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Florida Panthers to get Well-Deserved Home Cooking ... Tomas Vokoun Strong ... Evgeny Dadonov Impressive

Vacationdinner First off, wanted to thank you all for another fun year of hockey here in South Florida.

Things are going to be slow here in the coming days, but if you have a few seconds this weekend, come on back for a visit. May have some good stuff up. You never know.

Also, if you get an iPad or iPhone from Santa, feel free to pick up our extra-very special unofficial Florida Panthers app. It goes great in a stocking or under a tree. Actually it doesn't. But it is cool.

Anyway, have a great Christmas and I'll see you back here perodically.

The Panthers are scheduled to be back on the Coral Springs ice Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free. Come on by.

Here's today's early notebook. Later!

Vacation2 PANTHERS NOTEBOOK

In the moments following his team's exhilarating win over Buffalo on Thursday night, Pete DeBoer leaned up against the wall and said he didn't even want to think about what was next.

Understandably, DeBoer just wanted to enjoy the moment.

“I just want enjoy Christmas here,'' DeBoer said. “Then we'll start thinking about the next ones.''

Tradingsanta The Panthers grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first period of Thursday's game only to watch the host Sabres run roughshod over them in a second period about as lopsided as it was cold outside. Buffalo outshot the Panthers 20-2 and scored three unanswered goals, but the Panthers got a third period goal from defenseman Jason Garrison to pull out a 4-3 win.

Afterward, the team split up. Some boarded a charter plane bound for Fort Lauderdale; others went to  hometowns in Canada, New York and Michigan to spend Christmas with friends and family. The team plans to reconvene Sunday afternoon in Coral Springs.

DeBoer was not one of those who skipped the flight back to Florida. Despite being near to his home province of Ontario, DeBoer will celebrate his third Christmas in South Florida.

Vacation3 “I guess I'm getting used to it,'' DeBoer said of his green Christmas. “When I come up here, I get the flu. I'm looking forward to getting back to the south.''

It's a short Christmas break for the Panthers, but with the hectic schedule they've had of late, any time off is welcomed. Thursday's game was Florida's 20th road game of the season and 13th since Nov. 13. The Panthers have played 13 of the past 19 games on the road, winning seven of those games.

“It's been a long, grueling trip. Probably one of the longest of my career,'' said defenseman Mike Weaver. “It's tough to do that at the start of a season, but we've become a pretty good road team. We've surprised some people.''

Once the Panthers are all back together in South Florida, they can settle in and get comfortable.

The flip side of playing a lot of road games is what you get in return: A lot of home games. The Panthers haven't been great on home ice, but if they hope to sneak into the playoffs this season, they better be. Florida plays 11 of its next 13 games at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida goes into this key stretch a true one-game under the .500 mark. The Panthers are 16-17 with no overtime losses.

Badsanta1 “We've played a lot of road games but we're in a good situation now,'' Garrison said. “We would like to be better, but we're looking forward to the future and those games after Christmas. We have a real good chance to get up above .500 and win some games.''

NEWS, NOTES

Goalie Tomas Vokoun had another bounce-back game as he was pulled during the first period of Florida's 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. On Thursday, Vokoun was peppered in the second period but he could have given up a few more goals. Instead, the Sabres got three through – not enough to win.

Vokoun stopped all 19 shots he faced in the third period and 45 overall to get the win.

“Obviously, we had a great start,'' Vokoun said. “Playing at home, we knew they were coming. We played [Wednesday] and I think we ran out of gas. They just took over the game. Everybody was diving trying to block the shots. … It’s a great win for us.’’

-- It's obvious rookie winger Evgeny Dadonov is enjoying his stay with the Panthers and doesn't want to go back to the minors. Brought up from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester because of all of Florida's injuries, Dadonov has been one of Florida's most dynamic players over the past few weeks.

In the eight games he's been up, Dadonov has two goals and six assists. Thursday marked his second two-point NHL game in the past four games. Both came against Buffalo. Dadonov had a strong season in Rochester last year and a very good training camp before losing the numbers battle and being sent back down.


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