« OnFrozenFilm: Pete DeBoer, Panthers Pregame in Anaheim | Main | Florida Panthers Get Power Play Goals, Still Drown on Pond: Ducks 5, Cats 3 »

Florida Panthers: Mike Weaver is Unsung Hero

WeaverANAHEIM – The Panthers didn't make a big splash this offseason as far as bringing in big names go.

Yet the players Florida did sign or trade for have fared well. Especially the one who completely sailed under the radar in August. No, it was not big news when the Panthers signed a 5-foot-9 defenseman named Mike Weaver in August.

Only the Panthers were, and continue to be, excited to have landed him.

“You're going to love this guy,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said at the start of training camp.

Weaver has been as consistent a defenseman as the Panthers have played this season. Weaver, while one of the smallest players in the league, sure plays up in class. Weaver has freakishly long arms and employs the longest stick the league allows.

When Mike Kitchen was an assistant with the Panthers last year, he suggested the team look into trading for Weaver at the deadline. Kitchen, who coached the Blues before Weaver arrived in St. Louis, raved about the way Weaver helped out on the penalty kill with his long reach and his willingness to flop to the ice to block a shot.

Weaver is doing those things with the Panthers. And they are appreciated. In Saturday's win at Tampa Bay, Weaver led the Panthers with five blocked shots, tying a season high. His 43 blocked shots are just one behind Wideman for the team lead.

“He's good for goalies,'' Tomas Vokoun said. “You have to understand what you are there for, what your role on a team is. He does. He's doing it really well. You have to find a way to stay in this league, especially if you have some sort of disadvantage. He plays hard every night. That's why he's in the NHL.''

Said coach Pete DeBoer: “He plays bigger than his size. He's just been a real addition for us. How can you not love the guy? He plays hard every day and is a consummate team guy. He's not looking for goals or points, he just takes a lot of pride in the details in the game. Guys really respect that. He probably wasn't given much of a chance to play in the NHL as a defensive defenseman. There's not a lot of 5-9 guys there. He's found a niche and a way to do a lot of little subtle things to be an effective player.''

Weaver, whose gap-tooth grin and fun personality has made him a favorite of his teammates, says he was glad his signing wasn't blown up and is happy to just be an anonymous member of the Panthers.

Like an offensive lineman in football, Weaver knows usually the only time his name is brought up is when he does something negative. One of those exceptions came earlier this season when his one goal this season helped Florida beat the Islanders.

“I'm a guy who doesn't get a lot of ink and I'm fine with that,'' Weaver said. “I'm a goalies best friend because I do the little things. It feels good to do those things and have the guys pat me on the back. I always want to do more, not to say I want to go outside my game, but I'm a penalty killer. When we get scored on, I am hard on myself.

“Everyone in the league is here for a reason. You can't have a team of fast short guys just like you can't have a team of nothing but trees. I just keep it simple. The more times I stay out of the papers, the better.''

-- Steve Bernier returned to the lineup for the first time since he required facial surgery after getting hit in the face with the stick of Minnesota's Brent Burns during a postgame fight on Nov. 5. Bernier will be required to wear a steel cage on his mask for at least the time being.

-- Winger Cory Stillman (back) missed Wednesday's game.

When/Where: 10:30 p.m.; Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Kings lead 10-8-3
The game: The Panthers are now 1-4 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season after winning in Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Kings haven't played since losing 2-0 at Anaheim on Monday. .-.-. Los Angeles is struggling, losing four straight and seven of eight. .-.-. The Panthers haven't won in Los Angeles since Nov. 27, 2002. Stephen Weiss is the only current Panther who played in that game.