Hope you all had a happy and safe New Year's Eve and are enjoying today's football.
How cool is night hockey going to be at Heinz Field?
If the weather holds off, this is going to be everything the NHL hopes it would be -- and more. Primetime hockey with the only real competition being a dud of a Fiesta Bowl? I'm in Phoenix right now and more people are talking about the hockey game than they are Oklahoma and UConn.
OK, on to the meat of the post. Here's a little update on Steven Reinprecht, a solid locker room character guy who just hasn't been getting it done on the ice. Dale Tallon hopes to move Reinprecht to an NHL team, but I wouldn't bet on that happening -- not with Reinprecht owed next season as well.
But we'll see.
Anyway, Merry New Year!
-- Steven Reinprecht was on the ice with the rest of his teammates on Saturday afternoon in Coral Springs, but Reinprecht's days with the Panthers could be numbered.
Reinprecht, signed to a three-year deal by acting general manger Randy Sexton in 2009, was placed on waivers by the team.
Florida doesn't have much room for Reinprecht anymore after wingers Radek Dvorak, Rostislav Olesz and Cory Stillman returned from injury on Friday. And Reinprecht really hasn't shown he deserves playing time over the likes of Shawn Matthias, Mike Santorelli or Evgeny Dadonov.
Santorelli has a two-way deal with the Panthers meaning if he went to the minors, he would be paid a lesser salary. Santorelli, brought to Florida by trade this past summer for a low draft pick, is not going to the minors. Going into Friday's game, Santorelli was tied with Stephen Weiss for the team lead with 10 goals. Shawn Matthias, who also could be sent to Rochester, has also outplayed Reinprecht.
If Reinprecht clears waivers – and general manager Dale Tallon can't find him an NHL home – he could be sent to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., and still make his NHL salary. Reinprecht was signed to a three-year deal averaging $2.05 million in May 2009.
“My job as a coach is to put the best 20 players on the ice,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “Some of our young guys have made it so you can't pull them out of the lineup. Santorelli, Matthias, Dadonov; they've all grabbed jobs.''
Reinprecht has had his moments with the Panthers. Last season, he recorded hat trick in an overtime win at Dallas and for a time, Reinprecht was Florida's leading scorer. Even though he ended with a respectable 16 goals and 22 assists, he had just nine points through the final 41 games.
With Santorelli and Matthias looking strong in training camp, DeBoer switched Reinprecht from his natural position of center and put him on the fourth line as a winger. Reinprecht was a healthy scratch for Florida's first three games – after playing in all 82 last season.
Reinprecht has four goals and 10 points through 29 games this season – and hasn't scored in his past 14 games.
“Everyone here has had opportunity here to show what they could do,'' DeBoer said. “And for extended periods of time. You could either seize the opportunity and make something of it or you didn't. [Reinprecht] was good early last year, but over the last 40 or 50 games, there wasn't much production. The kids have just taken the jobs.''
-- The Panthers had a rough night in Friday's 3-2 overtime loss to the visiting Canadiens – especially on special teams. Florida's last-place power play went 0-for-6 on the power play – and got off just one shot during a 5-on-3 chance during the second.
Florida's power play, with one goal in the past 19 chances, wasn't alone. Both of Montreal's goals in the second period came off power play chances.
-- DeBoer says Florida's 2-0 lead in Friday's game was a bit of a mirage. Florida got goals from Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov early in the second period before the Canadiens tied it with two power play goals. The Canadiens won the game in overtime.
“I don't think we deserved a 2-0 lead,'' he said. “I thought our forwards were off. We got some fortunate bounces. We didn't have a lot of speed in our game. It was reflective in the game.''
One silver lining from Friday? “If we were off like that earlier in the year, we would have lost. We at least got a point. I don't know if that was just because of [goalie Tomas] Vokoun or what, but it's a step in the right direction.''
-- Vokoun has made 45 saves in each of his past two starts. He won 4-3 in Buffalo on Dec. 23 after stopping 45, but lost to Montreal on Friday with the same amount of saves.
SUNDAY: RANGERS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 5 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WKIS-99.9 FM
The series: Rangers lead 37-27-6
The game: The Blueshirts kicked off their New Year with a night game at Tampa Bay on Saturday night. The Rangers went into that game with wins in five of their past seven. The Rangers are 1-0 against the Panthers this season, winning the previous meeting in Sunrise 3-0 on Nov. 26. The Rangers have won four of the past five games against the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers will have the same lineup used Friday against the Canadiens – meaning Tomas Vokoun gets his second straight start.