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47 posts from December 2010

December 17, 2010

Florida Panthers Kick Off Buffalo Week in Style, Punt Sabres 6-2



After Wednesday night's colossal meltdown against Carolina, coach Pete DeBoer talked about how important it was for his team to learn how to keep up the offensive pressure and try to bury teams when they get the chance.

Chris Higgins called it “keeping your foot on the gas.''

The Panthers put that hammer down on Friday night, scoring four goals in the opening period and continuing to put pressure on goalie Ryan Miller in a rousing 6-2 win in front of an announced 16,894 at BankAtlantic Center.

Sabre Florida snapped its two-game losing skid and got its first home win against the Sabres since Dec. 4, 2008. On Wednesday, the Panthers scored three unanswered goals within the first six minutes against Carolina only to surrender three goals in the third period to lose 4-3.

“You can't play this game or position for long if you dwell on mistakes,'' said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who made 41 saves in the win. “It wasn't easy to forget about Wednesday but we can't let it keep hurting us. The team showed a lot of character, we came out with a lot of heart and stormed out again.''

Said former Florida defenseman Steve Montador: “They did their thing and embarrassed us.''

Against Carolina, the Panthers didn't do much once they took their three goal lead, but that wasn't the case on Friday. Florida was aggressive in the Buffalo zone and had good chances. Florida chased Carolina's Cam Ward – who won the Conn Smythe Award as the 2006 playoff MVP – by scoring twice on five shots on Wednesday.

On Friday, Florida scored four goals off nine shots against the goalie who backstopped Team USA to Silver in Vancouver. In the past two first periods, the Panthers put up six goals off 14 shots against two of the top goalies in the league. Miller was replaced by Patrick Lalime to start the second.

Jimkelly “I think [the last game] almost helped us in a way because we were more determined,'' said Marty Reasoner, who scored twice within a six minute span in the first. His second goal is credited as the game-winner. “We couldn't let down. We responded well. The fourth goal was big for us because it was demoralizing to them. Every time they kind of pushed, we responded well. That's a good sign.''

Leading 4-0, Michael Frolik scored Florida's fifth goal of the night with 1:02 left in the second period to all but assure a Panthers win. Buffalo answered that goal when Derek Roy whipped a shot past Vokoun with just 19 remaining in the second – but this time, the Panthers didn't collapse. Florida took a 6-1 lead early in the third when Chris Higgins picked off a poor clear by Jason Pominville and fed it to Stephen Weiss who buried it from the slot.

“We were emotionally involved and that's how we have to play,'' DeBoer said.

As was the case on Wednesday, the Panthers got off to a rousing start when Bryan McCabe scored on a nifty move by sliding to his left before slinging the puck past Miller 1:40 into the game. Reasoner ended his scoring drought by scoring consecutive goals for a 3-0 lead. David Booth ended the first period onslaught by scoring from the left side with 3:38 left on Florida's first power play opportunity of the night.

For Reasoner, his opening goal was his first since Nov. 20 against the host Islanders. Reasoner had an assist Wednesday against the Hurricanes, but had gone 10 straight games prior to that without a single point.

Reasoner wasn't the only Florida forward with multiple points on Friday as a total of six Panthers had at least two points. Evgeny Dadonov, who got his first NHL goal on Wednesday, had two assists and Frolik had an assist to go with his goal. All told, six Florida players made it onto the score sheet with at least a point.

“We have to learn from our mistakes,'' Weiss said. “In this league, you can't worry about the score. You just have to stick with the plan and do what you do for 60 minutes then see where you are at. You start looking ahead and you get in trouble.

-- Vokoun played in his 600th career game.

-- The Panthers have now scored four goals in a single period three times this season – and twice during the first on home ice. Florida scored four in the opening period during its home opener against Tampa Bay on Oct. 16 and also scored four in the second period of the win against the Islanders in November.

-- Dmitry Kulikov was back in the lineup on Friday after being benched Wednesday against Carolina. Keaton Ellerby, Florida's seventh defenseman, remains with the team for the time being although he could be sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday.

Weiss missed practice on Thursday with an undisclosed ailment, but skated Friday morning and was in the lineup against the Sabres. Had Weiss been forced to sit out, DeBoer said he planned to dress all seven defensemen.

December 16, 2010

Pete DeBoer: No Bag Skate for Florida Panthers

Deboer Pete DeBoer admits he thought about putting his players through the dreaded bag skate after Wednesday night's meltdown against the Hurricanes.

Yet after letting things calm down, DeBoer decided the best way to get over the 4-3 loss to Carolina was to just put it behind them. DeBoer and the Panthers broke down the film Thursday morning then held a practice session in Coral Springs.

“We addressed what went wrong and pressed the reset button. It's an 82 game season and it's a long year,'' DeBoer said. “Your emotions run all over the place, so you have to take a step back and focus on things.''

Wednesday's loss was perhaps Florida's worst of the season. The Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead early in the first period but did little else as Carolina scored a goal in the second before getting three more in the third to get the win.

DeBoer said he could have punished the team with making them skate nothing but laps, only he decided the best cause of action was just get back to work.

“We have another big game coming up, so we just have to put that one behind us and move on,'' captain Bryan McCabe said. “We went back to work today, did what we had to do. We know we have to play with a little more fire, a little more grit. We got a few goals thanks to some bounces, but we never dictated the play. That's what we have to do.''

A number of factors led into Wednesday's loss. With Florida leading 3-2, defenseman Mike Weaver was caught coming onto the ice with five other skaters on and Florida was charged with having too many skaters. Moments later, defenseman Jason Garrison was called for obstruction. That gave Carolina a two-man advantage with Tuomo Ruutu capitalizing by getting his first goal of the night to tie the score with 7:40 left in the period.

“We have to get the killer instinct,'' DeBoer said. “The talk on the bench and between periods from the coaches was 'lets play for the fourth goal and not just protect the lead.' That's a mindset that you have to instill daily in a young team. There's no doubt that instead of playing for the next goal, they were playing to win 3-0. That's a bad spot to be in.''

Later in the period, goalie Tomas Vokoun tried to clear the puck but instead put it right on Ruutu's stick. The Carolina winger one-timed a shot past Vokoun to give Carolina its only lead of the night.

“Those things are going to happen over the course of a season,'' DeBoer said. “You have to distinguish if it's a lack of preparation or work ethic; it's not with Vokoun. That was a mistake. People make mistakes. As tough as it is to swallow, if their heart is in the right place and they work, that happens.''

-- One bright spot for the Panthers on Wednesday was Evgeny Dadonov getting his first NHL goal. Dadonov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead just 29 seconds into the game.

“We talked a lot about that game, about being prepared,'' he said. “It was a huge game for us. We scored 29 seconds into it, then got a few more. I was really excited about scoring. I wanted a few more.''

-- Center Stephen Weiss didn't practice on Thursday because of an undisclosed injury, with DeBoer saying a forward could be recalled from Rochester to give the Panthers a spare just in case Weiss can't play Friday. DeBoer said Dmitry Kulikov, who was benched Wednesday, will play on Friday.

-- Rostislav Olesz was back on the ice for a post-practice session, but DeBoer says doctors have told him that Olesz isn't ready to return and is out for another week at least. Cory Stillman (back) was supposed to have a light skate Thursday but DeBoer said he wasn't ready for that.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: No local TV; 560-WQAM
The series: Sabres lead 38-22-4
The game: After a rough start, the Sabres have stabilized a bit and come into Friday's game with wins in four of their past six. The Sabres are coming off a 3-2 win against visiting Boston as Drew Stafford scored all three goals. .-.-. The Panthers have lost two straight and lost three of four to the Sabres last season. Buffalo won both games in Sunrise last season – and have won five of the past six at BankAtlantic Center.

December 15, 2010

Sunk by the Hurricanes: Florida Panthers Blow Early 3-0 Lead, Lose 4-3 in Sunrise

Titanic After a crummy loss in Raleigh last year, then-general manager Randy Sexton used the Titanic as a comparison when talking about his team.

The famous 'Letter from the Owners' came soon afterward.

I wonder what Randy would say about this one?

You can guess the kind of language Dale Tallon was using after the game. Lets just say they won't need to salt the popcorn in the press box for a few weeks.



The Panthers have blown their share of big leads to divisional rival Carolina over the past few years, but even Wednesday's debacle had some players unable to come up with words to describe it.

Coach Pete DeBoer and goalie Tomas Vokoun were not among that group.

“It's inexcusable to lose a lead like that,'' DeBoer said after his team watched visiting Carolina score four unanswered goals to beat the Panthers 4-3 at BankAtlantic Center. “There's no sugarcoating it. We didn't get any of the right plays at the right times from our goaltender on out. It's inexcusable at this time of year, the importance of that game. Not more you can say than that.''

Vokoun, who gave up three goals – including two to Tuomo Ruutu – in the third period, was pretty hard on himself after the loss. Florida had led 3-0 just over six minutes into the game.

“This one hurts, it's probably the toughest loss in my career,'' Vokoun said. “What can I say? It was my mistake, I can't make that at this time of the year. I'm disappointed in myself and there are no excuses. I can't do anything now to fix it. It's tough.''

Carolina, which had lost five of its past six games, pulled its goalie just minutes into the game but stuck around as the Panthers did little for much outside of those opening few minutes.

As expected, the Hurricanes finally woke up, scoring their first goal with just over five minutes left in the second when Erik Cole followed up a shot from 18-year-old center Jeff Skinner to make it 3-1. Carolina cut the deficit to just one early in the third when Jamie McBain knocked a rebound past Vokoun.

The Panthers did themselves in late in the third as both Michael Frolik and Jason Garrison were called for penalties 54 seconds apart. Tuomo Ruutu tied the score when he scored during Carolina's two-man advantage, then got the game-winner a few minutes later when he whipped a shot from the slot on Carolina's 31st shot of the night.

Carolina had been 0-11-1 when trailing going into the third period.

Florida chased Ward early as Evgeny Dadonov got his first NHL goal just 29 seconds into the game and Frolik scored his seventh of the season just over a minute later. Florida had a two-man advantage of its own later in the first with Bryan McCabe getting a power play goal by one-timing a shot from beyond the right circle. Replacement goalie Justin Peters gave up that McCabe goal but was strong for much of the night.


DeBoer made second-year defenseman Dmitry Kulikov a healthy scratch for the first time in the 20-year-old's career. Kulikov hasn't had a strong sophomore season, and with Bryan Allen back from a broken foot and Keaton Ellerby still up from the minors, DeBoer had an extra spot to play with.

“I think it’s been a while coming,'' DeBoer said. “We tried to let him play his way through it. I think his play has gotten better but there's still too much inconsistency night to night. .-.-. I think he’ll benefit from sitting up top and watching. Frankly, he hasn’t outplayed Keaton Ellerby lately. Ellerby deserves to play.''

-- DeBoer said Cory Stillman's fractured disc in his back will not require surgery – and Stillman could start light skating Thursday. Rostislav Olesz, DeBoer said, is close to returning from his broken finger.

-- Prospects Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden – first round picks this past June – were selected for Team Canada's entry in the upcoming world junior tournament held in Buffalo. “Next to playing in the Stanley Cup Final,'' DeBoer said, “I don’t think theres a greater thrill than representing your country on a national stage like that in a big tournament on Christmas. That’s great for them.''


Panthers owner Cliff Viner joined team president Michael Yormark, general manager Dale Tallon and assistant general manager Mike Santos hosted a 'town hall' meeting with select fans prior to Wednesday's game in Sunrise.

“We're all in this together. Everyone wants the Panthers to win,'' Tallon said. “No one wants to go through nine, 10 years of not being in the playoffs. Everyone here has the same objective and that's to win the Stanley Cup. .-.-. There's no easy fix. Let's embrace the process and look for solutions, not excuses. That's the message to our players, our coaches, our scouts, our coaches. Find a way to get it done.''

When challenged by a fan, Yormark vehemently defended the team's efforts in selling tickets to fans of other teams – the team is marketing home games in cities like Montreal, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- saying he wished the team didn't have to do that.

“It's about economics,'' Yormark said. “We need to fill this building every single game and we're selling hockey here. We need to take advantage of being a destination market for snowbirds and vacationers and put hockey fans in the building. I understand the frustration, and if all things were equal, I wish we didn't have to do that.''

O! Canada Panthers: Gudbranson, Howden to World Juniors

Canada Here is the official release from the Panthers regarding Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden making Team Canada:

Hockey Canada announced today their final roster for the 2011 IIHF World Jr. Championship that will take place in Buffalo, NY from December 26, 2010 through January 5, 2011. The final roster includes Panthers prospects D Erik Gudbranson (3rd overall) and F Quinton Howden (25th overall), who were both first-round selections for Florida in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Gudbranson (6-4, 211 lbs), Florida’s first pick in this past year's draft, attended training camp with the Panthers before being returned to his junior club the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL). The 18-year-old defenseman serves as Kingston’s assistant captain and has recorded 11 points (3-8-11) with 55 PIM in 21 games.

Howden, 18, (6-3, 192 lbs), the Panthers third first-round choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, also attended training camp with the Panthers before being returned to his junior club, the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL).  The 18-year old forward ranks fourth among WHL leaders with 22 goals and places tied for first on his junior team with 40 points (22-18-40).

Canada will begin their exhibition schedule this Monday against Sweden in Oshawa, Ontario before taking on Sweden Tuesday in Toronto. Their exhibition schedule will close next Thursday in Kitchener, Ontario against Finland. Team Canada’s first game of the 2011 World Jr. Championship will take place on Dec. 26 against Russia at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

Tyler Plante: He'll Be Your Huckleberry ... Howden, Gudbranson On Team Canada

Plante1 I'm a little bored while doing some computer training at One Herald Plaza in Miami so I figured I would post something.

First, congrats are in store for prospects Quinton Howden and Erik Gudbranson who both made the Team Canada entry into the upcoming World Juniors in Buffalo. The tournament starts the day after Christmas -- some call it 'Boxing Day' -- and runs through the new year.

Florida should also have some players on Team USA. You can watch those games -- and they are usually really good games -- on NHL Network.

Plante2 Also, since I showed you Tomas Vokoun's new mask yesterday, here's Tyler Plante's much awaited new mask.

The guns have to be removed because apparently six shooters are a problem on the streets of western New York.

Plante's former mask had Will Ferrell on it. This one is cool too.

Thanks to the good folks at letsgoamerks.com for the link.

December 14, 2010

Bryan Allen, Chris Higgins Back for Florida Panthers ... Kenndal McArdle To Roch ... Tomas Vokoun's New Lid

Vok1 The Panthers injury list got a little more manageable on Tuesday as coach Pete DeBoer confirmed that both Bryan Allen and Chris Higgins would play Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes at BankAtlantic Center.

Allen has been out since Nov. 22 with a broken bone in his foot but has been skating for the past few weeks. Higgins has been sidelined with a staph infection first discovered when the team was in Anaheim. Higgins says the infection started to really respond to antibiotic treatment over the past few days.

“I think I really turned the corner when I stayed home on the last trip,’’ Higgins said. “I got better really quick. I’m excited about getting back out there. There’s nothing more painful than missing games and having to watch them on TV.’’

The Panthers hope the return of Higgins will help kick start some offensive production. Higgins has been placed on Florida’s top line and will play alongside center Stephen Weiss and winger Michael Frolik. Higgins has played with those two before – as have a number of different players.

Vok3 “You hope one of these guys grabs the opportunity,’’ DeBoer said. “Coaches don’t like shuffling lines. I don’t like lying in bed with line combinations running through my head. The perfect night for a coach is knowing who is working and playing well with each other and you keep them together. But someone has to grab it.’’

Weiss, for one, is excited to have Higgins back. Higgins, who has three goals and three assists in 23 games, is a player who will not only go to the front of the net to try and create openings, but also has a good shot and can create offense on his own.

“We have a lot of guys injured so it’s great to see guys coming back. The more the merrier,’’ Weiss said. “We’ve been struggling to score, so hopefully he’ll give us a boost. He’s a big, strong guy with above-average skill. He’s unbelievable. Hopefully we get some time together, figure things out. I’d like us to get something going early so we can stick around a while.’’

Allen has been working out and skating, but when he’s not, he’s been sporting a walking boot to at least keep his foot stable. Allen was seen wearing the boot on Monday at the team’s golf tournament.

Vok2 “I feel great, ready to play again,’’ said Allen, who didn’t play Monday but cruised the course in a golf cart visiting fans and teammates. “I just want to play.’’

Said DeBoer:  “You know what he brings. He’s a warrior and brings a consistent physical presence that we need. We miss him when he’s out. Saying that, the other night against Washington was the best outing of the year for our group of six defensemen. It’s nice to see we have people to fill in.’’

-- To make room for Higgins, Kenndal McArdle was sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

-- Rostislav Olesz (finger) and Byron Bitz (sports hernia) were also skating on Tuesday, taking the ice at the end of practice for their own session.

Olesz, who fractured his middle finger, had the cast removed and was seen wearing his gloves and shooting the puck during his practice time. He said Monday that there is still pain and lack of flexibility in the finger, but when cleared by the team’s medical staff, he’ll play.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Carolina leads 45-33-11
The game: The Hurricanes have lost seven of its past 10 games but still sit above the Panthers in the standings. The two teams have split the two games played this season, with each winning at home. .-.-. The Panthers had their three-game winning streak snapped Saturday with a 3-0 loss to the host Predators. This kicks off a two-game homestand for the Panthers. They have played just 11 home games this season.

December 13, 2010

Frosty in the Springs

Frosty in the Springs

December 12, 2010

Florida Panthers Back Home, For Now

NASHVILLE – When the Panthers took to the ice at their practice facility in Coral Springs on Sunday afternoon, the venue must have seemed strange.

The Panthers haven't been home very much the past few weeks.

Two games is not much of a homestand, but for the Panthers, that's better than last week when they came home from a four-game West Coast trip only to play Colorado in Sunrise before leaving once more. Since leaving town the night of Nov. 26, the Panthers have played one home game and have been away from South Florida for parts of 13 of the past 16 days.

With Sunday's practice – they landed in Fort Lauderdale just a few hours earlier after Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Predators – the Panthers will spend the next seven days in South Florida before moving on to the next road trip.

“Thank God. We've had a lot of traveling, a lot of road games,'' said center Stephen Weiss, whose team plays host to Carolina on Wednesday and Buffalo on Friday before going on a three-game trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo prior to the Christmas break.

“We did a good job, won some games and got back to being close to .500 with a little homestretch coming. .-.-. Every team in this league is a battle and offers different threats and problems. We need to bring our 'A-game,' but it'll be nice to go home and play some hockey.''

Coach Pete DeBoer decided on holding a rare post-flight Sunday practice because the team is committed to participating in the Florida Panthers Foundation charity golf tournament Monday morning at Heron Bay in Coral Springs.

With the cool weather expected Monday, even golfing in Florida will feel like the road. The Panthers and Lightning have both played the fewest (11) home games in the league.

“It's been a tough month,'' DeBoer said. “We need to get home and take care of business, get a couple wins against teams in our conference. It doesn't get any easier, but if we can keep our head above water, the schedule becomes more favorable coming up.''

-- Cory Stillman hurt his back against the Rangers on Nov. 26 but tried to play through it the following night in Tampa. Stillman left that game early and hasn't skated since because of what was thought to be back spasms.

The team said on Sunday that Stillman actually has a disc fracture. A time frame for his return is not known.

-- Defenseman Bryan Allen (broken foot) and Chris Higgins (staph infection) both took part in Sunday's light practice.

Athletic trainer Dave Zenobi said Higgins may be able to play Wednesday if he felt good after Sunday's workout.

The Panthers will hold their next practice on Tuesday in Coral Springs.

Florida Panthers Back Home, For Now

December 11, 2010

Down and Shutout in Music City: Predators Down Panthers 3-0


NASHVILLE – Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Panthers and Predators play each other more often than most teams from opposing conferences, but not enough to garner any bad blood between the two teams.

Truthfully, the franchises have almost as many trades between them as games played over the past few years.

Yet they put on quite an entertaining show on Saturday night. At least during the first period, anyway.

The two teams got into three good altercations within the first 20 minutes but the Predators got the last laugh as the two goals they scored within that period was enough to lift them to a 3-0 victory at Bridgestone Arena.

“No, there's no hatred there,'' said Mike Santorelli, traded to Florida from Nashville over the summer. “That was just two teams really going for it. We both wanted to win. That's all that was.''

Florida once again failed to get a four-game winning streak going under coach Pete DeBoer as the Preds handed the Panthers their fifth loss in seven games in Nashville since Florida last won here in 2000. The Predators have won five of their past six games going into Monday's home date with the Islanders.

The Panthers haven't won four straight since they won seven consecutive during the end of Jacques Martin's final season as the team's coach in 2008.

After Ryan Suter scored the opening goal on Nashville's first shot 1:14 into the game, goalie Tomas Vokoun – traded from Nashville to the Panthers in 2007 -- went behind his net to play the puck. Nashville pest Jordin Tootoo skated in front of the Florida goalie and Vokoun gave him a bump – then reached out with his stick and yanked Tootoo to the ice after hooking him like a Tarpon.

A few minutes later, Tootoo put a vicious hit on Florida winger Michael Frolik up against the boards and captain Bryan McCabe retaliated by pulling Tootoo down by his collar before putting fists to face while both were sprawled on the ice. The two players each received penalties for 'roughing.'

Later in the period, play stopped after Kenndal McArdle was called for the first of three penalties (this one for holding); during the timeout, Nashville's Steve Sullivan smacked former teammate Darcy Hordichuk in the face with his stick.

"When you play for a few teams, you have friends all over,'' Hordichuk said with a smile.

Nashville took a 2-0 lead not long after that when captain Shea Weber sliced a shot past Vokoun from the right circle on the Predators' sixth shot of the evening. Joel Ward scored the final goal with 53.4 seconds left on Nashville's 27th shot – into a net Vokoun already vacated.

“It was a physical game and the first period was the game,'' DeBoer said. “They got a couple of big hits, a couple of big goals. That's a tough team to come from behind against. They close you off, don't give you much. We battled to the buzzer, but it was too little, too late. That's not a team you can spot two goals.''

-- Former Panthers enforcer Wade Belak, whom Martin traded to Nashville on Thanksgiving Day in 2008 for Nick Tarnasky, was a healthy scratch for the 15th straight game. Belak has played in just four games this season.


The Panthers planned to hold a practice in Coral Springs on Sunday despite landing in Fort Lauderdale early that morning. DeBoer's reasoning is he doesn't want his players to have two straight days off the ice.

With the entire team and coaching staff participating in Monday's charity golf tournament at Heron Bay, if they don't practice Sunday, they wouldn't be back on the ice until Tuesday.

“We're not going to take two days off,'' DeBoer said. “I don't think we can, we have a young team. I saw something that Colorado is 8-1 with one day rest and 3-5 with two days. That's a sign of a young team not handling rest properly. You have to look at your team and decide. We need to get a sweat going [Sunday] if we're going to take Monday off.''

-- Defenseman Mike Weaver didn't get his name on the score sheet on Thursday night, but he was still selected the 'Third Star' of that game after his play was instrumental in Florida killing off all eight of Washington's power play chances. Florida won 3-0 against the Capitals.

“I was shocked,'' Weaver said. “Don't you usually have to score a goal? Or have an assist?''

-- Florida's penalty killing units were strong again on Saturday as the Panthers killed off three of Nashville's four chances when playing with the advantage and have now been successful on 24 of their past 26 kills (Saturday's goal was on an empty net).

Florida's power play, of course, has been a sore spot all season as the Panthers are on pace to not only set the franchise record for fewest goals with the advantage but could have one of the lowest goal totals in the league's modern era.

The Panthers have scored three goals on their past 55 power play chances and have just eight power play goals all season.

“When we stay out of the box, we're a tough team,'' DeBoer said, noting Florida's success on even-strength this season. “When we keep our feet moving, have four lines rolling and have the puck, we're a much better team. With our power play, we don't want to be trading chances with anyone.''

Greetings from a Rainy and Cold Nashville ... Panthers Foundation Staying Busy

Opry NASHVILLE -- It is one heck of a crummy day here in Music City as it is cold and raining hard.

Looks like there is going to be snow tomorrow. Which will prepare us for the Panthers golf tournament on Monday. Supposed to be real cold in Coral Springs.

-- The Panthers play the Predators tonight, trying to win their fourth straight game for the first time under Pete DeBoer. Florida hasn't won here since 2000.

-- Bryan Allen is out tonight but could be back Wednesday.

-- The Panthers are expected to practice Sunday in Coral Springs even though they won't land until early Sunday morning. Because of Monday's golf tournament, the team will not practice. Pete does not want the team to have two straight days without hitting the ice.

-- Speaking of the Florida Panthers Foundation (which benefits from the golf tournament at Heron Bay), they are offering a chance for fans with the holiday spirit to spread some real cheer. It's a pretty good way to spend $20 if you ask me.

Here's the release:

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today the launch of the inaugural “Secret Stanley” Drive.

As part of the drive, Panthers fans can donate Stanley’s Kids Club Kits to patients of the pediatric oncology unit at the Chris Evert Children’s Hospital at Broward General Medical Center. The kits will be distributed throughout the month of December.
Patients who receive a kit will enjoy benefits including:

-- A ticket voucher to a select 2010-11 Florida Panthers home game

-- A free skating pass to the Saveology.com Iceplex

-- An official membership card which provides discounts to Pantherland and incredibleSPORTS

-- An official Kids Club t-shirt, lunchbox, wristband, and drawstring bag.
For information about how to donate to the “Secret Stanley” drive, fans can call 954.835.7414 or visit the Florida Panthers website.

December 10, 2010

Florida Panthers Take in the Sights and Sounds of Nashvegas ... Tomas Vokoun Confident after Washington Shutout ... Higgins Has Staph Infection


NASHVILLE -- It's a cold and blustery day here in Music City, but that hasn't stopped the Panthers from checking out the town.

A good number of players (and broadcasters, coaches and a certain sports writer) had some of that famous Jack's BBQ for lunch. It was delightful.

And I don't care if country music isn't your thing, you'd get into it a little here. Live music just about everywhere you walk.

I like me some Nashville.

Anyway, here's today's early notebook. Enjoy.


The Panthers never had a goalie controversy, but after Scott Clemmensen beat Phoenix in a shootout last Saturday night to snap a three-game losing streak, the team's coaching staff made sure one wasn't created.

Instead of going back to Clemmensen for the next game, Tomas Vokoun was put back in. The Panthers basically told Vokoun he's their guy. And that confidence has spilled over. Vokoun wasn't happy about giving up three goals to Colorado on Tuesday, but he could find little wrong with Thursday's performance in which he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 3-0 shutout win against the powerhouse Capitals.

“He is his worst enemy sometimes because he takes things so serious and he analyzes everything,'' goalie coach Robb Tallas said. “He wants perfection every night and you see that in how he prepares. He was trying to do too much. If he relaxes and let the play come to him, he can time it and be there when it's happening. That's what happened [Thursday]. He was patient. He reacted.''

Tallas said he thinks Thursday's game was Vokoun's best over the past two seasons. When Vokoun wasn't trying to be perfect, he just about was.

“I was trying to do everything out there and that's just a recipe for disaster,'' Vokoun said. “You don't focus on the individual play, you're just trying to do everything. I can't play that way. I need to relax and have fun, just do my thing. It's like golf: When you try to kill the ball, you hit it 10 feet. When you relax, you hit it 300 yards.''

Vokoun will be back between the pipes Saturday when the Panthers visit Nashville. Vokoun was an original member of the Predators and played here from 1998 until being traded to the Panthers in 2007.

He'll be challenged in a different way than he was on Thursday as the Predators don't have the firepower the Capitals do – but they do score timely goals and work hard in front of the net. In many ways, the Predators play a lot like the Panthers.

“It's a good test and we have to make sure we don't sit and celebrate the Washington win and forget how tough Nashville is,'' coach Pete DeBoer said.


Mike Santorelli came back to Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Friday morning and liked the improvements the facility was forced to undertake after last year's flooding. The Predators also see an improved Santorelli. Last year, Santorelli languished on Nashville's fourth line. He comes into Saturday's game as Florida's leading goal scorer as his power play goal Thursday was his eighth of the year.

“Things are definitely going good,'' said Santorelli, who spent three seasons in the Nashville organization. “We've played well the past few games and we want to keep it going. It's exciting to be back, but I have to be ready to play.''

Saturday's game is also a homecoming for assistant general manager Mike Santos, who swung the deal for Santorelli.

“Mike had some inside information on these guys having worked here,'' DeBoer said. “He told me over the summer what he thought [Santorelli] could do. To both their credit, Santorelli has delivered.''

-- The Panthers are going for their fourth straight win Saturday – something they have never done in two-plus seasons under DeBoer.

“I don't have an explanation for it,'' he said. “The key to a good season is stringing together multiple wins and climbing above .500 and separating yourself from teams your around. It's been one step forward, one back. We need to keep moving forward.''

-- DeBoer confirmed Friday that winger Chris Higgins' foot infection is indeed a form of Staph, although team athletic trainer Dave Zenobi says he is not worried about an outbreak because if something like that were to happen, it already would have shown up somewhere else.

Higgins apparently had a cut on the top of the foot and it got infected while the team was in Anaheim. Higgins has missed the past four games, but Zenobi says Higgins is responding well to the antibiotics and could be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

When, Where: 8 p.m.; Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Tied 6-6-3
The game: Tomas Vokoun makes his third start in Nashville since the Predators traded him to Florida in 2007. He's 1-1 against Nashville with 56 saves off 60 shots. .-.-. Since the 2005-06 season, these two have played six times; Nashville has won four of those meetings. The Predators have won four of their past five games, earning nine of the 10 available points in the standings.

December 09, 2010

Florida Panthers Blackout Capitals Power Play: Washington 0-for-8 as Cats win 3-0



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Panthers assistant coach Gord Murphy spent 14 seasons as an NHL defenseman, so he has seen his fair share of impressive power plays.

Murphy put the Washington Capitals in some pretty good company as he compared their offensive firepower with that of the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr era.

On Thursday night, Murphy's penalty kill units were charged with slowing those Capitals down. Not only did the Panthers contain the Capitals, they completely shut them down. Despite having eight power play chances, the Capitals failed to put a puck past Tomas Vokoun as the Panthers shocked Washington with a 3-0 win at Verizon Center.

“It is a good feeling and it's a credit to the guys in that locker room,'' said Murphy, who is in his first year coaching the Panthers penalty kill. “It was a lot about Vokoun, he was outstanding out there. .-.-. When you play a team with the firepower and multiple options Washington has over there, the guys knew they had to be good and be on their toes. I can't say enough for how they prepared and executed.''

Flp2 The Panthers have won three straight for the first time this season and snapped a six-game losing streak to the Capitals. Washington has lost four straight – with the past three coming at home. Florida had not been called for nine penalties in a game this season prior to Thursday.

Florida is the lowest penalized team in the league, but they've had three games this season where they have given the opposition at least seven power play chances. In those three games (22 chances), the Panthers surrendered one goal.

“We got shelled a couple times last year from them, so it was nice to get a win here,'' said Vokoun, who recorded the 41st shutout of his career and 20th with the Panthers by stopping 36 shots. “It’s always nice to beat a team like that in their building. 

"Getting a shutout is a nice bonus.  I haven’t been feeling very good the last few weeks.  It’s been tough, some late game losses.  This is an up and down business, you go from feeling terrible to feeling great and vice versa.''

Vokoun kept the Panthers in the game as Washington had four power play chances in the opening period alone. Vokoun, who had 18 saves in the first 20 minutes, was strong and kept the Capitals at bay until Michael Frolik and Steve Bernier picked up opportunistic and timely goals.

Eight of Florida's penalties were called within the first 31 minutes of the game.

The ice started to level itself in the second period as the Capitals started to rack up some penalties of their own. Florida had three power play chances in the second, including a lengthy 5-on-3.  The Panthers had a two-man advantage for 1:18 late in the second, but failed to score as the scoreless game continued.

Florida got a huge jolt of momentum late in the period, however, as Michael Frolik knocked in a loose puck with a single second left on the clock. Despite being out shot and out chanced by the skilled Capitals, the Panthers took the lead into the second intermission.

“Great moments always seem to happen. Sometimes they go against you, sometimes they go for you,'' Vokoun said. “It was huge, that one second. I’ve been on that side too and it’s really deflating.''

The Panthers got their fourth power play chance of the night in the third period and, while they didn't score, kept up the pressure on goalie Semyon Varlamov and the Capitals.

Not long after the power play chance ended, Dmitry Kulikov rifled off a shot that Varlamov blocked. The puck came back to Stephen Weiss who clipped the post with his shot. The puck sat on the ice for a moment and Bernier pounced on it and knocked it home to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead midway through the period.

Mike Santorelli later added an extra layer of insurance as he got a rare power play goal with 2:34 remaining.

“Our goaltender was our best player in the first and allowed us to get through that,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought in the second and third we really played well.  I thought our defense as the core, maybe their best game as a year, the six guys. All our big guys came to play.''

-- On Nov. 5, the Panthers stopped all seven of Carolina's power play chances in a 7-4 victory. The Panthers stopped six of Tampa Bay's seven power play chances in a 4-3 shootout win on Nov. 27.


Bryan Allen hoped to be back in the Panthers lineup Tuesday against the Avalanche after a good run of practices. But the pain in his broken foot flared up again on Wednesday, and his return is still up in the air. Allen was hurt Nov. 22. Allen practiced again before Thursday's game in Washington and said afterward that he felt much better. Would he play Saturday in Nashville?

“I'm on this trip for a reason,'' Allen said with a grin. “The pain is the biggest thing. I felt good after practice Monday and thought I would play Tuesday. They said to wait. Then [Wednesday] I couldn't even turn. It felt like it did a week ago. But now, maybe the day of rest did it some good.''

Rochester: This Trade's For You ... Panthers at Washington, 7 p.m.

Nationaltreee WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Greetings from high above the Cap Center in downtown Chinatown where the Panthers and the Capitals are gearing up to do battle tonight.

The big news around here tonight was the lightning of the National Christmas tree down by the mall (Aventura? Westland?). It's a pretty tree. Lots of lights.

Anyway, we'll see what happens later tonight. The Caps are trying to avoid their first four-game losing streak of the season and the Panthers are attempting to win three straight.

Should be a fun one here in the Evergreen State.

-- The Panthers added some bodies to the Rochester roster today by making a deal with the Bruins.

Here's a release from the Panthers. More later.

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has acquired F Jeff LoVecchio (Providence – AHL) and F Jordan Knackstedt (Providence – AHL) from the Boston Bruins in exchange for D Sean Zimmerman (Rochester – AHL) and a conditional seventh round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Both players will report directly to the Rochester Americans (AHL).
Knackstedt has played 22 games for the Providence Bruins (AHL) this year scoring seven goals and five assists for 12 points. For his career in the AHL, the Saskatoon, Sask. native has played in 165 games, scoring 33 goals and 99 points.
LoVecchio has played 22 games for Providence this season, registering three assists. For his career in the AHL, the Chesterfield, MO native has played in 101 games, scoring 18 goals and 32 points.

December 08, 2010

Panthers Fly to Washington, Top Players Leading Way ... Bryan Allen OUT v. Capitals; Injured Players not taking Flight

Seattle TERMINAL 3, FORT LAUDERDALE/HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AT DANIA BEACH YET NEAR PLANTATION, MIRAMAR AND LAUDERDALE LAKES -- The Panthers are airborne and heading to Washington after enjoying their lengthy homestand in which they beat Colorado on Tuesday night.

Yeah, one game does not a homestand make.

If you missed it -- and judging by the attendance, you did -- it was a pretty gutsy game the Panthers pulled out in overtime. Nice win.

If you didn't get a yarmulke as some of you were promised, you're probably not alone. This whole yarmulke promotion has turned into a bit of a nightmare, although the Panthers probably aren't too concerned. At least people are talking about them in national circles again.

Anyway, Bryan Allen is out for tomorrow's game at Washington but Pete DeBoer says he could be back Saturday against the Predators. A full weekend in Nashville. Nice.

Apples None of the other injured guys are making the trip.

About to board my flight, so here's today's early notebook.

See you in Washington. Looking forward to picking some apples. Maybe catch a SuperSonics game.

What's that you said?


After not producing a whole lot for the better part of a month, the Panthers have indeed received top play from their top players over the past few games.

It really couldn't come at a better time.

The Panthers are a banged up bunch, with some line combinations resembling what the Rochester Americans of the AHL used not too long ago.

Weiss2 Florida has four of its regular forwards out – not counting Byron Bitz, who has played in just seven games since coming to the Panthers last March – because of injury and are making do with what they have.

In Tuesday's come-from-behind win against the Avalanche, Florida got its first goal from one of the Rochester guys as Bill Thomas got his first goal since he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins back during the 2008-09 season.

After that, however, all of Florida's scoring came from players the Panthers desperately need to be scoring.

With the Panthers trailing 2-1 in the second, Stephen Weiss scored to tie it going into the second intermission. After a quick Colorado score to open the third, David Booth scored a beautiful goal to tie it again. In overtime, it was Weiss following a Booth shot and beating former teammate Craig Anderson to win the game. Weiss' goal was his second game-winner in just over a week; his shootout goal beat Tampa Bay on Nov. 27.

Weiss, Booth and Michael Frolik combined for two goals (both by Weiss) and eight assists over a nine-game span from Nov. 16-Dec. 1. In the past three games, the trio have five goals and three assists.

“It's a good start and it's coming at the right time,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “The reality is we couldn't survive another 20 games with those three going cold for much longer. Look at Pittsburgh. They've won 10 straight because Sidney Crosby is on fire. Same with Tampa Bay at the start of the season with Steven Stamkos.

“Now, I'm not comparing our guys to those guys, but really, they have that kind of importance to our team. We really need to turn the corner right now with them and it hasn't been because of a lack of effort. We barely kept our head above water without major contributions from them. It wasn't going to last much longer.''

-- The Panthers traveling medical show, for the most part, isn't going on this two-game road trip. DeBoer said that defenseman Bryan Allen will be on the trip, but will not play Thursday against the Capitals. Allen could be back in the lineup Saturday at Nashville.

The rest of Florida's injured players – Cory Stillman (back spasms), Rostislav Olesz (finger), Radek Dvorak (shoulder), Bitz (sports hernia) and Chris Higgins (foot) – will not travel. Dvorak was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday to make room for Evgeny Dadonov.

-- Scott Clemmensen said Tuesday that he wasn't upset at missing a start even though he stopped 40 shots and beat the host Coyotes on Saturday night. DeBoer said Monday that Vokoun would return to the net against the Avalanche.

“There's a lot of hockey left to be played, not only the rest of the year but this month, the next few weeks,'' Clemmensen said. “When you get the chance, do the best you can. I'll do that in the next start. Win or lose, you move on. That's the nature of this game, we play three or four times a week.

“You obviously want to play, but I'm not sulking because I'm not starting. I didn't assume I would. My role on this team is to be ready, not play back-to-back games.''

When, Where: 7 p.m.; Verizon Center, Washington
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Capitals lead 45-38-5
The game: This is the first meeting between the teams this season. The Capitals have lost three straight games-- including the past two at home. The Panthers are coming off consecutive overtime wins – the first time the team has won two straight in almost a month. The Panthers haven't won in Washington since March 1, 2009. Washington swept the six-game series from Florida last season.


December 07, 2010

Stephen Weiss Bags Two, Florida Panthers Snow Avalanche 4-3 in OT ... Weiss' Winner 43 Ticks in off David Booth Rebound


With all the injuries the Panthers have sustained over the past few weeks, don't be surprised if coach Pete DeBoer asked Brian Skrudland if he brought his skates to Tuesday's game.

Skrudland, the team's captain from 1993 until 1997, joined Colorado great Joe Sakic at center ice to drop the ceremonial puck.

Those two hockey legends wore their old sweaters but didn't suit up, although that fact couldn't have disappointed those who braved the South Florida cold to be at BankAtlantic Center. Tuesday's game was an exciting back-and-forth contest with the Panthers coming back from two deficits before Stephen Weiss broke the final deadlock less than a minute into overtime to lead Florida to a 4-3 win.

Before Tuesday, the Panthers had not won two straight since Nov. 10-12. The struggling Avs have lost six of seven including four straight.

Weiss' first goal of the night came right after Colorado's Daniel Winnik gave Colorado a 2-1 lead; David Booth's third period goal followed Matt Duchene's goal that gave the Avs a 3-2 advantage.

“It was a huge comeback goal,'' DeBoer said. “We've been in that situation a lot of times and haven't had a response. It was nice both our big guys responded to goal. That's what you need out of your best players.''

After going 21 games to start the season without playing in overtime, Florida has played in three of them in its past five. The Panthers have won all three of them.

“Overtime hasn't been our forte in the past,'' Weiss said. “Good teams find those points in overtime. We missed the playoffs by one point a few years ago. One or two points could be the difference in a season.''

The Panthers are missing four regular forwards as well as defenseman Bryan Allen because of injury and at times played a forward line consisting of players who have spent most of the season in the minors.

Bill Thomas, who is on a two-way contract and was one of Rochester's top players before being called up, got the Panthers on the board in the first when he poked the puck past former Florida backup goalie Craig Anderson 3:08 into the game.

The Avalanche battled back with two unanswered goals in the second period, but Weiss tied it with 1:05 left in the second. Florida trailed 3-2 early in the third, but Booth put the moves on Colorado's David Jones in the slot and slammed a hard shot past Anderson to tie the score again.

In overtime, Booth put up a shot that Anderson couldn't handle. Weiss was pulled down as he put a stick on it and beat his former teammate.

“Good job by [Booth] getting the puck to the net,'' Weiss said. “I'll gladly take the rebound goal.''

Anderson, who was 1-0-1 against the Panthers last season after leaving as a free agent on July 1, 2009, made 21 saves in the losing effort. Tomas Vokoun was back for the Panthers and made 22 saves in earning his 250th career win.


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in town for the annual Board of Directors meeting in Palm Beach and attended Tuesday's game as a guest of team president Michael Yormark.

In a brief meeting with local media, Bettman talked about a number of issues, including troubled franchises. Bettman repeated previous statements that some franchises need work, but says he's been impressed with the Panthers still drawing despite missing the playoffs for the past 10 years.

“If you go back not too many years ago, people said 'my word, what's going to happen to Ottawa or Pittsburgh or Buffalo','' Bettman said. “Those were all franchises that had issues that we fixed. We're comfortable that all of our markets can support our teams.''

When asked if he was worried about the Panthers losing cache within the South Florida sports market when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Heat over the summer, Bettman was diplomatic.

“When a good sports community like South Florida is gets excited, it's good for all sports,'' said Bettman, who was an NBA executive before taking over the NHL in 1993. “This team is doing extraordinarily well.''

-- With all the injuries, the Panthers called up Evgeny Dadonov from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. The Panthers now have four players who have been regulars at Rochester at one point this season.

Florida is missing Radek Dvorak (shoulder), Cory Stillman (back), Rostislav Olesz (finger) and Chris Higgins (foot) as well as Allen (foot). Allen could return Thursday at Washington.

“Any time someone got hurt, you would think about being the one called up,'' said Dadonov, who played in four games with Florida at the end of last year. “I want to be here. I tried to play hard down there, I will do that here.''

-- Scott Clemmensen said Tuesday that he wasn't upset at missing a start even though he stopped 40 shots and beat the host Coyotes on Saturday night. DeBoer said Monday that Vokoun would return to the net against the Avalanche.

“There's a lot of hockey left to be played, not only the rest of the year but this month, the next few weeks,'' Clemmensen said. “When you get the chance, do the best you can. I'll do that in the next start. Win or lose, you move on. That's the nature of this game, we play three or four times a week.

“You obviously want to play, but I'm not sulking because I'm not starting. I didn't assume I would. My role on this team is to be ready, not play back-to-back games.''

Miami Herald Exclusive Special Treat: A Young Randy Moller with Joe Sakic

Sakicmoller Here's a shot Mrs. Moller found when she wasn't putting the peanut butter on the top shelf.

At left is a very young looking Randy Moller posing uncomfortably with an also young looking Joe Sakic.

We believe this picture was taken in 1988 when Sakic was a rookie and both played for the Quebec Nordiques.

According to Randy, this was a ceremony honoring the offensive and defensive players of some month. Sakic, we can assume, won the offensive award.

Thanks to Randy for allowing us to use the pic.

It really is throwback night!

LIVE! Panthers vs. Avalanche Rekindle Old (Well, 1996) Rivalry

Denver Good evening kids. If you can't get out of the cold and come into the arena, how bout you pull up a chair and join us on tonight's LIVE! chat.

Don't try finding it on television. Thanks to the NHL's ridiculous Versus blackouts, neither Florida nor Colorado is covering tonight's game. Don't believe me? Check out where the television trucks are supposed to be parked. My truck is there tonight. Hope it doesn't get towed.

Anyway, you have to submit questions and I have to approve them before they are posted. But I always approve them. Just be patient. Same goes to those on the iPhone/Pad/Touch...takes a minute for this to load up.

But it sure is worth it!

Don't forget, I'll be chatting with Mr. Gary Bettman from about 7 until 7:20 so I won't have access to this. Go ahead and send in your questions and I'll run through them all when I get back up to the 500 levels here in Tarp City.



Gary Bettman in Sunrise: Got Questions? Get Answers ... Bryan Allen OUT, Evgeny Dadonov, Tomas Vokoun IN

Bettman Gary Bettman is visiting warm South Florida this week for the Board of Governors meetings and will talk to the local media before tonight's game against the Avs.

Got some questions you would like answered by the Commish?

Leave your comments below or email them to me grichards@miamiherald.com

We'll put him on the spot! Just kidding. But I will pick the best questions, ask them and leave the responses here on a new post during the game.

-- Speaking of that, no television of any sort tonight. So, here's hoping the Panthers show replays of Avs goals (if there are any) on the scoreboard.

That said, please join us for a LIVE! in-game chat tonight. Should be fun. And it only costs 99 cents a minute! Just kidding. It's less than that.

Andy -- In net tonight: Craig Anderson vs. Tomas Vokoun.

And you thought you might get to see the Battle of (former and present) Florida Panthers Backups. Spoke to Scott Clemmensen today after the skate. He says he's not upset he didn't get another start after stopping 40 shots and beating the Coyotes in a shootout on Saturday.

He says all the right things. More on that later.

-- Evgeny Dadonov has been called up to fill in for Radek Dvorak. He was officially put on the DL today with a separated shoulder. Bryan Allen, Cory Stillman, Rostislav Olesz and Chris Higgins also out.

Beezercolo -- The Panthers want you to wear your old red 1996-era jerseys for tonight's game* since it's throwback night and all.

I asked the equipment guys if the Panthers were wearing old-style jerseys and they laughed. No such thing.

Joe Sakic and Brian Skrudland will be dropping the puck as the Panthers honor the 1996 Stanley Cup champion Avs.

(*) -- The Panthers really want you to go to Pantherland and buy a new jersey, preferably the one that looks like it was designed by the Tampa Bay Rays and presented by JetBlue Airlines. You know the one. But if you wear your old sweater, no one will yell at you. Yet.



December 06, 2010

Bryan Allen Better, Radak Dvorak Out a Few Weeks

Taking a day off...see you tomorrow!


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."

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.

Bryan Allen Better, Radak Dvorak Out a Few Weeks

December 05, 2010

Scott Clemmensen Looks Sharp in Shootout Win

Clemm PHOENIX – One would think that as the Panthers backup goalie, Scott Clemmensen wouldn't face the pressures of being in a shootout situation as much as Tomas Vokoun does.

Yet because he's the backup, Clemmensen probably sees more one-on-one shots and takes on more pucks on a daily basis than Vokoun does. Being there for target practice long after practice officially ends is one of the roles the backup gets to play.

On Saturday night, Clemmensen's daily routine paid off as not only did he hold the host Coyotes to one goal off 41 shots through 65 minutes of play, but he was strong in the shootout and led Florida to a 2-1 win.

Clemmensen did give up two goals in the shootout; the Panthers got goals from Mike Santorelli, Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik to win it. Clemmensen is now 7-5 all-time in shootouts.

“Shootouts are very difficult, they are challenging and there is a lot of pressure out there,'' said Clemmensen, who picked up his first win since Nov. 5 on Saturday. “I think goalies are more used to those pressures than other players are. It's my belief that shootouts have more difficult in practice than they are in games because of the pressure that's on the shooter in the game.''

Clemmensen has been a solid backup for the Panthers since signing a three-year deal in the summer of 2009. Now in his second full season with Florida, Clemmensen has apparently won the trust of coach Pete DeBoer as he has been more willing to give Vokoun a break and put Clemmensen in tough situations.

Clemmensen's previous start came against the high-octane Flyers in the second game of a back-to-back set.

“He was great. That's exactly what we need him to come in and do,'' DeBoer said after Saturday's win. “He needs to pitch games like that to help us get things turned around.''

Coming into the season, it was assumed that Clemmensen would eventually become Florida's starter this season after Vokoun was traded away. Vokoun is in the final year of his contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

That was the thinking early on, anyway. Since the season has started, Jacob Markstrom -- Florida's 20-year-old future goalie -- has struggled in his first North American professional season. Coming into Sunday, Markstrom is 8-11 and has made just 88 percent of his saves. That save percentage ranks him 47th out of 48 goalies in the league.

Panthers management isn't concerned about Markstrom, however, as they figured he would need plenty of time to adjust to a new style of play not to mention a complete change of lifestyle. Markstrom has spent the past three seasons playing in the Swedish league.

In a perfect world, the Panthers would like to continue to watch Markstrom develop in the minor leagues, even having him play there next season. There are rumblings that the Panthers are interested in signing Vokoun to a new contract, although for lesser money and fewer seasons than he received in the deal he signed with Nashville before being traded to the Panthers.

When the Colorado Avalanche come to Sunrise on Tuesday, Vokoun will likely be sitting on the bench watching Clemmensen. Even though he's the backup, his performance on Saturday earned him another start. The goalie in the opposite net is a familiar face. Craig Anderson, Vokoun's former backup in Florida, has established himself as a starter in Colorado.

“You're always trying to get the win, but you also can't do too much,'' Clemmensen said. “The shots early in [Saturday's] game really got me into the game, got me into a zone. Believe it or not, that helped. When you don't play for a long period of time, you want to get those jitters out early. You want to be tested and make some saves. Then you can just exhale and play.''

-- Winger Radek Dvorak was wearing a sling after Saturday's game and he is expected to be checked out by a team doctor on Monday. Dvorak went crashing into the back boards during the second period while driving in on Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Dvorak left the game and didn't return. Florida is expected to call up a forward from its AHL affiliate in Rochester to replace Dvorak on Tuesday.

The Panthers have been without Cory Stillman for the past three games because of back spasms. It's possible he could practice Monday and play on Tuesday.