I try not to miss too many games, but family is family.
And I thought it would be a nice treat for you all to get a taste of Panthers hockey a la David J. Neal.
It's definitely cool to read David's take on hockey in The Herald once again. As some of you all may recall, David was The Herald's first hockey writer, covering the Cats from their inception up until he handed it over to me in 2004.
Once football season is over, I'm sure we'll see Mr. Neal back here a little more often. Especially if he wants to take that Ottawa/Newark trip from me. Just kidding. I wouldn't do that to him.
Anywho, here's his take on Saturday's game in Philly.
I'll be back on the beat come Monday.
Sorry 'bout that.
BY DAVID J. NEAL
PHILADELPHIA -- The situation wasn't ideal for the Panthers -- getting in at 2:30 a.m. after Friday's win against Minnesota, playing their third game in four nights, and trudging in against a Philadelphia team that had won five in a row in what is now the Wells Fargo Center.
Still, all was going well for the Panthers on Saturday night until Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out a long rebound just past the midway point of the first period. Soon after, a swarm of speed and talent that would've embarrassed locusts destroyed the Panthers 5-2.
Mike Richards, who opened the scoring on the rush after the long rebound, scored twice, as did Claude Giroux. Scott Hartnell added a first-period tap-in goal. By the time the Panthers got a couple of garbage-time goals by Cory Stillman and Mike Santorelli, the big question among the crowd in this boxing town was where to watch the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight.
``They got one [goal] there and all of a sudden it looks like we start standing around a bit,'' Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. ``Once you do that against that team, they'll pick you apart. Whether they score first or we score first, we've got to stick to the plan. And we didn't do that.''
Weiss threatened twice to put the Panthers ahead early, on a late deflection and a wrister of a loose puck in the right circle. The Panthers had an 8-7 shots advantage after 10 minutes, a similarly small advantage in scoring chances and their defensemen were extending their offensive-zone time with some nifty keep-ins at the blue line.
But no goals or even power plays resulted. Then that long rebound of a Dennis Wideman blue line drive launched a rush that Richards finished by beating goalie Scott Clemmensen glove side for a 1-0 lead 12:14 into the first.
Clearing another shot off the line provided the Panthers with brief relief. David Booth and Rostislav Olesz of the Panthers failed to get a loose puck one foot inside the Panthers' zone over the line. A few seconds later, Ville Leino fed Hartnell for his tap-in at 15:38.
A Booth hooking penalty off a neutral-zone draw and a Bryan McCabe crosschecking call on the penalty kill gave the Flyers a 40-second five-on-three advantage. That was a 25-second surplus: Richards' rip from the right circle made it 3-0. With McCabe still in the box, Giroux knocked in his first of the night and eighth of the season through a goalmouth scramble.
That made it 4-0 and Giroux ended the competitive phase of the game off a breakaway after a Wideman turnover and wipeout.
``We have to learn to have enough composure on the road, as a young team, to handle that situation and settle things down and not hurt ourselves,'' Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.
Panthers right wing Steve Bernier will likely miss a few weeks after undergoing surgery for his fractured right orbital bone, DeBoer said.
DeBoer said he would talk with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon about if or when the Panthers would consider bringing up minor-league help for nights they don't need a tough guy, such as Saturday's replacement Darcy Hordichuk.
Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns got a two-game suspension from the NHL for the left hook with a butt end that did the damage to Bernier in Friday's 2-1 Panthers win. Bernier checked Burns hard against the boards as Burns fired a desperation shot toward the Panthers goal in the game's final seconds. In the ensuing pushing and shoving, Burns caught Bernier with the shot.
Burns told The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis that he tried to contact Bernier to apologize throughout Saturday.
``What I went through the last two years with injuries, I don't want to hurt anybody,'' Burns told The Star-Tribune. ``I think I play the game pretty hard, but I love to play hockey and I don't want to hurt anybody. At the end of the day, it's a game. To know he was hurt, I felt pretty bad and still do.''
DeBoer, who coached Burns in international competition, said, He's a pretty straight shooter kid. That's not typical of him. You have responsibility to control your stick, so I think the punishment fits, but I don't think there was intent to hurt Steve Bernier.
FLYERS SIGN CARTER
The Flyers signed center Jeff Carter to an 11-year, $58 million deal, putting another key forward under contract for a long while. It's similar to what Pittsburgh has done, although general manager Paul Holmgren denied the Penguins motivated the Flyers.
``I didn't think that much about other teams,'' Holmgren said. ``Getting Jeff done [Saturday] and Claude [Giroux] done two days ago are big signings for us.''