It's almost hard to fathom that the last time the Florida Panthers won four straight games, Jacques Martin was not only coach but general manager as well. Way back in 2008, Olli Jokinen wore the captain's 'C' on his Florida sweater, not Bryan McCabe.
The Panthers are going to have to wait a little longer for that elusive fourth straight win.
Florida, which led by two late in the third, watched the visiting Thrashers tie things up with 1:14 remaining before winning it 3-2 in a shootout. Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn scored for Atlanta in the final two minutes, with Alexander Burmistrov's shootout goal winning it.
Still, the Panthers weren't all that down and out after the game. Florida picked up a point in the standings – although it gave up one to a team it is chasing – and can finish this six-game homestand strong with games Wednesday and Friday.
“I thought we played a hell of a game,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “As a coach, there's not much I would have changed in the first 58 minutes. Then they pull the goalie, we made a mistake as a couple guys left the zone a little early and they got a bounce around the net. On the last one, again, you play 58 minutes and don't make many mistakes. We made a few in the last few minutes and the puck ends up in the net.''
The Panthers were trying to match their longest winning streak since winning seven straight in a failed run to the playoffs from March 2-16, 2008. The Panthers had been 3-0 to kick off a six-game homestand that concludes Friday against Tampa Bay.
The Thrashers snapped a four-game losing streak as they came into the game with only three wins in their previous 12. The Thrashers hold the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference and picked up a point on Florida and two on ninth-place Carolina after the Hurricanes were blown out in Boston.
Neither team scored until Dennis Wideman beat Ondrej Pavelec top shelf when Florida held a two-man advantage early in the third. Florida added to that goal less than three minutes later when Dmitry Kulikov's shot got behind Pavelec and past defender Brent Sopel on another power play chance.
The previous three meetings had been decided by a single goal. It would again. The Thrashers, down 2-0 with an empty net, got goals with a strong rush to force overtime as the Panthers coughed up another late lead. The Thrashers have won three of four against the Panthers this year.
“We deserved to win that game, we played well,'' Wideman said. “We just couldn't find the puck on the first one; the second one was kind of flukey. They battled hard. We're desperate too and have some ground to make up. We need to win. I thought we played hard from start to finish. We had them right where we wanted them.''
Said goalie Scott Clemmensen: “They were attacking us and we got back on our heels. We should have expected a big push from them. They were whacking away. That's it. They got bodies in front and threw the puck at the net. I'm disappointed in giving up the lead, giving up the point in overtime.''
The two divisional rivals had no problem in the hit department, with Kane hitting the boards hard after being sandwiched between Wideman and Rostislav Olesz in the opening period.
Kane, coming toward the net, was run by Wideman and collided with Olesz, taking Olesz's shoulder in the face. Olesz then helped lead Kane into the boards. After going hard into the back boards, Kane was slow to get up. Kane would get back into the game and was called for high sticking Jason Garrison at the end of the period.
Olesz was not called for a penalty on the play, but could possibly face retribution from the league if it is determined he lifted his elbow to ram Kane.
-- Florida's power play is definitely showing signs of life, with seven goals in the past four games. Wideman has three of those goals.
Defenseman Bryan McCabe was put on the injured list on Monday and will miss at least the next month after needing facial surgery on Sunday. McCabe broke his jaw during the first period of Saturday's overtime win against New Jersey, yet missed just one shift.
McCabe, who was also playing with a broken finger, came back on the ice with a cage on his mask – and couldn't complain about the pain. If he did, no one would have understood him.
“We were laughing on the bench a little bit,'' DeBoer said, “because there were times in the third where he would ordinarily be yelling for the puck. All you heard was mumbles. We forgave him for that. Quite a show of guts and determination. Guys like that are few and far between. You appreciate his commitment to doing whatever it takes to win for however long he can go.''
McCabe's obvious high tolerance for pain left quite an impression on his teammates.
“He's a tough player. Coming back from that, what can you say? I can only imagine how much pain he was in during the game,'' goalie Tomas Vokoun said. “That was the kind of injury you could understand if he came out. But he came right back and played the whole game through it. It says a lot about him. It's not like you're not going to be hit or they were going to take it easy on him. It's great to see that kind of commitment.''
-- With McCabe out, Keaton Ellerby was called up from the minors. Because of the length of McCabe's injury, Ellerby will get plenty of playing time over the coming weeks.
“I have a chance to keep improving and show the coaches that I belong up here,'' Ellerby said. “As for McCabe, that's a tough break. The team's been playing well lately and he's been the backbone of this team for a couple of years now. It's a tough loss for us. Just knowing you're going to be in is big for preparation. You show up at the rink ready to go.''
It's almost hard to fathom that the last time the Florida Panthers won four straight games, Jacques Martin was not only coach but general manager as well. Way back in 2008, Olli Jokinen wore the captain's 'C' on his Florida sweater, not Bryan McCabe.
During postgame interviews Saturday night, I noticed the checkered flag hanging not on Dmitry Kulikov's stall nor next to Dennis Wideman or Evgeny Dadonov.
No the checkered flag, the one teammates give to that night's hero of the game, was at the stall belonging to Bryan McCabe.
McCabe didn't score a goal, didn't get on the scoreboard.
But there's no doubt who the 'hero' of Saturday night's 3-2 overtime win was.
McCabe broke his jaw during the first period of Saturday night's game. He missed a shift. McCabe, who was also playing with a broken finger, came out with a protective shield knowing that may help a little. It probably didn't. Coach Pete DeBoer joked that McCabe couldn't yell for the puck like he usually does.
“We were laughing on the bench a little bit,'' DeBoer said, “because there were times in the third where he would ordinarily be yelling for the puck. All you heard was mumbles. We forgave him for that. Again, quite a show of guts and determination. Guys like that are few and far between. You appreciate his commitment to doing whatever it takes to win for however long he can go.''
The Panthers say McCabe will be out for a few weeks, but it'll probably be at least a month before he plays again. DeBoer said an extra alternate captain could be named during McCabe's absence.
Here's what the Panthers had to say about McCabe on Monday:
“That's a special group that Bryan's in. I know that hockey players are tough guys, but not everyone is built like that.
“There's a reason he's our captain. He just refused to come out of the game – and he was playing with a broken finger that would have kept most players out. He's a pretty special guy and it's nice to have a guy like that in your locker room leading your team.
“They had a good idea it was broken although there wasn't a clear picture on the X-ray. By all accounts everyone guessed it was broken. He knew that and wouldn't come out. That's pretty special.
“You get to this time of the year and there are a lot of guys playing with injuries. Teams are banged up. But this was a special situation.
“We're going to miss him in a lot of areas. In the room, his energy on the bench between periods. He's done an outstanding job as captain with a young team under some trying circumstances the past few years. We'll miss him on the power play, 5-on-5, but more so in the locker room.''
“He's a tough player. Coming back from that, what can you say? I can only imagine how much pain he was in during the game.
“That was the kind of injury you could understand if he came out. But he came right back and played the whole game through it. It says a lot about him.
“It's not like you're not going to be hit or they were going to take it easy on him. It's great to see that kind of commitment.''
“Bryan McCabe has already proven himself as a leader but that was just unreal. The guy played with a broken finger and a broken jaw? You can't ask any more from your captain. I'm just coming in trying to follow in those footsteps. It's a big guy to follow.''
“This is the game we play man. It's all part of it. You're going to have these things happen. McCabe, that was a freak accident. Puck goes off the stick, catches him in the face. You hate to see that happen to anyone, but especially your captain. He plays through a lot, is always there for the guys.
“He wants to play and you're going to physically pull him out of the game to get him out of there. That's exactly what happened. If he has two legs to stand on, he's going to be out there with us. That's what a captain will do. It's tough to see him go through that. He'll be back and ready to go. It's up to us to keep it going while he's gone.''
Scott Clemmensen Enjoying THIS View of Jersey: Panthers 3, Devils 2 (OT) ... Clemm 3-0 vs. Devils Since Coming South
PANTHERS 3, DEVILS 2 (OT)
The Panthers don't have a full-fledged goalie controversy cooking just yet although Scott Clemmensen is making it awfully tough for coach Pete DeBoer to put him back at the end of the bench.
Clemmensen made his second straight start over Tomas Vokoun on Saturday night, facing his former teammates for the third time since leaving New Jersey as a free agent in 2009.
As in his previous two starts against them, Clemmensen pulled out a win against the Devils, stopping 33 shots as Florida won its third straight with a 3-2 overtime victory in front of an announced 17,825 at BankAtlantic Center.
“It's like beating your big brother,'' Clemmensen said. “I did learn a lot from Martin [Brodeur] while I was there. It's always good to win no matter who you play, but it's a unique opportunity to beat guys you are friends with.''
Dmitry Kulikov won the game with 1:24 left in overtime as he charged Brodeur – New Jersey's Stanley Cup winning, future Hall of Fame goalie.
Kulikov froze him with the puck, finally whipping the shot through. It's the first game-winning goal for Florida's 20-year-old defenseman. Kulikov, in his second season, played in his 110th NHL game on Saturday.
“We're trying to keep the momentum going,'' Kulikov said. “The overtime winning goal was special for me. That's three in a row for the team. We need to keep this going.''
The Devils, on pace for their lowest point total since their 'Mickey Mouse franchise' days of the 1980s, had won two straight after taking a home-and-home series from the Lightning. The Devils win in Tampa on Friday was their first away from Newark since Nov. 3.
New Jersey is playing better of late with Stanley Cup coach Jacques Lemaire taking the reins last month. The Devils looked, at least defensively, like their old selves. Florida was held to just four shots in the third period and didn't get much going during overtime as Jersey clogged things up.
“We never make it easy on ourselves, but that was a hard-fought game,'' DeBoer said. “New Jersey is playing much better lately as evidenced by their game against Tampa [Saturday]. It was a good test for us. I thought we lost our legs a little bit, but give Jersey credit. They made us look that way. We had chances at 8-7. It was more like a soccer game.''
Florida's much maligned power play has been churning out the goals of late. In Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Capitals, the Panthers scored three while holding the advantage. On Saturday, Florida scored on each of its first two power play chances.
New Jersey, which came into the game 25 points out of the final playoff spot, scored first when Nick Palmieri charged in and buried a rebound at 5:01 of the first. The Panthers were able to strike back 10 minutes later when Evgeny Dadonov's nasty wrister zipped past Brodeur.
The Panthers picked up their second power play chance early in the second and Dennis Wideman buried his shot. That lead held until midway through the third when David Clarkson jabbed at a puck Kulikov failed to clear by the cage. Clemmensen couldn't get his skate over to guard the open spot and Clarkson found the opening to make it 2-2.
Florida found a way in overtime, however, just like it found ways to beat Washington on Tuesday and Nashville two nights later. The Panthers go for their first four-game winning streak since the 2007-08 season on Monday against the Thrashers.
“We're gaining confidence, getting lucky with goals in OT,'' Wideman said. “It's a long season so we need to stay even and not get too high or low. We're not a high scoring team so we have to learn to win one goal, tight games. Early on we lost them. We need to keep doing what we're doing.''
Vokoun met with the media after Saturday's morning skate, saying he wasn't too mad that Clemmensen was starting for a second straight game although he didn't fully understand the move. Clemmensen gave up the go-ahead goal to Nashville midway through the third on Thursday before the Panthers rallied to win.
“I can totally understand it, and wouldn't raise a question if we had lost the [Capitals] game or had I played bad,'' Vokoun said. “You play one of the best teams in the league and you win, then you get questioned about one play or one goal? It's not the first time I've been in this situation since I've been here. It's happened a few times over the past few years.''
Vokoun confirmed the Panthers and his agent were talking about an extension although he said he didn't believe an offer had been made. Florida general manager Dale Tallon said numbers had been “volleyed around” and that the two sides “are on the same page. We're moving forward on this.''
Vokoun is in the final year of a four-year pact signed when he played for Nashville.
“I do like it here. This is a decision that has to be made,'' Vokoun said. “I haven't seen any offers. .-.-. I've heard there is interest but that's it. There have been no offers as far as I know. I haven't talked to my agent in a few days and it's the weekend.
"I'm just worrying about how I play the next game and I'm preparing the best I can for that. I'm not worried at all about what happens. I'm confident in my game and the kind of player I am. I'm going to leave it at that.''
-- Fox Sports Florida had some technical difficulties during Saturday's game with the signal being lost from BankAtlantic Center numerous times during the second period.
-- Chris Higgins (hamstring) missed his fourth straight game.
Good afternoon. It's good to be back. Thanks to David J. Neal and Adam Beasley for covering the Panthers for me the past few days as I took a few days off. That was nice.
Came back to work on Saturday and found myself in the middle of a so-called goalie controversy in Sunrise.
But is it?
Tomas Vokoun found it strange that he was benched in favor of Scott Clemmensen on Thursday after Vokoun and the Panthers beat the Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday night.
Vokoun was also a little surprised to not be the starting goalie Saturday as Clemmensen will go against his former team as the Devils come to town riding a two-game winning streak (both wins came against Tampa Bay).
Coach Pete DeBoer said today that one reason Clemmensen is getting the start is because he has been good against the Devils. Last year, Clemmensen went 2-0 against his former teammates, stopping 68 of 72 shots. That's two goals a game – DeBoer's so-called magic number for the Panthers to win.
I would not be surprised to see Vokoun in net against the Thrashers on Monday.
“He's going to get back in there again and has to respond the right way,'' DeBoer said of Vokoun. “I have no question that he will. We've been in this situation before. He and I have done this dance before. I know he has character and work through it. He'll come back better. He always does.''
As far as Vokoun goes, he didn't come out and rip anyone today, but he definitely had some pointed remarks.
On being pulled after the Washington win, Vokoun basically said the same reasoning should apply to Clemmensen. As it was explained to him, DeBoer didn't like some of the goals he let in against the Capitals. Well, Vokoun reasoned, they shouldn't be happy with the goals Clemmensen gave up against the Preds on Thursday.
“Well, the Panthers won that game,'' the reasoning would go.
“Well, the Panthers won Tuesday as well yet I got the bench,'' Vokoun may reason back.
Here's the real Vokoun: “I can totally understand it, and wouldn't raise a question if we had lost the [Capitals] game or had I played bad – if we won 8-7 or something. You play one of the best teams in the league and you win, then you get questioned about one play or one goal. The same thing happened last game. You know what? It's not the first time I've been in this situation since I've been here. It's happened a few times over the past few years''
Here's DeBoer: “Whether you like the goals against or not, the fact is, if we give up more than two goals in a night, we're going to have trouble winning. In the starts he's had, he's been able to keep it to two or under and give us a chance. That's the type of team we are.
“It's not the bad goals that I'm as worried about. It's the timeliness of the goals. It's the saves and keeping it to the magic number. It's no secret we're not a high scoring team. If we're giving up three or more in a night, we're going to have trouble winning games.''
Anyway, lots of good stuff from DeBoer and Vokoun today.
“You just have to deal. I'm definitely not at the end of the road. I'm happy for Clemmensen, he gets to play too. There's nothing wrong with that.''
IS IT PLAY-ME OR TRADE-ME?
“It's not like that. If I wanted to be traded, it's not going to be because of this. This happens everywhere to everyone.
“I think it's a little strange how it happened to me, at least. If you win the game, it's not usual [to be benched.]
“As you go through your career, you're not going to play in every game or always going to agree with every decision. But one of the reasons I've been around the league as long as I have is because I understand that and deal with that. It's time for me to practice good, work on my game and have fun. You know, the pressure is not on me. Let someone else carry it. You may find it's not as easy as it looks.''
ON THE TIMING OF HIS BENCHING (ESPN REPORTS TEAM AND VOKOUN'S AGENT TALKING ABOUT EXTENSION)
“Strange timing or not. I think it's stranger how it happened more than the timing.
“I can totally understand it, and wouldn't raise a question if we had lost the [Capitals] game or had I played bad – if we won 8-7 or something. You play one of the best teams in the league and you win, then you get questioned about one play or one goal. The same thing happened last game. You know what? It's not the first time I've been in this situation since I've been here. It's happened a few times over the past few years.
“My conscience is clean and clear. I come every game, prepare the best I can. That's basically, from my perspective, is all you can ask of someone. It is what it is after that.''
WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY IN FLORIDA?
“I do like it here. This is a decision that has to be made. I haven't seen any offers. It's a decision based on a reaction – if I see an offer. I've heard there is interest but that's it. There have been no offers as far as I know. I haven't talked to my agent in a few days and it's the weekend. I'm just worrying about how I play the next game and I'm preparing the best I can for that. I'm not worried at all about what happens. I'm confident in my game and the kind of player I am. I'm going to leave it at that. There are things I can control and a lot I can't. We'll see.''
NICE TO HAVE SAY ON POSSIBLE TRADE?
“You don't get that by accident. I deserved the contract I got. It obviously gives me some advantages. It's a good contract, it really is. I think I deserved it.''
PETE DeBOER -- PETE DeBOER -- PETE DeBOER
“[Clemmensen] has played well against New Jersey in the past and his game in general has been very good. Whether you like the goals against or not, the fact is, if we give up more than two goals in a night, we're going to have trouble winning. In the starts he's had, he's been able to keep it to two or under and give us a chance. That's the type of team we are.
“It's not the bad goals that I'm as worried about. It's the timeliness of the goals. It's the saves and keeping it to the magic number. It's no secret we're not a high scoring team. If we're giving up three or more in a night, we're going to have trouble winning games.''
EXPECT VOKOUN TO BE UPSET?
“Absolutely. I don't expect him to be happy about it. He's going to get back in there again and has to respond the right way. I have no question that he will. We've been in this situation before. He and I have done this dance before. I know he has character and work through it. He'll come back better. He always does.''
SHOWING CONFIDENCE IN CLEMMENSEN
“He's earned that. He's played well. I can't remember the last poor effort he's given us. He sat patiently and has worked. He's a good goaltender.
“Trust me, no coach wants to take the path of most resistance. The easy thing to do is keep starting the same guys, keep giving the same guys ice time. It's our job to get the most out of our group, to raise the bar nightly. We have to do that with everyone.
“I don't think it's a bad thing for anyone on your roster to be challenged. We've done that consistently with everyone in that room at different periods. David Booth has been benched for periods this year. Dennis Wideman sat for five or six minutes the other night because of a turnover. This isn't a new motivation tactic for us.
“You don't come to the rink and rub your hands and say 'I can't wait to screw with my starting goaltender.' We're just trying to raise everyone's game here.''
PANTHERS 4, CAPITALS 3 (OT)
It's considered one of the more classic scenes in a series full of them. In the third season of the NBC hit Seinfeld, Jerry goes to pick up a rental car. He's told they have his reservation, only they don't have the vehicle he wanted.
“You just don't know how to hold the reservation and that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding,'' the comedian rants, his arms flailing about.
“Anybody can just take them.''
The Panthers have become very good at taking early leads. But boy, they sure can't hold them. Perhaps, with the Heat hogging most of the local spotlight, they are doing it for dramatic effect.
Florida, which led the powerhouse Capitals by three in the second period, found themselves in a familiar position Tuesday night as Washington roared back and tied it.
The Panthers polished things off, however, as Dennis Wideman whipped a power play shot in overtime that beat Michal Neuvirth and gave the Panthers a much-needed 4-3 win at BankAtlantic Center.
“It was a big lift. We've struggled with the lead and any kind of confidence builder, where we get the right result, I'll take right now,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “When you build a lead, sometimes you forget what you did well to get there. We weren't under duress much of the night. But that's a team that can capitalize. Give them a good look and they're going to put it in. That's a tough team to beat so we'll take the two points.''
The Panthers, who got three power play goals for the first time this season, have won two of three against the Capitals this season. Tuesday's win snapped a three-game losing streak. In Florida's past nine games, they have held at least a two-goal lead in six of them. The Panthers gave up the lead in five of those games and Tuesday's victory was just their third under those circumstances.
“Sure, it sucks,'' said center Stephen Weiss, who assisted on three of Florida's goals. “You work so hard to get the lead and then they're right back into it. That's when you can't worry about it and keep playing. No one cares that we gave up three goals now. We won the game. That's what it comes down to. If you're down three and lose, it doesn't really matter.''
The Panthers jumped all over the Capitals, looking to not only avenge Saturday's loss in Washington but to perhaps show they deserved to have at least one player in the upcoming All-Star Game.
Florida's last-place power play got a jolt in the first period when Washington was called for successive penalties, giving the Panthers a two-man advantage for a full two minutes. Weiss was stoned by goalie Michal Neuvirth on a point blank shot just before Mike Santorelli rang one off the crossbar. Florida quickly came back down and scored the first goal as Santorelli followed up on a rebound off a Weiss shot.
The Panthers, which later scored another power play goal while holding the advantage, hadn't scored on the power play since Jan. 2 against the Rangers. Florida had gone a whopping 279 minutes, 32 seconds without a power play goal.
“Hopefully that's the start of the second half,'' said DeBoer, whose team played their 41st game on Tuesday. “We need to get that going.''
Washington, however, wouldn't be denied. Marcus Johansson got his first of the night midway through the second by putting one past goalie Tomas Vokoun. Later in the period, Mike Knuble took a slick pass from Alex Ovechkin on a breakout and had little problem finding the back of the net.
Johansson tied the score in the third during a scrum in front of the net. Vokoun had initially made a save by trapping the puck, but he opened his legs just enough to allow the puck to sneak on through.
The Panthers had a great chance to win the game in overtime when Mike Green went to the box for hooking Cory Stillman 57 seconds in. Wideman took advantage just as the penalty was coming to a close, scoring from the left side.
“That's a good team and they are going to score some goals,'' Wideman said. “We did our best and stuck with them and got the win. I thought we played well in Washington, had some chances. Both goalies played well tonight but the power play was the difference. I haven't said that a lot this year, eh?''
The players who will compete in the upcoming All-Star Game were released Tuesday, and barring a player being named a replacement in the coming weeks, the Panthers won't be represented. Since the franchise's inception in 1993, Florida has had at least one player on an All-Star team save for 1998.
Phoenix, Buffalo and the New York Islanders also were shutout from the All-Star Game.
Rookie Evgeny Dadonov is the lone representative from Florida selected to compete at All-Star Weekend as he was picked for the rookie skills challenge. Florida had David Booth, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Vokoun on the All-Star ballot, but the three got very little support and received the fewest votes at their respective positions.
The All-Star Game is schedule to be played Jan. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
-- Mark Cullen spent the summer preparing for a chance to make the Panthers out of training camp, yet a freak injury during the team's opening-day physicals cost him that opportunity. “I never even saw the ice,'' Cullen joked on Tuesday.
Cullen needed Achilles tendon surgery after getting hurt running sprints, saying he made a quick stop and felt something pop. “I went down in a heap,'' he said. Cullen will likely to be assigned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., once he is cleared to play. Cullen is in South Florida rehabbing, and says he hopes to be allowed to play in the coming weeks.
“It's been obviously frustrating. Things were going really well over the offseason and to have this happen was awful,'' said Cullen, who has been rehabbing in his native Fargo, N.D. “My goal is to be back by the end of the month, but we'll see what happens. It feels great to be back on the ice.''
Barring injury, the Panthers will have no one on either All-Star team when the game is held at the end of the month in Raleigh.
Evgeny Dadonov will represent the franchise as part of the rookie team.
The Panthers have had at least one player in an All-Star Game save for 1998 in Vancouver.
Tomas Vokoun, David Booth and Bryan McCabe were all on the official All-Star ballot but the trio received an embarrassingly low number of votes.
If the NHL had a rule -- like baseball -- where each team had to be represented in the All-Star Game, which player from Florida would you pick? Vokoun? Mike Santorelli? Stephen Weiss?
Jonathan Toews - Chicago Blackhawks*
Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins*
Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks
Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames
Eric Staal – Carolina Hurricanes
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Rick Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets
Loui Eriksson – Dallas Stars
Brad Richards – Dallas Stars
Ales Hemsky – Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias – New Jersey Devils
Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins
David Backes – St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
Kris Letang - Pittsburgh Penguins*
Duncan Keith - Chicago Blackhawks*
Dustin Byfuglien – Atlanta Thrashers
Tobias Enstrom – Atlanta Thrashers
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
Niklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings
Brent Burns – Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
Marc Staal – New York Rangers
Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins
Dan Boyle – San Jose Sharks
Mike Green – Washington Capitals
Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins*
Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks
Tim Thomas – Boston Bruins
Cam Ward – Carolina Hurricanes
Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers
Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks
Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins
Tyler Ennis – Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes
Kevin Shattenkirk – Colorado Avalanche
Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
Evgeny Dadonov – Florida Panthers
Michael Grabner – New York Islanders
Derek Stepan – New York Rangers
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Phoenix Coyotes
Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
Dale Tallon is in a tough spot, one most around hockey knew he would eventually find himself in this season.
On one hand, the Panthers general manager likes the way his team plays. With few exceptions this season, the Panthers have come out and given a strong effort and are in games until the end almost every night.
Yet with the midway point of the season approaching, Tallon is aware that on some nights, even the best of efforts isn't going to cut it. On nights like Saturday, when the Panthers are playing a team with a lot more talent, no matter how good they play, they aren't going to come away with a win. To get more talent, Tallon might have to start breaking things up.
“We're not getting rewarded for our play and that's the one thing that is frustrating, whether it's a call go against us or our power play has been the difference,'' Tallon said.
“The majority of our games, we've been up to snuff. We just have to believe in each other and get some confidence. They have stayed true to form. I can't complain, we're just not getting results. I'm looking at this as the glass is half-full. They're buying in and giving us what we want, giving their all.''
Florida plays its 41st game of the season on Tuesday against the same Washington Capitals that beat the Panthers 3-2 on Saturday night. The Panthers couldn't have played much better against the Caps, only Washington's star-studded lineup came through in the end. All-Star defenseman Mike Green gave Washington its first lead of the night in the third period before All-World winger Alex Ovechkin won it with an acrobatic goal.
The Panthers have shown in the first half of the season that they are a good team, a sum of their parts. They don't have the stars other teams do, and if not for the unwritten rule that the league wants at least one representative from each team, Florida would not have a single player in the upcoming All-Star Game.
Tallon knows the Panthers have to get more talent. Playing hard every night isn't going to cut it week in and week out. Tallon has a pocket full of expiring contracts at his disposal, chips he can use at the trading deadline to bolster the Panthers immediate bottom line as well as hopefully reap future rewards.
“We have a good month ahead of us,'' Tallon said, referencing the trade deadline. “We have lots of time to see where we're at. There is no need to panic. We're going to keep getting better every day. We have a plan in place and we're sticking to it.''
Said coach Pete DeBoer: “It's a good pressure because those decisions haven't been made. We're still in the hunt.''
The Panthers go into Tuesday's midway point riding a three-game losing streak. All three of those losses came to divisional rivals, two of which coming to teams the Panthers are realistically fighting for a playoff spot with. Coming into Sunday's games, the Panthers sit tied for 11th in the Eastern Conference, eight points behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The teams in front of the Panthers look at the playoffs as an opportunity to be in the chase for the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. For Florida, just making the postseason would be a start. Florida has not been to the playoffs since 2000, and another year out of the dance – which seems very realistic – gives them an NHL record the franchise wants no part of.
No NHL franchise has ever missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for 10 straight seasons. Florida is already the only franchise to miss for nine while staying in the same market.
Yet with a handful of home games coming up in the coming days – Florida kicks off a six-game Sunrise stand on Tuesday – Tallon and coach Pete DeBoer are optimistic that their team can get some wins. And get back into the race.
“We're in the pack and when you think where everyone told us we would be, guys have taken some pride in proving people wrong,'' DeBoer said. “We're not one of the two worst teams in the league. We have our warts as a team and that's obvious. Some we could fix as coaches, some are personnel issues. No one is happy where we're at, from Dale Tallon on down. We're all trying to fix it on a daily basis. It may not look pretty each night, but that's the kind of team we are.''
WHAT'S GONE RIGHT
-- The Panthers have found some gems in Mike Santorelli (discarded from Tennessee), rookie Evgeny Dadonov (10 points in 14 games) and defensive pest Mike Weaver. Florida has also gotten good seasons from newcomers Dennis Wideman, Marty Reasoner and Chris Higgins.
-- Florida has been pretty good away from home, winning in tough climates like Montreal, Washington and Carolina. Good goaltending from Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen – as well as a penalty kill ranked in the top 10 most of the season – has been a big help.
-- Overtime hasn't been Florida's strong suit in past years, but the Panthers have won four of their six overtime games and are 2-1 in the shootout.
WHAT'S GONE WRONG
-- The Panthers power play is not only bad statistically, but it could be bad historically. Florida comes into Tuesday's game with a league-low 12 power play goals. The franchise record for fewest such goals came in 1994-95 when Florida scored 29 in a strike-shortened, 44 game season. This team is on pace to score 25 -- in 82 games.
-- Florida doesn't have much front-end talent, so it relies heavily on what it does. Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Michael Frolik struggled early in the season, but all three have shown signs of life lately. Weiss leads the team in goals, with Booth and Frolik (who leads the team with 26 points) are the team's top three scorers.
-- The Panthers haven't played as well on home ice as they would have hoped, getting zero points out of a three game stand during Thanksgiving week and most recently won just one of five.
CAPITALS 3, PANTHERS 2
WASHINGTON – When coach Pete DeBoer was asked about Washington's public comments on its offensive problems of late, he just chuckled.
The Capitals have guys like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Washington may not be scoring like it used to, but with that kind of talent, it'll come back. The Panthers wished they had that kind of a problem.
“That’s like the rich kid complaining he only got five presents at Christmas,” DeBoer said.
Washington didn't solve all of its problems on Saturday, but got third period goals from Ovechkin and Mike Green to send the Panthers to their third straight loss with a 3-2 win at Verizon Center. These two play again Tuesday in Sunrise. Ovechkin has scored three goals in his past five games – his best stretch since the first month of the season.
“We had some chances to score, had some golden opportunities that we just didn't bury,'' defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “Their guys scored. Other than that, we played well. They have a lot of offense, but we did a good job on them.''
The Panthers were coming off a depressing 5-3 loss to Carolina on Friday and were playing their fifth game in seven days. Florida didn't look too slow, however, in the early goings as Mike Santorelli – benched during the third period of Friday's game – put the Panthers on the board less than four minutes into the game with a sweet backhanded shot off a Dmitry Kulikov pass.
Florida had ample chances to add to its lead, with the Panthers missing two prime shots at an empty net during the first period. Backup goalie Scott Clemmensen kept the Panthers in it, but it was just a matter of time before the Capitals struck. Florida shutout the Caps 3-0 here last month.
“They play hard,'' said Eric Fehr, who tied the score in the second when he popped the puck into the net from his perch in front of the crease. “They are one of the fastest teams we play all season. They played very well and didn't want to give us a whole lot. We had to earn the win.''
The two played an even third but when Michael Frolik got called from tripping with 7:15 left, the Capitals pounced and got a goal from Green as he backhanded a shot from the slot. Ovechkin got a highlight goal with 3:55 left when he passed himself the puck off the side board and charged in on Clemmensen from center ice. Bryan McCabe tried to slow him down with his stick, but Ovechkin kept his stick on the puck and even after being tripped up, was able to put the puck in the back of the net.
“That team, if you make a mistake, they make you pay,'' DeBoer said. “You see the guys who scored in the third period? Green and Ovechkin. That's the story right there. Those are game-changing players who delivered in the third when they needed to.''
Down, but not out, the Panthers made a late charge and pulled to within one with 1:37 left after Evgeny Dadonov scored. Florida pulled Clemmensen and held a two-man advantage in the final minute after Backstrom was called for cross-checking. The Panthers had a few good shots but couldn't solve the hot Semyon Varlamov and headed back to South Florida with a disappointing defeat.
“We've got to win these games,'' David Booth said. “You can't make excuses about the schedule. Everyone goes through this. It's no different for us. We can't feel sorry for ourselves.''
-- Washington played without Semin (18 goals, 17 assists this season) in the third period after he and Steve Bernier collided. Semin came out for his final shift of the second but stayed behind to start the third.
DeBoer made a tough decision during the second intermission of Friday's game. Even though his team was tied with Carolina going into the third – and they were in the midst of four games in six nights – DeBoer went with a short bench as he put three forwards on the pine for the third period.
Mike Santorelli, who had been on the ice for both of Jeff Skinner's second period goals, was benched as was Rostislav Olesz. Steve Bernier, who committed a penalty in Florida's offensive zone, was also shelved although he got a garbage shift once the game was decided late in the third.
“With depth guys, there has to some accountability,'' DeBoer said. “They are there to do the right thing when you’re playing with the lead. You look at video, you talk, then you go to other means. I expect them to respond the right way.''
All three were back in the lineup Saturday, although with Chris Higgins out (undisclosed 'lower body' injury), weren't playing alongside each other any more. Santorelli tried to make up for Friday early on, scoring Florida's first goal 3:49 in.
“I just wanted to bounce back, have a good game,'' Santorelli said.
-- Keaton Ellerby was recalled from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday as a precaution in case Bryan McCabe couldn't play. McCabe suffered an undisclosed injury during the first period of Friday's loss but continued to play. He was in the lineup Saturday as Ellerby sat out. It appears that Ellerby is headed back to Rochester.
HURRICANES 5, PANTHERS 3
Eric Staal very easily could have been playing for the Florida Panthers had the team not traded the top pick of the 2003 Draft to Pittsburgh. The Penguins didn't take Staal either as he slipped to the Carolina Hurricanes with the second selection.
And even though things worked out for Pittsburgh – they got a Stanley Cup winning goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury out of it -- the Hurricanes have been thanking both teams for passing on Staal ever since.
Staal, passed over by the Panthers in favor of then now-departed Nathan Horton, helped do in Florida again Friday as he scored the go-ahead goal in Carolina's come-from-behind 5-3 win at BankAtlantic Center.
Florida has now coughed up two goal leads in each of its past three games against the Hurricanes. On Monday, the Panthers survived by winning in overtime. Carolina has a history of turning Florida leads upside down and Friday was no different. Staal has been a big part of those comeback stories against the Panthers over the years.
Staal, Carolina's 26-year-old captain, has 13 goals in 46 games against the Panthers as the Hurricanes are 28-16-2 against Florida since Staal burst into the league in 2003.
Do the Hurricanes feel pretty confident when playing the Panthers based on their history?
“You think? Yeah, I would say so,'' center Stephen Weiss said. “It's a matter of us playing the same way. We fall asleep at the wheel, miss assignments and give them easy goals to let them back into the game. You could say any team plays better desperate.''
Jeff Skinner, whom the Panthers bypassed in the most recent draft, scored Carolina's first two goals of the night and assisted on Erik Cole's insurance goal late in the third. Florida picked defenseman Erik Gudbranson with the third overall pick in June; Skinner – who is Carolina's center of the present and future with 13 goals and 18 assists in 40 games – was the seventh overall pick.
Skinner, who has three goals and four assists in five games against the Panthers this year, erased Florida's early 2-0 lead with a pair in the second. Skinner's first came 1:46 into the second and his next one bounced off a Florida defender before bouncing over the head of goalie Tomas Vokoun to tie it nine minutes later.
“He's a really skilled player and when he has the puck, he's got some moves,'' Florida's Chris Higgins said. “It's tough to play against him. He backs our defenders back because of his one-on-one moves and it's obvious he can finish.''
The Panthers led 1:36 in after David Booth took the puck from behind the net and wheeled around it, poking the puck past backup goalie Justin Peters. Marty Reasoner made it 2-0 with 7:30 left in the first when he deflected a long shot from Dennis Wideman. Carolina narrowly missed out on getting on the board in the first, most notably when Wideman saved Vokoun by diving into the crease and smothering a puck heading into the net. Wideman slid the puck across the ice like he was an Olympic curler.
Carolina wouldn't be denied too many other times, however. The two were tied going into the third, with Staal breaking the stalemate when he picked up a loose pick and let a wrister fly from the slot with 10:26 left. Erik Cole all but ended it when he scored with three minutes remaining, although Florida did add a late goal when Reasoner got his second of the night with 38 seconds left.
The Panthers, who have lost two straight, now get to face a well-rested Washington team on Saturday night. The Capitals, no doubt, haven't forgotten how Florida beat them 3-0 on home ice last month. Washington has played twice this month; the Panthers will be playing their fifth game in seven days.
“You could see us getting fatigued in the second,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “That's tough. Fatigue set in and we started making some mental errors and momentum shifted. In the third, your best players have to take over, whether your goalie makes a save or one of your big guys – Weiss or Booth – scores. Staal, their big guy, delivered.''
Even though DeBoer said he wanted to put Wednesday's controversial non-goal behind him, it was still the topic of conversation Friday morning.
The Panthers were trailing Atlanta 3-2 in the third period on Wednesday when Bryan McCabe's shot went across the goal line and got lodged in the goal cage. The on-ice officials didn't call for a video review and by the time officials in Toronto saw the play it was too late to do anything about it. Florida ended up losing 3-2.
One of those officials – Marc Joannette – worked Friday's game.
“It doesn't help thinking about it. It's in the past,'' Vokoun said. “We still have lots of games left. That game didn't eliminate us from the playoffs or anything like that. For me, even if we won, today is a new day.''
Said DeBoer: “It's one of those things you look at down the road if you miss [the playoffs] by a point, a what if? But the season is full of those type of things.''
-- Winger Evgeny Dadonov didn't participate in the full morning skate because of his sore ankle, but he was in the lineup Friday. Dadonov missed Wednesday's game.
-- DeBoer on the controversy surrounding Tony Sparano and the Miami Dolphins (before word leaked of Sparano's contract extension): “This is a tough business. When you take these jobs – and there's only 30 of them in the NHL and 32 in the NFL – you sign up for that. You feel for him as part of the coaching fraternity and we've all been there. It's never easy, but it's part of the job and you know that coming in.''
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT CAPITALS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; Verizon Center, Washington
TV/Radio: FSNF; 640 WFTL
The series: Capitals lead 45-39-5
The game: After losing all six meetings to the Capitals last season, the Panthers came back with a vengeance and shut out Washington 3-0 on Dec. 9. This is only the second time these two have met this season, although Washington visits Sunrise on Tuesday. Washington has only played twice this month, beating Pittsburgh in the New Year's Winter Classic and losing 1-0 to Tampa Bay in overtime on Tuesday.
David J. Neal covered practice for me and brought his camera...
The video of Bryan McCabe's game-tying goal wasn't reviewed in Toronto for a variety of reasons, the NHL's Mike Murphy told The Miami Herald in an email received early Thursday morning.
Murphy explained the process to why the goal wasn't looked at immediately -- but ultimately took the blame.
And, it must be said, thanks to Mike for responding to my email so quickly. That is most appreciated.
"We still should have reviewed the play,'' he ended his email. "That was my error.''
Here's what Mike wrote (his words from e-mail in italics):
"We saw the play but we did not review it.
"The on-ice officials indicated 'no goal,' so we were not alerted to a possible review/possible goal."
Steve Bernier was pointing right at the puck sitting wedged in the goal cage and tried getting the attention of the official. They seemingly wanted nothing to do with him. I asked McCabe if he tried to slow down the officials from dropping the puck -- he said they dropped it "in four seconds.''
McCabe said no. "That's not my [explitive] job. I don't know. Whatever. It is what it is. I can't control it.''
Video -- DOWN BELOW -- shows McCabe arguing with the officials after they didn't call a goal on the shot.
"The video goal judge did not indicate any issue because the overhead camera
did not show the puck in the net.
"We did not see the puck in the net until the very end of the stoppage of play. It was then that we wondered how it had got into the net. Was it put into the net after the whistle? We did not know.''
Again, had they been alerted to this, perhaps Fox Sports South/Florida could have found the right replay and sent it up. Apparently, FSNF didn't have the definitive view of the puck -- the reverse angle -- until later. That's what was told to me, anyway.
"When we did see the puck in the net on the last replay we immediately contacted the video goal judge but play had already resumed and our window of opportunity to review the play was gone.
"As an aside, this play would have been a very difficult play to award a goal on because we never know when the puck goes in the net relative to the
referee blowing his whistle.
"But we still should have reviewed the play. That was my error.''
-- So, should the Panthers be cheesed off?
This is the third time this season the Panthers have had goal calls go against them -- and it's costing them points.
In the season opener at Edmonton, Florida loses as Shawn Horcoff bags the game-winner after kicking the puck past Tomas Vokoun. It was reviewed: And allowed.
Later on in Toronto, Florida and the Leafs are tied 1-1 when Scott Clemmensen is run over by Colton Orr just as the shot is coming through. Goal, Leafs. The NHL's Colin Campbell later says the goal should not have counted and Florida should have gone on the power play.
-- Here is the video highlight from FSN Florida via NHL.com. Go toward the end of the video to see the disputed play. As Mike Murphy explains, you can see where the confusion is. The later reverse angle truly shows that the puck is embedded in the cage, way over the line.
It's a good hockey goal.
And it's time for me to go to sleep. David J. Neal is covering the team on Thursday but I will have updates if anything crazy happens.
Happy Thursday everyone.
Florida is still on the hook for the remainder of Reinprecht's salary – he's signed through the 2011-12 season – although the Panthers are thought to be getting some money back from the German team to offset what's owed to Reinprecht through this season.
Florida put Reinprecht on waivers last Friday.
Former Panthers forward and current television analyst Bill Lindsay played his final two professional years in Germany from 2005-07 and says he thinks Reinprecht is going to find success playing on the big rinks in Europe.
“That's going to be awesome for him, it's going to suit his style and his talent will be superior in many ways there,'' Lindsay said. “He's going to be the guy over there. Put it this way, I was an offensive guy there. What's he going to be?''
-- I haven't spoken to Dale Tallon (in Buffalo) nor Mike Santos (Cincinnati) today, but it appears Reinprecht has played in his last game with the Panthers. If the Panthers can't squeeze his contract into a deal over the summer, they'll likely cut ties by buying out the final year of his deal, splitting the 2/3 of the money over the following two seasons.
THRASHERS 3, PANTHERS 2
Pete DeBoer wasn't happy for much of Wednesday's game, not with his team's inability to stay out of the penalty box, the play of his starting goaltender nor officials who didn't review what was the game-tying goal.
The Panthers coach sure wasn't thrilled when the night was concluded, either, as Bryan McCabe's apparent goal was never looked at and Atlanta left BankAtlantic Center with a 3-2 win.
Most close calls in net are reviewed via satellite at Hockey Central in Toronto. McCabe's shot lodged inside the cage beyond the line before Ondrej Pavelec pulled it free. Were reviewers in Toronto distracted by the Canada-Russia game taking place at the world juniors?
“It looks like a goal to me and I'm baffled why the referees can make certain to make sure everyone goes to the box but why no one took a second look at it,'' DeBoer said. “They look at everything else. I got no explanation why. They said if it was close, Toronto would have buzzed them. They never got that.''
Florida, which won two straight to climb to a game over .500 for the first time this season, never led on Wednesday and fought the refs as well as a general malaise for most of the second period. Florida was called for six penalties and had to kill off a lengthy 5-on-3 chance as well as a questionable five-minute major called on Shawn Matthias for boarding early in the third period.
The Panthers survived Matthias' stint in the box, but weren't strong enough to hold off Atlanta late in the first during its two-man advantage. With Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison both hanging in the penalty box not only was Florida down two defensemen, but two of their better penalty killers as well. With the score tied at 1, the Thrashers went into the first break with a 2-1 lead as Rich Peverley jammed a puck past Tomas Vokoun with 31 seconds left in the period.
Vokoun wouldn't last much longer. Less than seven minutes into the second, Peverley got loose with the puck and charged Vokoun, firing a shot from the left circle, beating him over the shoulder to make it 3-1. DeBoer had seen enough, yanking his starter for backup Scott Clemmensen.
In his career, Vokoun has been a little off after shutouts. Vokoun, who blanked the Rangers on Sunday, has given up three or more goals in 26 of his games following a shutout – including in 12 as a member of the Panthers. Wednesday marked the fifth time Vokoun didn't finish a game following a shutout.
The Panthers didn't do much on offense during the second, getting off just five shots against Ondrej Pavelec.
Florida trailed 1-0 after Niclas Bergfors scored in the first, quickly tied things up when Stephen Weiss got his team-leading 13th goal of the season by whipping a shot past Pavelec from the slot. Weiss now has eight goals and six assists in his past 13 games.
The Panthers wouldn't get another goal until Chris Higgins charged Pavelec and beat him over the shoulder for the 100th goal of his career. Higgins, who struggled to put the puck in the back of the net for much of the past few seasons, has been hot of late, scoring in each of his past three games with five goals in his past six games.
Not long after Higgins scored, McCabe fired a shot from 45 feet out. Play stopped momentarily before the puck was dropped and the game continued. Florida never got close to scoring again.
“I don't know if they could have dropped the puck any quicker,'' an angry McCabe said. “I didn't see the replay but I thought it was in. They dropped the puck in about four seconds. What can you do? I thought it went in. His pad was in the net, the puck was in the net. We didn't get many breaks, many calls tonight.''
Chris Higgins had a scary moment during the third period of Monday's game after he was cut above his right eye by the skate of Carolina's Tim Gleason. Higgins jumped right up after being cut and skated to the locker room not knowing how serious the cut was. Higgins said his eye was filled with blood and he could feel the skin “flapping” as he skated.
Higgins took 12 stitches and returned to the game. He says he feels very fortunate he didn't lose the eye during the collision – although he still couldn't believe both he and Gleason were charged with the same penalty on the play. The two players were charged with four minutes for high sticking. “No, I've never seen that before either,'' Higgins laughed. He was told of the penalty while being stitched up.
-- Forward Evgeny Dadonov didn't play Wednesday after injuring an ankle Monday. Dadonov came out for the morning skate in Sunrise but didn't finish. Darcy Hordichuk was back in the lineup for the first time since last week's game against the Bruins.
-- Team USA finished play at the World Juniors in Buffalo on Wednesday with Panthers prospects playing big roles in the 4-2 win over Sweden for the Bronze medal. Drew Shore, a sophomore at the University of Denver, scored to give Team USA a 2-1 lead in the third period. Center Nick Bjugstad, a freshman at Minnesota, scored the game-winner off his own rebound.
The Panthers have put out a statement saying they don't agree with the Dolphins trying to get Broward County hotel taxes to help pay for a renovation to Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens.
While the Dolphins stadium is technically in Miami-Dade County, many visitors who come to the stadium stay -- and spend their money -- in Broward County. According to this Miami Herald story, a state law would have to change for one county to help pay for a stadium redo in another.
Also, the Dolphins play in Miami-Dade, but their headquarters are in the middle of Broward.
Anyway, here's the release from the Panthers:
“Sunrise Sports & Entertainment and the BankAtlantic Center are vehemently opposed to the Miami Dolphins’ cross-county request to use Broward County tourist tax dollars to supplement a multi-million dollar renovation on the team’s stadium in Miami-Dade County.
"The Dolphins clearly intend to turn their stadium in to a multi-purpose entertainment facility that can compete with the BankAtlantic Center for entertainment programming. So their request is, in effect, to use Broward County tax dollars to help a privately owned Miami-Dade facility compete with a publicly owned facility in Broward County.
"The BankAtlantic Center is the home of Broward County’s only professional sports and entertainment organization and one of the premier venues of its kind in the world. We would urge the Broward County commissioners and staff to continue to support the BankAtlantic Center, and our longstanding partnership, and oppose this request.” – Michael Yormark, President & COO, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment and the BankAtlantic Center
Florida Panthers Part of Improved Southeast Division ... Stillman's Getting Stronger (And Leo's Getting Larger)
Despite winning two Stanley Cup championships in the previous decade, the NHL's Southeast Division has rarely received much respect.
Because even when Tampa Bay hoisted the Cup in 2004 – and Carolina did so in 2006 – there wasn't much else to the division.
Not so this season.
Coming into Tuesday's games, three teams from the Southeast are entrenched in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The other two teams – Carolina and Florida – aren't too far out of eighth place, either. Carolina came into the day four points back of Montreal; the Panthers were seven points out.
“Potentially, down the road, this could be one of the power divisions in the NHL,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “People snicker at that based on what it's been over the past five years, but that's what it is trending toward. You have young teams with a lot of star power that are young. Atlanta's going to get better and better, so is Carolina. Tampa is at a different level this year. It's our job in Florida to keep up with them because they're all getting better.''
Last week, the Panthers found themselves playing some of the league's traditional powers, hosting games against 'Original Six' franchises like the Rangers, Bruins and Canadiens. This week brings the Panthers closer to home. Florida kicked off its week with a win over the Rangers in Sunrise before the team won 4-3 in overtime at Carolina on Monday.
Florida's game against the Rangers started a set of five games in seven days. The game against Carolina began a run of five straight games against divisional opponents. If the Panthers are going to start gaining some ground in this playoff race, a few wins this week would be a good way to start.
And with the improved play of the Thrashers, Hurricanes and Capitals, it's not going to be easy sledding.
“It's tough because they are all big games,'' said Cory Stillman, who played for both the Lightning and Hurricanes title teams. “But January is a great time. We can climb up in the standings because we are all playing head-to-head. We have 14 games left before the All-Star break and a lot of the games are within the division. It is improved. Three Southeast teams are in the playoffs. We're all battling.''
The Panthers play host to Nashville and New Jersey next week, teams the Panthers don't see too much of over the course of a year. With the divisional teams, however, the Panthers are very familiar with their rivals. Atlanta general manager Rick Dudley once ran the Panthers and scouted Sunday's game from the BankAtlantic Center press box. Florida will play Carolina twice this week and has a home and away series with the Capitals.
Florida is 6-3-0 against divisional teams this season -- tied with Washington for best winning percentage of Southeast teams against divisional foes.
“More familiarity doesn't make it any easier,'' DeBoer said. “We've had real good games with Carolina this year. Look at the standings, and from a coaching perspective, you don't need a lot of speeches for these games. The guys know what's at stake and they get up for these games.''
STILLMAN'S GETTING STRONGER
When the Panthers announced that winger Cory Stillman suffered a fractured disc in his lower back, it was thought he would be out a considerable amount of time.
Stillman ended up missed less than a month, returning to the lineup Friday. Stillman admits to taking it slowly early, although his line looked strong Sunday and Monday and Stillman ended up with a goal and an assist in Monday's win.
The two-point game was first of the season for Stillman. Radek Dvorak, who teamed back up with Stillman and Marty Reasoner after his shoulder injury, got his first point since returning as well.
“You get the momentum and back to game speed the more you play,'' Stillman said. “That's the good point of playing every other night. We get better as a line. You've seen improvement each game because we're almost playing every night. When you get going, it's a lot of fun. We read off each other very well, offensively and defensively.''
-- Winger Michael Frolik had two assists in Monday's game, the second time in his past four games that he's registered two points.
-- Of the seven goals defenseman Bryan Allen has scored in the past two seasons, three have decided games. Allen scored the game-winner Monday in Carolina less than two minutes into overtime. His last overtime winner came at San Jose on March 13, 2010.
WEDNESDAY: THRASHERS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Atlanta leads 34-25-5
The game: The Thrashers had been on a hot streak before ending December with just one win in their final six games of the month. Atlanta is coming off a 4-3 win over Montreal on Monday. The two teams have split their previous two games this season – both teams winning one-goal games on the road. Florida has won two straight and is 5-1-2 in the past eight games.
PANTHERS 4, HURRICANES 3 (OT)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- If the NHL ever considered realigning its teams, the Panthers would have no problem seeing the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves another division. And if the Panthers could just stop visiting RBC Center all together, well, that would be just fine with them too.
It's not that the Panthers don't enjoy the trip, they just don't like playing on Carolina ice.
On Monday night, the Panthers almost added another chapter to their horror story of playing in Raleigh. Florida built a two-goal lead in the third period, only to watch the host Hurricanes chop away at it by scoring twice within a four-minute span.
Florida survived the onslaught, however, backup goalie Scott Clemmensen standing strong and helping the Panthers get to overtime. With a point in their pockets, the Panthers came at the Hurricanes and picked up a rare win here, Bryan Allen's long shot beating Cam Ward and lifting the Panthers to a 4-3 win.
The Panthers had lost 19 of 21 games in Raleigh coming into the game.
“We needed to get the two points, especially being up in the third,'' said Cory Stillman, the Carolina Cup winner who scored Florida's third goal of the night just over five minutes into the third. “Bryan scored a big goal. It's a big two points. We're obviously trying to move up in the standings.''
Clemmensen, filling in for Tomas Vokoun as the Panthers have a crazy schedule this week, never fell apart despite giving up the two goals in the third. Despite being down two, Carolina smelled the blood in the water and went on the attack. Less than a minute after Stillman's shot beat Ward, Zach Boychuk scored to cut the deficit to one.
The Hurricanes – and their fans – most definitely knew they had history on their side in this one. The Panthers have long folded up in the third period in this building. Only on Monday, a night in which the Panthers were playing for the second time in as many days, Florida didn't completely surrender.
“You could see we hit the wall in the third period,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “They got some momentum with a goal and cranked it up. Clemmensen made saves to keep us alive. It seemed like everything was against us, the calls, the building, the momentum. But we found a way to win. That's the big thing.''
Carolina, which had won three straight coming in and lead the Panthers in the Southeast Division standings, cut to a 1-0 lead in the opening period. The Panthers tied it up just before the first intermission with defenseman Dennis Wideman landing a long shot not long after Radek Dvorak had been stopped on a nice scoring chance in front of the net.
The Panthers made it 2-1 in the second period, Chris Higgins getting his second in as many games as he scored off a feed from Dmitry Kulikov.
Through the opening two periods, Clemmensen made 20 saves; he faced 16 shots in the third period alone as Florida was out-shot by 10 in the final frame. “He gave us a shot of energy,'' DeBoer said. “He gave us just what we needed.''
Carolina came hard at the Panthers in the third, yet DeBoer said he could hear “chirping” on his bench, his veteran players letting the younger ones know that they still had a shot. Most teams would take three points in a back-to-back situation. Florida, by getting through in overtime, got all four available points after blanking the Rangers in Sunrise on Sunday afternoon.
“We were still in a good spot,'' DeBoer said. “We would have taken 3-3 in the third in a back-to-back situation in this building with 10 minutes left. We regrouped in their end, got the pressure off. That was critical.''
Allen, who beat San Jose in overtime last year, got his second of this season by whipping a shot “with my eyes closed'' just 1:16 into the extra session. It was the only shot Florida took in overtime.
Clemmensen ended with 34 saves.
“You like scoring those,'' Allen said. “You have to give them credit, they were down and didn't give up. They changed momentum and really came hard. Give Clemmensen credit; he made big saves and key saves. He kept us in there.''
Steven Reinprecht remained part of the Panthers as the team did not assign him to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Monday.
Reinprecht, who cleared waivers on Saturday, is said to be looking at finishing the season in Europe instead of playing in the minor leagues.
Darcy Hordichuk was a healthy scratch for a third straight game.
-- With the Panthers playing five games in seven days this week, DeBoer is giving the team Tuesday off. They will reconvene Wednesday for the pregame skate before taking on Atlanta at BankAtlantic Center.
-- Chris Higgins quickly left the ice after colliding with Tim Gleason along the boards during the third period. It appeared Higgins had injured his shoulder in the hit, but he needed stitches after being cut by Gleason's stick. Both players were charged with a four-minute penalty for high-sticking.
“I don't know,'' DeBoer said. “I was a little confused about things [Monday].''
The Hurricanes have put up the in-house feed up online in the past, so if I find the link, I will pass it along.
Scott Clemmensen is in net tonight.
No news on Steven Reinprecht just yet.
PANTHERS 3, RANGERS 0
With the way things have been going for the Florida Panthers, Chris Higgins' third period goal Sunday afternoon was more than welcomed.
“It was massive,'' Stephen Weiss said.
Higgins goal against his former teammates gave the Panthers some much needed breathing room as it gave them a two-goal lead. With Tomas Vokoun on, that was more than enough to lead Florida to a 3-0 win over the Rangers in front of an announced 16,752 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers had lost their previous two home games in overtime despite leading both the Bruins and Canadiens at some point in the game.
On Friday, Florida led the Canadiens 2-0 in the second before Montreal tied it by the end of the period and won in overtime 3-2. Sunday, Higgins' goal gave Florida a 2-0 lead with 11:10 remaining. Weiss ended all doubt by sliding in an empty net goal on a Rangers power play chance in which New York had two more skaters on the ice than Florida.
Higgins' goal was a beauty as well. After picking off the puck deep in the Florida zone, Higgins raced up with Michael Frolik on a 2-on-1 chance. After Michael Del Zotto dove in front of Higgins, he declined the cross-ice pass and simply went around the downed Rangers and walked in on the goalie and fired.
“Everyone knew we needed another goal to feel comfortable, make it a little easier on Vokoun,'' said Higgins, who was traded from the Rangers to Calgary last season before signing with Florida as a free agent over the summer. “It went in and I'm real thrilled with the win. It feels good to happen in a win, that's the most important thing. We need a big second half, we have a lot of games on home ice. Hopefully this jump starts us.''
Coach Pete DeBoer placed much of Friday's blame on his forwards, saying they didn't create much of anything and basically left Vokoun out to dry. That wasn't the case Sunday as Florida came to play and had a number of good chances against backup goalie Martin Biron.
The Rangers, coming off a 2-1 overtime loss in Tampa on Saturday, didn't look as crisp as usual and didn't challenge Vokoun all that much. The Rangers had been 9-0 in the second game of a back-to-back set.
“That's maybe a page we can take out of their book,'' Weiss said. “Keep teams to the outside and block shots on back-to-back games when you don't have your best legs. That's when you really have to focus on the little things defensively, and that can be the difference in winning and losing.''
Vokoun did make a huge point-blank save off a Brandon Prust shot after he stole the puck deep in the zone from Marty Reasoner. Had Prust scored, it would have tied the score.
Prust's shot came not long after a goal from Cory Stillman was disallowed after he appeared to kick the puck past Biron. Stillman's initial shot was blocked by the goalie, but the puck trickled back and Stillman got his skate on it, popping it through. Biron shot up and complained immediately and video judges in Toronto agreed Stillman used a distinct kicking motion.
Just over five minutes later, Higgins got his sixth goal of the year and all was good again.
“He's had a lot of chances and it was a big game for him and for us in general,'' DeBoer said. “The forwards bounced back.''
Florida led 1-0 in the second period when David Booth picked up his second power play goal of the season. Mike Santorelli got things started by firing a shot that Biron deflected. Rostislav Olesz whiffed on the puck as it came back through the slot, but Booth pounced on it and sent it to the back of the net for the first lead.
Vokoun got his fifth shutout of the season and 43rd of his career by stopping 32 shots. Vokoun stopped 45 shots in each of his past three starts. With the Panthers schedule getting tougher, expect backup Scott Clemmensen to start Monday in Carolina to give Vokoun a day of rest. After Monday, the Panthers will have played three games in four days -- and have five games on the docket this week.
“If you can get those kind of games out of your backup goalie, it allows you to give your starter some needed rest,'' DeBoer said, referring to Biron while referencing Clemmensen.
-- The Panthers are 17-17-2, the first time they are at the .500 mark in the win-loss column since Nov. 20 when they were 9-9-0.
-- Winger Steven Reinprecht cleared waivers on Saturday and the Panthers are now weighing their options. Florida would like to trade Reinprecht, but because he has another year left on his salary, that probably will not happen.
The Panthers could assign Reinprecht to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., as early as Monday. Florida could also allow Reinprecht's agent to find him a spot on a European professional team and then loan him out. The Panthers are still responsible for Reinprecht's NHL salary.
Reinprecht, who has just eight goals and 11 assists in his past 70 games dating to Jan. 3, 2010, signed a three-year deal with the team worth $2.05 million annually, in 2009.
MONDAY: PANTHERS AT HURRICANES
When, Where: 7 p.m.; RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
TV/Radio: No local TV; WQAM 560
The series: Hurricanes lead 46-33-11
The game: The Hurricanes have won three straight games and currently lead the Panthers by four points in the Southeast Division. Since moving into the RBC Center, the Hurricanes own the Panthers, going 25-5-2. Carolina won all three games in Raleigh last year and 20 of the past 22. Florida is 1-2 against Carolina this season, with the most recent loss a 4-3 decision on Dec.15 in which the Panthers held a 3-0 lead just minutes into the game. The Panthers are 2-5 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, with one of those losses coming to the Hurricanes.
Well those days are back: With a hitch.
You still have to have the driver's license, but you also need to be celebrating something.
Just got hitched? Free ticket. Graduating from Western High? Free ticket. Just had a kid? You definitely deserve a ticket.
The Panthers newest giveaways come on the heels of their "Good Time Guarantee" in which if you buy a ticket, and didn't really have a good time, you'll get your money back.
Now, you must be thinking there's some sort of catch to this.
Of course there is. To get your free ticket -- or your refund -- you have to fill out a form and give the team some personal information.
This is basically a marketing deal, one you see credit card and insurance companies employ at big events. Sign up and we'll give you something. Instead of a plastic cup with a gecko on it, however, the Panthers are giving you a free ticket to a hockey game. And then they hope you'll like it and buy more tickets. They'll be calling you.
Here's the release from the team:
Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today a number of new complimentary ticket offers in keeping with the Florida Panthers “Good Time Guarantee.” The new ticket offers include complimentary tickets for fans celebrating their birthday, newly married couples, seniors, active or veteran military, and more.
“There’s no better place to celebrate a special occasion or just enjoy an incredible live entertainment experience than Florida Panthers home games at the BankAtlantic Center,” said Panthers president & COO Michael Yormark. “From the Panthers Party Patrol on the JetBlue Tarmac to the incredible in-game presentation to the first class customer service to the action on the ice, we guarantee a good time for all of our guests.”
The Panthers special ticket offers include complimentary tickets for fans celebrating birthdays, parents with newborns, newlyweds, senior citizens, active and veteran military, and recent college and high school graduates. Fans interested in taking advantage of one of these offers can fill out a form on FloridaPanthers.com <http://www.formstack.com/forms/?1036040-GDZM2lIPEX> . The special ticket offers are available to Florida residents only and are subject to other select limitations and blackout dates including the following:
- Birthdays: one complimentary ticket during the birthday month (fans celebrating offseason birthdays get a complimentary ticket for any October game excluding Opening Night)
- Newlyweds: complimentary tickets for the bride and the groom within one month of the wedding date
- New parents: complimentary tickets for each parent within one month of the child’s birth date
- Seniors, active and veteran military: one complimentary ticket per season
- High school and college graduates: one complimentary ticket for each graduate within one year of graduation date