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Florida Panthers on the Hudson: Offense in Big-Time Funk ... Tomas Vokoun, Chris Higgins Back for Rangers ... Dmitry Kulikov Still Out

VokounNYC NEW YORK -- With the Hudson River and the snow-lined banks of New Jersey serving as an unusually scenic backdrop, the Panthers held Monday's practice at the SkyRink at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.

The workout was intense, although attendance was limited. Just a handful of forwards and defensemen joined goalie Tomas Vokoun and assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas on the ice.

With so few forwards working out, Florida's stagnant offense wasn't addressed although Murphy ran his defensemen through some shooting drills.

Lauderdaletimessq At this point, the Panthers offense could use all the help it can get.

Florida's 126 goals are for 11th fewest in the Eastern Conference and only Edmonton (117) has fewer goals in the west.

Since losing 3-2 Boston on Dec. 27, the Panthers have struggled to score in most games. During those 14 games, the Panthers have been held to two goals or fewer eight times – losing each time. During Florida's current four-game losing streak, it hasn't scored more than twice in a single game.

Dating back to Dec. 1, Florida has been held to two goals or less 12 times, winning just once -- and that was a shootout win in which the team actually only scored one goal. The Panthers have scored three or more in 13 games since Dec. 1, winning 10.

Goldielaurer “We just have to find a way to put the puck in the net. We're getting a ton of chances,'' center Stephen Weiss said. “We're not finishing things off. We'll just keep going at it and hopefully we'll get one and it snowballs and we'll get a bunch on this trip, get some points.''

The offense will get a boost Tuesday when winger Chris Higgins returns after missing eight games with a hamstring injury. Higgins, who practiced Monday, said he's “good to go” and will play against his former teammates. Higgins played for the Rangers last season before being traded to Calgary in the Olli Jokinen deal.

Higgins, who scored five goals with six assists in the seven games before getting hurt, will definitely be welcomed. So, too, would some production out of Florida's other forwards.

Weiss leads the team in scoring with 13 goals and 20 assists, his 33 points ranking him tied for 69th in the league. David Booth was heating up a bit, scoring three goals in a four-game span from Jan. 7-13 but has just one since.

PanthersNYC The Panthers would really like to see more from Michael Frolik as the streaky third-year winger hasn't scored since Dec. 17 – a span of 17 straight games – and hasn't recorded a single point in his past nine. Mike Santorelli, who has been a nice surprise with 12 goals so far, has scored twice in his past 13.

“We have to finish our opportunities,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We're just not finishing. Guys like Frolik and Santorelli were hot early and have gone cold here. It's hard to explain. There are a lot of streaky scorers in hockey. We sat Frolik when his chances diminished, but as long as he's getting chances, I can live with that because he'll put a few in soon.''

-- Vokoun, who missed Sunday's game after suffering a muscle pull Friday against Tampa Bay, said he would likely dress Tuesday. DeBoer said Scott Clemmensen could play depending on how Vokoun felt Tuesday morning. With Florida playing at Boston on Wednesday, both goalies are expected to play in the coming days anyway.

“I felt pretty good so I think I'll be able to play,'' Vokoun said.

With Vokoun ready to go, rookie Jacob Markstrom was returned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Markstrom, 20, made his NHL debut Sunday at New Jersey.

-- Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (rib cage) practiced Monday and said he felt better but probably not good enough to play Tuesday.

-- Defensemen Joe Callahan and Clay Wilson were in the Panthers lineup for the second straight game on Sunday as DeBoer continued to go with seven defensemen because of Jason Garrison's bothersome groin injury.

Callahan was called up for the second time this season on Thursday after playing in two games for the Panthers in November. Wilson, recalled on Friday, made his 2010-11 NHL debut Friday against the Lightning. He played in two games in 2009-10.

Wilson was sent back to Rochester on Monday after DeBoer determined Garrison would be able to play the next two games leading into the All-Star break.

With the recent loss of Bryan McCabe (broken jaw) and Kulikov, the Panthers lost 1,223 games worth of NHL experience on defense -- McCabe owns 1,111 of those games -- and replaced it with the 84 of Callahan, Wilson and Keaton Ellerby.

“We have a young defense to begin with,'' DeBoer said last week. “It's nothing we haven't dealt with all year. The guys we're bringing in can all play. When you're in the middle of a season and have played as many games as we have, it's nice to have a shot of energy.''

When, Where: 7 p.m.; Madison Square Garden, New York
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Rangers lead 37-28-6
The game: This is Florida's first visit to the Garden this season but this is the third meeting with the Rangers. The Panthers went 1-1 against New York in Sunrise, winning 3-0 on Jan. 2 and losing 3-0 on Nov. 27. .-.-. The Rangers are a banged up bunch but have held things together and are 6-5-1 this month. The Rangers were missing seven regular forwards on Saturday Torts but still beat the Thrashers 3-2 in a shootout. Notables out include Ryan Callahan (broken hand), Erik Christensen (knee), Brandon Dubinsky (leg), Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder) and Alex Frolov (knee).


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skated many a session there in my younger days!!
the pix is great thx... What happened to PD? why isnt he there and why is this an optional skate during a 4 game losing streak?


THIS ORGANIZATION IS BLINDED BY STUPIDITY. I'm surprised they still can generate revenue after failing for an entire decade. Yormark and Cohen both didn't have any problem pocketing that money since you never see them giving it to a respectable player. Wait oh wait, they gave Olesz 6 year worth more than 15 million. THAT'S SAD!

I guess Hutton was a no show like the power play and where is Tallas

For all that were knocking Markstrom in the previous thread, yes, he did get off to a horrible start. But recently, he's been playing a lot better. He's one of the brighter spots on an otherwise putrid team. I think the fact that Tallas has only been here once, shows the Panthers don't have a clue on how to really develop players.

Thankfully, this affiliation comes to an end soon.

Mike Keenan = worst GM in Panther history
Jacques Martin = 2nd worst GM in Panther history


What we have now.

Say what you will about Tallon, but he has a Cup under his belt as a GM. In Tallon I trust, but it's going to take time, folks. You can yell and whine on every posting of GR's, but it's not going to change the fact that this is a fundamentally flawed team. We need talent, and a good amount of it too. Defensively, we've got something to work with. Goaltending is good enough, even if we have to sign a goalie for 1 year next year. Offensively, we stink due to a complete lack of talent. This can be fixed.

Tallon was the star at the draft last year infusing the organization with talent that can be developed over the next couple years. With the contracts coming off the books this year, he can hopefully sign some better forwards to help bring along the forwards. I really wouldn't be surprised to see guys like Weiss or Booth traded. I think Weiss could be your ideal #2 center, but he's also probably the most valuable player in a trade due to his good contract and production relative to it. Booth is just too streaky. Is that due to lack of talent around him or just him MO? Not sure b/c he's never played on a true #1 line; same for Weiss for that matter.

Hence why I say the team is flawed. If Tallon can manage to get that true #1 center and maybe 1 more scoring forward who isn't afraid to finish, then maybe we can compete next year with our defense/PK playing very well and keeping us in virtually every game (minus NJ the other night).

Fixing the offensive problems is easier said than done, especially with a team like this - who would want to sign here with 10 years of losing and missing the playoffs? 2 years ago we should have made the playoffs and that stupid tie-breaker rule with MTL was the only thing keeping us from that. I see a much more competitive team that is fighting for DeBoer. I like what I see from that standpoint, they just don't have the guys to consistently score more than 2 goals and win more than they lose.

Call me crazy, but I don't see us as being THAT far. Then again, we are in the SE where it seems everyone else has a more talented team than us and continually improves. Even with that, we held Tampa to 1 goal in that OT loss, beat Washington, and held Atlanta in check too. Hell I think we could make the playoffs this year if Tallon had any talent to pull a trade off which would bring in a scorer or two. Sigh.

I just wish the team would go in one or the other direction. Either tank and get us Couturier or get us someone to take us up 1 more notch offensively to respectability.

Why do they stick with the same guys on the Power Play when they have proven conclusively that they cannot score on the Power Play? Hello, McFly!!

When does a player that is in a prolonged scoring slump finally become recognized as actually being a defensive player?

Continuing to give ice time to players in prolonged scoring slumps in the hopes that they will wake up because, after all, they are getting scoring chances, is like holding a stock as it continues to drop because, after all, it was a good stock at one time, which is the surest way to lose your entire investment.

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