morning's practice in Coral Springs. Wanted to get it done early so I could go and hang out with the family.

See you all tomorrow. If I can get off the couch, that is.

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

When Pete DeBoer was asked earlier in the week what he was thankful for as far as his team went, the Panthers coach responded that even though he would have liked more wins, he was pleased in how his team continues to put forth a solid effort and battles hard each night.

That was on Tuesday.

On Wednesday night, after another close loss, the team's players closed the doors to their locker room and held a meeting to flesh out why the team is playing the best teams in the league tight – only coming away with nothing but moral victories.

“The disappointing thing is we've been playing good games against good teams and not getting the wins,'' Radek Dvorak said after Thursday's practice in Coral Springs. “We have to play the same game for 60 minutes. I like our game, I like this team. Everyone plays hard, plays for each other. But we have to find a way to get a full 60 minutes; if there's a bad play, work through it.''

Said DeBoer: “It was great initiative on their part, but it's what comes out of it that's the important part. Our best players haven't hit their stride yet. We need that to happen. We need goals out of those guys. At the start of the third period, we should have gotten more goals.''

DeBoer said on Thursday that he was pleased his players took ownership of the problem, but talk isn't going to fix things. The Panthers were tied with Pittsburgh in the third period on Monday but lost in regulation 3-2; Wednesday, Florida led Boston going into the third but lost 3-1.

All of Florida's losses have come in regulation – the Panthers are the league's only team not to go into overtime this season – meaning they aren't even getting the free point for overtime or shootout losses.

The Panthers go into Friday's game against the Rangers with 18 points in 20 games – putting them 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.

“We have to put the past two games behind us and realize what we did well and what we didn't,'' DeBoer said. “We've shown we can play with a team like Boston. In the two games, we were as good or better for probably five of the six periods. But handling adversity and having composure at the right times of games is something we have to be better at. It's bit us.''

BERNIER PRACTICES

Steve Bernier was back on the ice Thursday, less than two weeks after he suffered a fractured orbital bone at the end of Florida's win over Minnesota.

Bernier needed surgery after being struck in the face by the butt end of Brent Burns stick as time expired. Burns and Bernier have spoken and everything seems to be OK between them. On Thursday, Bernier wore a full cage as he went through drills and took some contact.

“We'll work him into shape,'' DeBoer said. “He won't play this weekend, but we may see him on the California trip.''

-- Bryan Allen has a broken bone in his foot and should be out a couple of weeks at the least. But DeBoer says there really is no timetable when it comes to Allen.

“He's a warrior,'' DeBoer said. “Whatever the doctor says, he either cuts in half or totally ignores. It's tough to say how long he'll be out. The doctors say two to four weeks. But knowing him, we'll see.''

-- Jason Garrison, who missed Wednesday's game with a groin strain, practiced on Thursday and is probable for Friday's game.

-- Bill Thomas played in two games as Steven Reinprecht was out; with Reinprecht back, Thomas was returned to the Panthers' AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

FRIDAY: RANGERS AT PANTHERS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Rangers lead 36-27-6
The game: This is the final game of the Panthers three-game homestand with Florida going 0-2 so far. The Panthers have lost three of their past four games and are now two games under .500. .-.-. The up-and-down Rangers are coming off a 3-2 loss in Tampa on Wednesday night. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 10-5-1 against the Panthers all-time with a 1.89 GAA. He's made 93 percent of his saves against the Panthers and has shut them out three times in his career.

Comments

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the problem with the Panthers is simple. They can't score yet never address it through the draft, trade or free agency and pass the buck onto the players most of whom are being asked to do things above their skill set. Eric Gudbranson looks like he is going to be a fine, fine player but wouldn't a guy like Jeff Skinner have been the proper pick for a goal starved team that refuses to pay top dollar for offensive talent? If you are not going to ante up for proven scorers than you really should be trying to draft them but time and time again the team drafts defensemen with it's first round pick.

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