When Michal Repik was sent down to the minors out of training camp, the winger didn't pout or complain that he should have been with the Panthers instead.
“To get back here, you can't be grumpy when they send you down,'' Repik said on Tuesday.
“I didn't want to be negative. I play my best when I'm happy so I kept the right attitude and worked with this goal in mind. I wanted to be in Florida, but to get there, I had to play my way back. Being mad wouldn't do anything good for me.''
He was right. Repik kept things positive and worked hard to make sure his stint in Rochester, N.Y., was as short as possible. In 17 minor league games with the Americans, Repik scored four goals with 18 assists – putting tied for second among scoring leaders in the American Hockey League.
On Monday, Repik's strong play was rewarded as he was called up by the Panthers. Repik will be in the lineup Wednesday when the team visits Atlanta for the first time this season.
“He deserves to be up here. He handled the demotion the right way,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “That's not easy to do, it sounds like a given but it's not. It's everyone's dream to play in the NHL and he had a pretty good year in the AHL last year. He didn't have a great camp but he handled it the way you should.''
Repik is replacing the injured Steve Bernier, who is likely out for a month after having surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone suffered in a fight last Friday night. Repik is being placed on the Panthers fourth line, but DeBoer says that line isn't being pigeonholed as a fourth line. Both center Shawn Matthias and winger Steven Reinprecht have scored of late, and by adding Repik, DeBoer feels that this combination should be able to create some offense and kick in some goals.
“I like that as a line,'' DeBoer said. “We have to be a four line team and be able to play all four lines. That's a line that shouldn't have issues defensively and should create some offense. Repik's an offensive player. Hopefully they'll get some chemistry going.''
BITZ WORKING BACK
Winger Byron Bitz missed the end of last season with an elbow injury and has been on the shelf since training camp after needing sports hernia surgery. But Bitz has been skating for about two weeks now and says he is close to being ready to begin practicing with the team. Since arriving from Boston at last season's trade deadline, Bitz has played in just seven games with the Panthers.
“It's coming along. I'm getting there,'' said Bitz. “It's been a long haul and I want to get back. We're at the point where I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I've had a string of bad luck and there's nothing you can do about it. Hopefully it's behind me.''
DeBoer will be reunited with former teammate Jack Capuano when the Panthers visit the Islanders on Saturday. Capuano was named the new coach of the Islanders after the team fired Scott Gordon on Monday. DeBoer and Capuano played minor league hockey for the Milwaukee Admirals of the defunct International Hockey League.
“I've kept in touch with him over the years,'' DeBoer said. “It's nice to see him get a chance.''
Gordon was fired as the beat-up Islanders suffered through a 10-game losing streak in which they only picked up one point in the standings. Capuano coached the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, R.I.
“It's an elite club, there's only 30 of these jobs, and sometimes you don't get to pick and choose the circumstance,'' DeBoer said. “You just have to go in and do a good job. I feel for Scott. He had a lot of things lined up against them with the injuries they had to key people. We all know as a non-cap team, you get key injuries to elite players – like David Booth last year – it's tough to overcome.''
WEDNESDAY: PANTHERS AT THRASHERS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Atlanta leads 34-24-5
The game: The Panthers set a franchise record with 55 shots in the previous meeting between the two teams, but Atlanta – outshot by 32 – still won 4-3. The Thrashers have lost two straight. The Thrashers lead the Panthers by three points in the standings – but have played three more games. Florida center Marty Reasoner spent the past two seasons in Atlanta and didn't record a point when the two teams met earlier this month. In nine career games against the Thrashers, Reasoner has zero goals and three assists.