Taking a day off...see you tomorrow!
BY ADAM H. BEASLEY
After a month of daily depth dilution brought on by a rash of injuries, Monday brought a bit of good news for the Florida Panthers:
Defenseman Bryan Allen, out two weeks with a broken bone in his foot, might be back the ice Tuesday when the Panthers host Colorado.
"I'd say he's probable for [Tuesday]," coach Pete DeBoer said following Florida's practice Monday morning. "He's back out on the ice. We'll see how he feels when he gets the boot off."
Allen, a 10th-year veteran, has appeared in 19 games this season, averaging nearly 19 minutes of icetime per contest. With Allen in the game, Florida has scored two more goals than it's allowed, the sixth-best ratio on the team.
His likely return couldn't come at a better time, as Florida (11-14-0) will face two of the league's most prolific scoring teams in the next three days in Colorado and Washington.
The Avalanche average 3.42 goals per game, second-most to Detroit, and have five players with more than 20 points on the year. Chris Stewart and David Jones each have 11 goals, while Milan Hejduk is seventh in the league with 30 points.
"A high-octane offense," DeBoer said. "We worked a lot on defensive zone coverage and taking care of our own end the ice [in practice Monday]."
-- Of course, not all the injury news was good for the Panthers Monday.
DeBoer confirmed Radek Dvorak will be out several weeks after seriously injuring his shoulder Saturday in Phoenix.
Dvorak joins Chris Higgins (foot), Cory Stillman (back) and Rostislav Olesz (finger) on the list of injured Panthers forwards, forcing the team to mine the minors in an effort to fill in the gaps. DeBoer has ruled all four out for Tuesday's game.
At least three call-ups from Rochester are expected to play against Colorado, but DeBoer did not specify which ones exactly.
"We're juggling a lot," DeBoer said. "We wanted to get through practice, see how everyone was, get a true picture on who exactly we think can go [Tuesday], and we'll come up with some line combinations."
-- The mounting injuries on offense have vaulted the well-traveled Bill Thomas well up Florida's rotation.
DeBoer used Thomas, 27, in a regular shift on the Panthers' third line after Dvorak's injury Saturday, and is expected to do the same Tuesday.
"The nice thing about Bill is he's got some NHL experience," DeBoer said. "That's what makes him so valuable to us. He's not just running around the ice. He knows exactly his role and what he needs to do to contribute up here. He's fit right in."
Thomas has appeared in just four games with the Panthers this year, but has made good on his limited opportunities thus far. He had an assist on Michal Repik's goal in Los Angeles last Thursday.
Thomas has played parts of five NHL seasons for three different franchises, and also spent three months in Switzerland last winter.
"At the end of the day, I obviously wanted to stay over here and play," Thomas said. "If you work hard and play well, just like everywhere else, you get called up. You get rewarded for how well you do."
TUESDAY: AVALANCHE AT PANTHERS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: No local TV; 560-WQAM
The series: Colorado leads 17-7-3 (not including four-game sweep in 1996 Cup Finals)
The game: The Avalanche are in the third game of a five-game road trip, losing three straight and five of six. The Panthers had lost five of six before beating Phoenix 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday night. .-.-. Tonight is another Panthers throwback game. Even though the teams will wear their current uniforms, 1996 Stanley Cup Finals captains Joe Sakic (Colorado) and Brian Skrudland (Florida) will drop the puck. Ads and promotions from the 1995-96 season will be used on Tuesday. .-.-. Florida has won the past two meetings against Colorado on home ice.