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54 posts from March 2011

March 22, 2011

A New Panthers Goalie: Adam Reasoner Goes from Wall Street to MSG to help Florida Panthers

IMG_1255 BY GEORGE RICHARDS

NEW YORK -- The Florida Panthers had but one goalie on the ice for half of Tuesday's morning skate at Madison Square Garden.

That's because the replacement for Scott Clemmensen was racing uptown in a taxi.

Adam Reasoner, a 26-year-old bond trader who played at Boston College, came to the rescue, skating onto the famed ice on the fifth floor of the World's Most Famous Arena. "I knew a couple shortcuts [the cab driver] wasn't taking,'' Adam joked about his hurried ride from downtown Manhattan. “He was getting smacked in the back of the head a little bit."

If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Adam Reasoner is the younger brother of Panthers center Marty Reasoner. When Marty saw that Florida would only have one goalie out on the practice ice, he went to the team and told them he knew someone who could fill in.

Adam Reasoner was working his day job on Wall Street when he saw a missed call from his older brother and then a text message asking if he was willing to meet the team.

“It was a pretty impressive turnaround,'' Marty said. “He was here in, like, half-an-hour. It's fun. It's exciting to get him out here. I'm almost eight years older  IMG_1252 than he is, so I never really got a chance to play or skate together. This was a pretty cool experience."

Clemmensen decided he couldn't practice after tweaking a knee during Saturday's loss to the Islanders. Florida called up Tyler Plante from AHL Rochester, but he couldn't make it in from Cleveland in time for the skate leaving just Tomas Vokoun on the ice for the Panthers.

Midway through the morning skate, Adam Reasoner walked out from the tunnel wearing a black Panthers practice jersey over his Boston College themed gear – complete with the screaming eagle on his custom painted mask.

In the visitors locker room, Adam Reasoner's dress socks and shoes were strewn on the middle of the floor. The guy was obviously in a hurry to get out there.

“It was pretty cool being able to skate with these guys,'' said Adam, who drew praise from coach Pete DeBoer for his quick moves during practice. “I'm going to be here tonight watching them, so that was an excellent opportunity. I can't thank the Panthers and Marty enough. It was a real pleasure.''

Adam Reasoner spent two seasons playing at Boston College, playing in one game. He says he stays in shape playing with other financial folk in a Wednesday night game at Chelsea Pier. That's a little different than taking on the likes of Marty Reasoner, David Booth and Evgeny Dadonov during shootout drills at the end of practice.

IMG_1256 “We have beer in the locker room after our games,'' Adam laughed, moments before asking rookie Keaton Ellerby if he could grab a Gatorade out of the giant bucket sitting in the middle of the dressing room.

“Grab all you want,'' Ellerby said. “You did great out there today.''

Said DeBoer: “Marty is a good pro and a good guy. He saw a chance to get his brother out here to help us and to skate at Madison Square Garden and jumped on it. He seized that opportunity.''

Never one to miss out on a good joke, DeBoer continued with some praise for Adam Reasoner's play – while taking a shot at his offensively challenged team.

“The scary part is, [Adam] looked good. I don't know if that's because of our shooters or because he's good. It might just be the guys shooting on him.''

-- DeBoer on Clemmensen's injury: “It's just a little tweak, nothing serious. He just doesn't feel comfortable on it right now.''

-- On Tyler Plante playing Wednesday in Chicago: “I'm trying to get through tonight. We're trying to win every game here. If Vokoun is healthy and feels good, he'll be back in there.''

-- Forward Jack Skille will be in tonight after suffering a high ankle sprain a few weeks ago in Ottawa. Shawn Matthias looked good out there today and could play as well.

The Panthers will be without center Stephen Weiss after DeBoer said he suffered some sort of leg injury. DeBoer said it was not a knee injury. Weiss is on the trip and looked to be in good spirits. When I asked him if he was day-to-day, he said that about summed it up.

OnFrozenFilm: Adam Reasoner Goes from Wall Street to Madison Square Garden, Fills in for Florida Panthers

March 20, 2011

On the Road, Again ... Ryan Carter=The Man ... Sulzer Back, Wilson Down

NOTEBOOK

It wasn't long after the Panthers concluded their longest homestand of the season on Saturday when they were asked about their upcoming road trip.

“We've been home for two weeks,'' coach Pete DeBoer said, “we're ready to hit the road.''

Things won't come easy for the Panthers as they embark on the final big road trip of the season. The Panthers will leave following practice Monday in Coral Springs and won't return until the wee hours of March 30.

The Panthers will visit a number of teams fighting for playoff position starting Tuesday against the New York Rangers. The road trip will take the Panthers from Broadway to Chicago, back east to Buffalo, through Pittsburgh and conclude in Columbus, Ohio.

For a team that's still trying to get to know one another, being away from home can help bring a group closer together.

“Going on the road with this team is going to be different and I'm looking forward to it. It's good,'' said winger Niclas Bergfors, one of a number of new players Florida has in its lineup since the Feb. 28 trading deadline. “We're working hard, we're getting some chances. We're getting better at telling who the guy next to you is. Every game is tight right now. You have to really pay attention to detail.''

Since the deadline, the Panthers have mostly been at home. Teams bond on the road as instead of heading home after practices in South Florida, the Panthers will be stuck with one another. They'll see each other at breakfast, on the bus, at the rink, back on the bus, at lunch ... just about everywhere.

Even though the Panthers have just 10 games left, center Stephen Weiss figures a lot of the guys on this current team could be back next season. Getting that cohesiveness now will help come training camp in September.

“There were a lot of changes made and it's pretty much a whole new group in here,'' Weiss said. “That's tough at this time of the year. I think we've done a pretty nice job with our systems and picking that stuff quickly. .-.-. We want to play hard and play the right way, get some wins and get some confidence going into the offseason. We have new guys on the team, guys fighting for spots next year. These next 10 games are important to us.''

CARTER MAKING IMPRESSION

When Ryan Carter was traded to the Panthers a few days before the trade deadline, Carolina Hurricanes fans bemoaned the loss. “The Panthers are going to love that guy,'' one wrote on a Florida message board.

So far, that's been true.

Carter missed a few games after the trade because of an oblique injury suffered while still with the Hurricanes, but since making his Florida debut on March 12, he's definitely been noticed.

In his first game last week, Carter scored a goal. Then, against the Flyers, Carter was credited with six hits. Against Toronto on Thursday, Carter walloped Mikhail Grabovski then hopped to his skates and fought Keith Aulie.

“I've been around long enough to know that [Toronto GM] Brian Burke teams are going to come after you after a solid hit on one of their skill guys,'' Carter said. “I knew [the fight] was coming. I even started laughing at one point because all I wanted to know was who it was going to be. I knew it was coming. That's OK. That's the way we should play here too. Someone takes a run at our guy, the other team should know we're coming after them.''

Carter led the Panthers, once again, with six hits in Saturday's shootout loss to the Islanders.

“It's a part of the game, a part of the game that I embrace,'' Carter said of his rough-and-tumble style. “You want teams to come in here relaxed, ready to go fishing and hit the beach. Then you hit them in the jaw. That could be an advantage for us.''

Said teammate Dmitry Kulikov: “That guy loves hitting people. It really is fun to watch. He goes to the net, hits guys.''

-- Alexander Sulzer is back for the Panthers on Tuesday vs. the Rangers. Clay Wilson sent to Rochester.

On the Road, Again ... Ryan Carter=The Man ... Sulzer Back, Wilson Down

March 19, 2011

Welcome Back: Rick DiPietro Gets Win in First Game Back as Islanders Win 4-3 in SO ... Evgeny Dadonov Gets Two in Return

ISLANDERS 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)

An old problem came back to haunt the Panthers on Saturday night. Florida came into the third period holding a lead on the visiting Islanders only to watch New York score two quick goals to take the lead.

Stephen Weiss' goal with almost seven minutes left tied it to force overtime, yet the Panthers ended their season-long seven-game home stretch with a loss as the Islanders scored twice in the shootout to win 4-3 at BankAtlantic Center.

The Islanders had lost six straight road games prior to Saturday's win.

“It was disappointing, going into the third with a 2-1 lead and then give up four shots and lose the game,'' coach Pete DeBoer said afterward. “I thought we deserved better but give the Islanders credit. They're opportunistic and don't need many chances around the net to score. We had chances, but you need to have the killer instinct to make it 3-1 at some point. .-.-. We've struggled through that all year. You let teams hang around and bad things happen.''

Florida trailed 1-0 in the second period after the two teams played through a scoreless first. Evgeny Dadonov, in the lineup for the first time in 20 games, made a triumphant return as he scored twice in the period to give the Panthers that 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Dadonov, out since Feb. 2 with a broken finger, had been struggling before being hurt. Dadonov went eight games without registering a single point. He had been strong before, however, scoring four goals with seven assists in his first 17 games with the team.

He looked strong on Saturday, saying he was excited to get back on the ice although the long time off took its toll.

“I scored two goals, yes, but I wasn't as lucky defensively,'' said Dadonov, who was on the ice for all three of New York's goals. “It's pretty hard to come back after missing 20 games. I'm going to try and get better. It's hard to get back in game situation. I knew what I had to do but I couldn't. My brain knew what to do.''

Dadonov's first goal was set up by a nice pass from defenseman Clay Wilson as he poked the puck past goalie Rick DiPietro – who coincidentally was playing in his first game since being hurt on the same night Dadonov was. Dadonov's second goal came on a nifty wrist shot as he slid from the right circle into the slot.

After that, however, the Panthers didn't get much going against DiPietro.

“It's disappointing to not get the win,'' said Weiss, who beat DiPietro with a long slap shot from beyond the left circle.

The Panthers had two prime chances to win the game. Soon after Weiss' goal, Dadonov found Mike Santorelli in front of the net with DiPietro out of position. In overtime, David Booth was pulled down by Andrew McDonald with 28.9 seconds left. Booth was awarded a penalty shot but was stopped on a kick save by DiPietro.

DiPietro made 29 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped Santorelli and Sergei Samsonov in the shootout. Scott Clemmensen, starting after shutting out the Maple Leafs on Thursday, gave up goals to P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen in the shootout. Parenteau scored the game-tying goal on Clemmensen at 7:09 of the third.

DISPUTED REPORT

Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said a report in Friday's Miami Herald that Santorelli had been offered a two-year contract “is not true,'' adding that the team is in conversations with Santorelli's agent.

Panthers president Michael Yormark told a group of season ticket holders on Tuesday that there was a two-year deal “on the table” to Santorelli and that the team was just waiting to have him sign it.

Santos said he would like to get something done with Santorelli “quickly.'' Santorelli, who has 18 goals this season, is a restricted free agent meaning the Panthers would not lose him to free agency unless they wanted to. Santorelli says he wants to remain with the organization.

-- DeBoer said injured players Alexander Sulzer (oblique), Jack Skille (ankle) and Shawn Matthias (ankle) would all be going on Florida's five-game road trip that kicks off Tuesday in Madison Square Garden. All three are expected to return to the lineup sometime this week.

-- The Panthers signed junior player Jonathan Hazen to a three-year entry level contract on Friday. Hazen, 20, has 39 goals and 41 assists in 61 games for his junior team in Quebec. Hazen, who was an undrafted free agent, has 224 points in 241 games played during his junior career and is expected to start next season with Florida's AHL team – although he will have a shot to make the team out of training camp.

Santos said if there were games left after Hazen's junior season ends, he could play a few games with Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., this season.


March 18, 2011

Mike Santorelli Feeling Right at Home with Panthers

Santtorelli PANTHERS NOTEBOOK

Mike Santorelli doesn't have to worry about where he's going to play next season.

On Tuesday, Panthers president Michael Yormark told a group of season ticket holders that the team has offered Santorelli a two-year contract.

That kind of job security isn't something Santorelli is used to. A member of the Predators organization the previous three years, Santorelli bounced from Nashville to its minor league team in Milwaukee.

“I'm so happy here. I'm just grateful to have this opportunity,'' Santorelli said. “I've learned so much this year as a player. My mindset is that I just want to keep getting better every day. But there's no doubt I want to be here. I love it here.''

Although Santorelli says he is happy to be wanted by the Panthers, he's not worried about contracts right now. He just wants to get his game back to where it was earlier in the season.

“My main concern right now is getting things back to where they were,'' Santorelli said Wednesday morning, a day before scoring his first goal in almost a month Thursday against the Maple Leafs. “My agent deals with all the other stuff. If it gets done now great.''

When the Panthers acquired Santorelli in a trade with Nashville last summer, it wasn't a headline move. Santorelli was looked upon as a depth acquisition, with the 25-year-old having an outside chance at making the opening night roster.

Santorelli impressed in training camp, perhaps fueled by the knowledge former Nashville assistant general manager Mike Santos was now with the Panthers and had initiated trade talks with the Predators in the first place. Santos and coach Pete DeBoer told Santorelli he had a good chance to make the team if he did the right things and gave it everything he had.

The work paid off. Santorelli was at one point leading the Panthers in scoring and in goals, and his 18 goals this season have shown that he can be a scorer in the NHL.

Things haven't been going all that well for Santorelli lately. Before scoring against the Leafs on Thursday, Santorelli had gone 11 straight games without a goal, his previous score coming Feb. 21 against the Islanders.

“It feels good to get one,'' he said afterward.

Some wonder whether the rigors of playing a full NHL schedule – against bona fide NHL competition – wore on Santorelli as the season wore on. Sure, Santorelli is used to playing a 80-plus game schedule, but with more responsibility on the defensive end against better players, it's possible Santorelli is going through an adjustment period.

Michael Grabner, the winger Florida waived during training camp to create a roster spot for Santorelli, seems to have gone through the same thing a few weeks ago. Grabner, the NHL's rookie of the month after scoring 10 goals with six assists in 14 games in February, went eight games without scoring. Grabner has three goals in his past six games heading into the Islanders game in Carolina on Friday. The Islanders visit Sunrise on Saturday night.

“I'm definitely in a slump and I want to pull through it. The only way you can do that is through hard work,'' Santorelli said. “I've been trying to work harder. Hopefully things work out. Everyone goes through this. The important part is how you come out of it. I want to come out strong.''

BIG WIN

Santorelli's goal on Thursday gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead on Toronto going into the second intermission. That gave the Panthers some rare breathing room.

Florida's 4-0 win against Toronto was its biggest margin of victory since beating the Rangers 3-0 on Jan. 2 as 19 of Florida's previous 22 games had been decided by a goal. The Panthers have played in 44 one-goal games this season, more than any team in the league and three shy of the franchise record (2007-08). Florida hadn't beaten a team by more than a goal since the Rangers win.

“I'm glad it wasn't a one-goal game, that's for sure,'' DeBoer said. “These kids are competing hard. It's not always pretty and we don't win them all, but we've been in every game since the trade deadline with a lot of guys who haven't played in a lot of NHL games. It's pure work ethic and attention to detail. And there will be some games down the stretch where we look pretty bad, where our energy is off and it catches up to us.''

-- The Panthers are quickly getting healthier as DeBoer said that injured winger Evgeny Dadonov would play Saturday against the Islanders. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (oblique) will be a game-time decision. To make room for Dadonov, Mike Duco was sent back to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., after he played in two games – and got into two fights.

SATURDAY: ISLANDERS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Panthers lead 36-29-8
The game: The Panthers are playing the final game of what has been a fairly successful seven-game homestand. Florida has wins over Chicago, Tampa Bay and Toronto, lost in overtime to the Capitals and lost in regulation to Ottawa and Philadelphia. The Islanders, who beat the Panthers 5-1 on Feb. 21 to help kickstart the Panthers sell-off at the trade deadline, had lost two straight going into Carolina on Friday night.

March 17, 2011

Florida Panthers Squash Toronto Playoff Talk for a Night, Beat Leafs 4-0

PANTHERS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 0

After winning at Carolina on Wednesday night, the Maple Leafs playoff chase was back on. Toronto, left for dead not too long ago, had pulled to within four points of a playoff spot with that victory.

Naturally, the Leafs had figured to cut their deficit in half with a win over the slumping Panthers on Thursday night. As has been the case with the Panthers over the years, things don't always come that easy for Toronto.

The Panthers, who gave up on the playoffs long ago, scored three goals in the second period on backup goalie J-S Giguere and sent the Maple Leafs on their way with a 4-0 loss in front of an announced 16,970 at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida has now won five of six on home ice against Toronto.

“I got a bunch of text messages from my friends before the game,'' said Stephen Weiss, whose goal in the second gave Florida a 2-0 lead on his hometown team. “They told me to have some beers, just relax before the game. I'm glad they don't have this to celebrate.''

If the Panthers haven't fully accepted their role as spoiler of late, they sure don't look like it. Through the first six games of this season-long seven game home stretch, the Panthers have beaten two playoff-bound teams in Tampa Bay and Chicago, lost in overtime to Washington and may have seriously hampered Toronto's chances at making it.

Toronto looked like the more desperate of the two teams in the opening period, getting a number of chances against Scott Clemmensen but failing to connect. Florida wasn't sitting back, either, with Michal Frolik getting a good scoring chance late in the period.

Florida flew through the second, getting two power play goals after Sergei Samsonov tipped in a long shot from Jason Garrison just 49 seconds into the period.

Samsonov, who wasn't originally credited with the goal, now has two goals since joining the Panthers at the start of the month after being acquired in the Bryan Allen deal with the Hurricanes. Samsonov had two assists in Tuesday's loss to the Flyers and has seven points since joining the team.

“We scored a couple on the power play and that helps,'' Samsonov said. “This has to be motivation for us. We're held to a higher standard playing teams trying to make the playoffs. Those are good tests for us and we've been up for it.''

Leading 1-0, the Panthers added to their lead later in the period, with Stephen Weiss scoring against his hometown team on a power play chance at 5:11. Weiss rolled down the right side of the ice and fired a shot from the right circle with Steve Bernier all but completely blocking Giguere's view.

Weiss, who was rumored to be possibly traded to the Maple Leafs at the deadline, hit the 20-goal plateau for the third time in his career – all coming in the past five seasons.

Florida made it 3-0 midway through the period when Mike Santorelli broke out of his slump by scoring on another power play. Samsonov got an assist on the goal.

The Panthers were on the power play after Toronto's Dion Phaneuf hit David Booth with his knee along the boards by the Leafs bench. Booth slumped to the ice and limped into the locker room only to return later in the period.

Florida hadn't scored multiple power play goals in 12 games – and hadn't scored a single such goal in its previous five. Of course, the Panthers power play usually seems to wake up against the Leafs as Florida has two power play goals in each of its past three games against Toronto. The Panthers killed off a Toronto power play chance late in the third, with Toronto sending two extra attackers on the ice as  Giguere was pulled.

Giguere stayed on the bench as the penalty expired, with Ellerby coming out of the box, getting the puck and sliding it into the empty net for Florida's fourth goal with 3:24 remaining.

Clemmensen played in place of Tomas Vokoun as it appears coach Pete DeBoer is going to rotate the two through the rest of the season. Clemmensen made 24 saves as he picked up his sixth career shutout and first this season.

“It was nice, it was good for the guys,'' DeBoer said. “In Toronto's defense, we got them on a back-to-back after an emotional game in Carolina. We did our job, jumped on them and took advantage.''

'NOT GOOD ENOUGH'

It's easy to see why DeBoer might be a little jealous as he watches the Maple Leafs stay in playoff contention while his team has faded from such thought.

Not too long ago, the Panthers had a sizable lead on Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. After Thursday, Florida sits five points back of the Maple Leafs.

“They made some changes, some guys got healthy and they've gotten some goaltending and have gone on a run,'' DeBoer said before the game. “They tweaked their lineup and it had a positive effect. We were right in that pack this year and last year. We fell out for different reasons. .-.-. At the end of the day, you're just not good enough. That's the bottom line.''

-- The Panthers should be getting some of their players back in the coming games as Jack Skille (ankle), Shawn Matthias (ankle), Evgeny Dadonov (finger) and Alexander Sulzer (oblique) have been working out and getting back into game shape. Dadonov and Sulzer could return for Saturday's game against the Islanders.

-- Defenseman Evan Oberg, who came to the Panthers in the Chris Higgins deal with Vancouver on Feb. 28, will not play again this season after suffering a serious neck injury while playing for Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

"There are still more doctor visits but we're hoping it's not going to require surgery," Rochester coach Chuck Weber told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

-- DeBoer admitted that he hasn't followed the college basketball game too closely this season, but said he was picking Ohio State to win the NCAA men's tournament. The Buckeyes haven't won a national title since 1960.





Florida Panthers Foundation Presents: 'Puck of the Irish'

Feeling lucky Panther fan? The Panthers Foundation will be selling special green-and-orange pucks at tonight's Maple Leafs game to celebrate Miami's win over FAU in the NIT opener last night.

OK, that's not the reason.

The special St. Paddy's Day pucks cost $25 and each one is autographed by a Panthers player.

The money goes to a good cause and the pucks look cool. They can be purchased on the main level near Pantherland.

Good luck to ya!


Florida Panthers Foundation Presents: 'Puck of the Irish'

March 16, 2011

Twitter for a Cause: Follow Stu, Help Japan Relief Efforts

Panthers partner Stu Siegel has come up with a great idea: For every new Twitter follower he gets, he's donating $20 to the Red Cross' Japan Fund.

Dude is putting up $5,000 -- although I'm sure he'll add more if he gets more followers. He's good like that.

All you have to do is go to twitter.com/StuSiegel and click follow.

I'm about to un-follow him just so I can follow him all over again!

It's a nice thought and a strong effort. Well played Mauer....

Pete DeBoer: I Want to Return to the Florida Panthers Next Season

Deboer (2) I spoke at length with Florida Panthers coach Pete DeBoer after Wednesday's practice in Coral Springs.

He says he would like to come back next season although he doesn't know what's going to happen one way or another.

Pete admits he was in a bad place around the time of the trade deadline but says he is totally past that and is more than willing to work with the kids and get them ready for the future.

Below is the story I filed for The Miami Herald. If you want to read the full interview with DeBoer, it's under the Maple Leafs game box at the bottom of this post.

I've spoken to people within the organization who feel a change is needed; others would like to see what Pete can do with a real lineup. Obviously, this is up to Dale Tallon. He's going to make whatever move he feels is right.

Pete has another year left on his contract and wants to come back. The way I figure it, the guy has given this franchise his best and this franchise has not done the same over the course of the past three seasons.

Brighter days are coming and Pete has done enough seeing that through.

The Panthers problems are not Pete DeBoer. This guy is getting blood from rocks, taking lemons and making lemonade, creating chicken salad from ... well, you get the gist. I'm out of cliches anyway.

Enjoy your night...

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Pete DeBoer doesn't know if he'll be back coaching the Panthers next season.

If he is not retained, DeBoer said he has no regrets on the job he has done.

“I don't worry about next year. I sleep easy at night. I know how hard we have worked as a staff,'' DeBoer said Wednesday morning. “I think our team plays with structure and plays hard every night. They have all year. If that's not good enough, that's for other people to decide.''
 
Jacquespete DeBoer, in the third season of a four-year contract signed in 2008, said he has not been told whether he will return for the 2011-12 season. Sources within the organization say changes could be made, although team officials – such as general manager Dale Tallon and team president Michael Yormark –  only say DeBoer and his coaching staff will be “evaluated” at the end of the season.

DeBoer says he and Tallon talk often and have a good relationship. What they don't converse about is DeBoer's future. The Panthers, who will miss the playoffs for an NHL-record 10th straight season, have 12 games remaining and have been in a league-high 44 one-goal games.

“Other people will decide if the wins and losses were enough. I can only control what I control,'' DeBoer said. “I'm very comfortable that our team has been prepared, structured and played hard all year. If you judge things on wins and losses and if people think it's fair to judge this organization on that at this point, well, that's out of my control. I wouldn't expect anything less than being evaluated. I'm comfortable being evaluated.''

DeBoer was hired by then-general manager Jacques Martin just months after Martin was relieved of coaching duties. DeBoer was a hot commodity that summer, interviewing with the Senators and being linked to the vacant job in Los Angeles.

A highly-successful junior coach in Canada, DeBoer came to the Panthers with big plans – and his first team came within a tiebreaker of making it to playoffs. The 2008-09 Panthers tied Montreal for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but lost in a tiebreaker. Montreal won three of four against the Panthers that year.

Deboersign Since the near playoff miss, the Panthers organization has mostly been in flux. Martin abruptly resigned  in 2009 to coach the Canadiens as it became known the team was up for sale. Assistant general manager Randy Sexton took over for Martin, but because of the ownership issue, didn't have the financial support that offseason and was hampered in making improvements.

The Panthers have hovered near the bottom of the league standings the past two seasons as Sexton and Tallon ended up shipping off veterans mostly for draft picks and prospects. The lineup Florida will run out against Toronto on Thursday features seven players who have spent considerable time in the minor leagues over the past two seasons.

Martin recently echoed comments most scouts around the league have said about Deboerkids DeBoer's teams: “Truth is, I think Peter gets the most out of his guys, gets the most out of what he has.''

“I think he has done a great job. Just look at what we did in his first year with the team we had, the guys we had,'' said center Stephen Weiss, who played for DeBoer with the Plymouth, Mich., Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League from 1999-2001.

“He gets the most out of guys. He pushes you hard, but he's an easy coach to play for. At the end of the day, he wants you to do your best and give an honest effort. If all the guys do that, he's satisfied with the results we get.''

Tallon has over $30 million to spend this offseason just to get to the salary cap floor and retool the roster. DeBoer would like to be there for Florida's hoped-for renaissance.

“Sure I would like that opportunity. You can see the other side of this, you really can,'' he said. “We're coming out of this. We were in a ton of games this year, played the right way. There really is a foundation being set with the young guys we have. Absolutely you would like to be a part of it, but that decision will be made by other people. I really don't know what will happen. I have contract left and I would like to be back.''

TEAM TRAGEDY

Luke Williams, an amateur scout with the Panthers for the past eight years, died in a car accident late Tuesday night, the team announced. Williams, survived by his wife Lucy as well as children Sandy, Jeff and John, was 83. Williams had previously worked for the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lighting and for Canadian junior teams.

“Luke was a true professional and an exceptional human being,” Tallon said in a statement.

-- Goalie Jacob Markstrom underwent knee ligament surgery on Wednesday and will rehabilitate throughout the summer. The Panthers say Markstrom, 21, should be ready for training camp in September. Markstrom, Florida's goalie-of-the-future, spent his first North American professional season with the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

Markstrom hurt his knee in February and was brought to South Florida to be evaluated by team doctors. It was determined he wouldn't need surgery and was sent back to Rochester to rehab. Markstrom finished his first AHL season with 16 wins in 37 starts. Markstrom was the first pick of the second round in the 2008 draft in Ottawa.

Markstrom made his NHL debut on Jan. 23 when he replaced Scott Clemmensen to start the second period of a game in New Jersey. He gave up two goals on 14 shots and took the loss in a 5-2 decision to the Devils. Markstrom became the youngest goalie to make his debut with the Panthers.

Verne THURSDAY: MAPLE LEAFS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Toronto leads 29-19-7
The game: Toronto has won two of three against the Panthers this season, but lost 4-1 in Sunrise on Nov. 10 as Florida has won four of its past five against Toronto on home ice. .-.-. The Maple Leafs had a sliver of postseason hope left going into Wednesday's game at Carolina. Toronto had lost four of five going into its game against the Hurricanes.

PETE DeBOER: MARCH 16, 2011

How tough has the past few weeks and months been on you as a coach trying to compete in the NHL?

When you go through this two years in a row, it's tough. I like to teach. I went through a week to 10 day place where you're not in a good place because of the trade deadline.

Then you come out the other side and you're ready to work. That's where I am now. You start to teach again and you have to be the guy who drives the energy level. These guys here? They're happy to be here. They're excited to play. You have to foster that. I'm in a good place now.

How much has the future been weighing on your mind?

I don't worry about next year. I sleep easy at night. I know how hard we have worked as a staff. I think our team plays with structure and plays hard every night. They have all year. If that's not good enough, that's for other people to decide.

We always talk about how wins and losses define what you have accomplished. Is it fair, with the problems here, to judge you only on that?

Other people will decide if the wins and losses were enough. I can only control what I control. For me, I'm very comfortable that our team has been prepared, structured and played hard all year. If you judge things on wins and losses and if people think it's fair to judge this organization on that at this point, well, that's out of my control.

Dale Tallon, Mike Santos and Michael Yormark haven't said you're coming back or you're not. They say you'll be evaluated. Would you rather just know, yes or no?

That's the business. I wouldn't expect anything less than being evaluated. I'm comfortable being evaluated. Whatever decisions those guys make, they make. I learned a long time ago in this business you do the best job you can. I'll sleep easy regardless because of what we've done and how we've played.

Stephen Weiss always talks about seeing this thing through. You feel the same way?

Sure I would like that opportunity. You can see the other side of this, you really can. We're coming out of this. We were in a ton of games this year, played the right way. There really is a foundation being set with the young guys we have. Absolutely you would like to be a part of it, but that decision will be made by other people.

A gut feeling on what's going on?

I really don't know what will happen. I have contract left and I would like to be back. But that decision is out of my control. I'm proud of how this team has shown up all year long.

I don't have a feeling one way or another. I'm not even thinking about it. All I'm thinking about are these final games and getting these kids as ready as we can so they can compete every night. That's my focus right now.

Jacob Markstrom's Season Over, Has Knee Surgery

Looks like Markstrom needed knee surgery after all. From the Panthers:

Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that G Jacob Markstrom has undergone successful knee surgery and will be out for the remainder of the season.

He will be closely monitored throughout the off-season and a complete recovery is expected. Markstrom is expected to be in training camp with the Florida Panthers in September.

 

Florida Panthers Scout Luke Williams: 1927-2011

Williams The Panthers are mourning the loss of scout Luke Williams who was involved in a fatal car accident last night. Here is the release from the team:

The Florida Panthers organization is saddened to announce the passing of amateur scout Luke Williams.  Williams, who served as a Panthers scout for the last eight seasons, was involved in a fatal car accident late last night. He is survived by his wife Lucy and three children Sandy, Jeff and John.
 
“Luke was a true professional and an exceptional human being,” said Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Panthers organization and our fans are with his family during this difficult time.”

Williams also worked in the National Hockey League for the NY Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning. In addition, he served as the head scout for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), while also working for Belleville (OHL) and London (OHL).

“Luke was the senior member of the scouting fraternity,” said Panthers Director of Scouting Scott Luce. “He was well liked and respected by all involved with our game.  He was a mentor and good friend to our entire staff and we will miss him greatly.”
 
Fans are encouraged to check back to FloridaPanthers.com for information on how to make a donation in Luke’s memory.

March 15, 2011

Mike Duco: I've Earned this Chance ... Injury Updates ... Pete DeBoer Likes those Buckeyes

Winger Mike Duco hopes to have a longer look with the Panthers than some others have had of late – and feels he deserves it.

Duco, who leads Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., with 18 goals this season, was recalled on Monday and made his season debut on Tuesday. Duco, coached by Pete DeBoer in the Canadian juniors, brought plenty of energy as fought Flyers tough Dan Carcillo during the second period.

The Panthers sent down Tim Kennedy (after two games with the Panthers) and Bill Thomas (after a handful) on Sunday, choosing to bring up Duco and veteran Patrick Rissmiller on Monday.

“I’m a big fan,” DeBoer said of Duco. “He does bring energy. When he’s on the ice, he’s skating, he's running around and he's chirping at people. He’s involved in the play. I don’t think we've gotten that from our depth players lately.''

DeBoer compared Duco to Rangers pest Sean Avery, saying that if Duco had a few more inches on him, he wouldn't be relegated to bubble status. “He'd be making millions,'' DeBoer said of the 5-foot-10 winger.

Duco, who didn't register a point in 10 games with the Panthers last season, says he's been hearing about his lack of size his whole career.

“I just have to go out there and play the way I can,'' the 23-year-old said. “I'm not shy, not going to back down from anyone.''

-- Defenseman Alexander Sulzer, out since being hurt March 5 in Atlanta, skated before Tuesday's game but didn't play. Winger Evgeny Dadonov (finger) could be back for one of Florida's final two games in this homestand.

-- DeBoer admitted that he doesn't get to follow the college hoops game as much as he might like, but DeBoer – who went to law school in the Detroit area -- still keeps tabs on teams from the midwest. For the third consecutive season, DeBoer picked a Big Ten team to win the NCAA basketball tournament: Ohio State.

-- Scott Timmins (concussion) has not been cleared to skate yet. He said he would work on the exercise bike Wednesday and Thursday and see where he is.

Panthers Can't Pull Upset Twice in a Week, Lose 3-2 to Flyers

FLYERS 3, PANTHERS 2

Last week, the defending Stanley Cup champions came to Fort Lauderdale for a days days of sun and fun, fell behind by three in the opening period and left South Florida with a loss.

The Panthers were hoping to pull the same trick on the reigning Eastern Conference champs. The Flyers obviously took note of what happened to the Blackhawks and decided not to let that happen to them.

Philadelphia did look a little hung over in the opening period Tuesday, yes, but woke up much sooner than the Blackhawks did and took care of business in a 3-2 victory over the Panthers in front of an announced 17,377 at BankAtlantic Center.

With the win, Philadelphia continued to control the top spot in the conference as it came into the night holding a one-point lead on the Capitals.

“I was proud of our effort,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “They could have easily rolled over considering what we have. They're not doing that. Give them kudos for that. No one likes that we're not winning, but you can't say they're not giving the effort. That's all a coach can ask.''

The Panthers looked to jump on the Flyers – who pulled into town Sunday afternoon -- as they did the Blackhawks just a week ago. Against Chicago, the Panthers took a 3-0 lead by the first intermission but watched Chicago gather steam and dominate play for the final minute. The Hawks couldn't completely solve goalie Tomas Vokoun, however, as Florida held on for dear life and won 3-2.

Things were a touch different on Tuesday.

The Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a Scott Hartnell goal 4:28 into the game, although the Panthers battled back and took the lead going into the first intermission off a pair of unanswered goals. Stephen Weiss tied the score when he broke loose and fired a shot from the left circle that beat Brian Boucher less than three minutes after Philadelphia took the initial lead. Florida made it 2-1 with 1:59 left in the period as Dmitry Kulikov scored.

The good times wouldn't last. Just as Chicago did, the Flyers came out moving the puck and taking advantage of Florida mistakes in the second. The Flyers outshot Florida 18-8 in the second (Florida didn't even take eight shots in the final two periods against Chicago) and took advantage of Florida turnovers as they took a 3-2 lead into the second break.

Philadelphia tied the score 4:43 into the second when Jeff Carter got his first of the night by firing a shot at Vokoun. The shot hit the goalie in the glove but Vokoun couldn't handle it and it found its way to the back of the net. Later on, Carter and Danny Briere broke loose off a Florida turnover in the Flyers zone and came up the ice, Brier threading a pass to Carter as he picked up his second goal of the night.

“Every mistake is big,'' winger Niclas Bergfors said. “They have great players and you can't make mistakes against them. They have five or six guys with 60 points. They can make plays.''

The Panthers had a good opportunity to tie the score midway through the third when James Van Riemsdyk clipped Marty Reasoner on the bridge of the nose with a high stick, getting four minutes as a result. But Kulikov was called for hooking a minute later cutting into the extended power play. The Panthers took seven shots at Boucher in the third but couldn't tie it.

“We had a good start and caught a bad break. We could have had a couple more,'' Reasoner said. “It seems like the same little mistakes keep coming back to bite us. They capitalize and that's what good teams do. That's the difference in this league. We didn't do what they did.''


March 13, 2011

Ryan Carter Makes Great First Impression ... Chris Higgins Back in Action with Canucks ... Panthers Send Two to Rochester

Lakeland Taking a couple of days off to watch some spring training baseball up in central Florida but here's Monday's Panthers notebook on Ryan Carter.

David J. Neal is covering the team tomorrow so if there's news, I'll try and post.

Play ball!

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK

After suffering an oblique injury on Feb. 10, Ryan Carter figured he was safe at the trading deadline because he wouldn't be able to play for a few weeks.

So, when the Carolina Hurricanes traded him to the Panthers in the Cory Stillman deal, Carter admits he was a little surprised. “It's the nature of the beast,'' he said. “You can be surprised, but after seeing all the other deals, you're never shocked.''

Carter took to the ice for the first time as a member of the Panthers on Saturday, a month after initially being hurt. Carter was a big hit, scoring Florida's second goal in a 4-3 overtime win over the Lightning. Carter also found time on the power play and penalty kill.

“It felt real good. Being traded and not being able to help out right away was tough,'' Carter said after the game. “I just want to play, compete. Scoring is a bonus for me and we won the game. Give credit to the guys from [goalie Scott] Clemmensen on out. It was a fun game.''

Carter didn't get much practice time with the Panthers being on the road soon after the trade, meaning its going to be a little tougher for him to acclimate himself with his new teammates. An affable enough guy, Carter is trying to blend in as best he can.

After spending parts of four seasons with Anaheim, Carter has now changed teams twice in a year.

“It was strange being traded when you are hurt,'' he said. “I came to a place I wanted to play but I felt like a fifth wheel, just hanging around. When you're injured, you have to get healthy. It was frustrating, but I'm excited to be here now. Getting to know the fellas is tough when you're not traveling, talking on the plane, hanging out. Being injured, your schedule is different and you aren't around all that much.''

The Panthers could definitely use the offensive help. Although Carter hasn't been much of a scorer over his career, he is a big body and can help bring a physical presence to one of the Panthers checking lines. As was the case in Carolina, Carter started off with the Panthers on the fourth line on Saturday.

“I liked him. You can see he's played in the NHL before,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “He's a big bodied guy who can help us out. He's physical on the boards. We don't have a real big lineup dressed right now, so he's a welcome addition.''

With the Panthers in try-out mode, Carter sees the final weeks of this season as a prime opportunity. Another restricted free agent, Carter could find himself offered a contract with Florida if they like what they see.

Carter doesn't have much time to make his mark, but with 13 games left, there is a window to work through. Carter replaced the injured Scott Timmins in the lineup on Saturday. Timmins suffered a mild concussion Thursday against Ottawa.

“The organization wants to win and they want guys who want to win,'' Carter said. “This is an opportunity to show you're the type of guy who will work hard and give everything no matter the situation. This is a tryout in some sense and we're all professionals. You should bring what you have every night. I don't know too many people who are handed an opportunity and says 'this sucks.' All opportunities are good.''

-- The Hurricanes weren't the only team to trade one of their injured forwards at the trade deadline. Florida sent Chris Higgins to Vancouver in one of the final trades of the day on Feb. 28 despite the winger breaking his thumb in a game Feb. 25 in Atlanta.

Higgins got back on the ice for the Canucks last Thursday at San Jose in a game dripping with playoff intensity.

“I didn't have a lot of games like this in Florida,” Higgins told reporters. “It's been a tough time. There were injuries and trades. I want to enjoy this. It's the best time of the year to play. I think I always knew what a great opportunity it was to play in the NHL. It's not a right. It's a privilege.”

-- With Florida off for two days, the team sent wingers Tim Kennedy and Bill Thomas back to its AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., so they could play on Sunday afternoon. The two are expected to be recalled by Tuesday's game against the Flyers.

March 12, 2011

Lightning Bugged: Panthers Take Out Bolts in OT (Again) as Garrison Nets Winner 4-3

PANTHERS 4, LIGHTNING 3 (OT)

If the Panthers were to play the Tampa Bay Lightning a few more times, this whole playoff drought thing might just be a distant memory.

Truth is, Florida would have to play its cross-state rivals a lot more.

Yet on Saturday night, the Panthers continued their winning ways against the Lightning, as Jason Garrison's goal with 16 seconds left in overtime lifted Florida to a 4-3 win in front of an announced 16,607 at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida had a 3-1 lead in the third before Tampa Bay picked up two power play goals to force overtime. Of the five games between the two, the past four have gone to overtime or a shootout.

“This year has been tough with the one-goal games and we've been on both sides of it,'' said Garrison, who has four goals this season – three of which were game-winners. “It's nice to get a win and we definitely worked hard and deserved it.''

Said coach Pete DeBoer: “There was more excitement than we wanted. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times, but the result was the right one. We played hard and deserved to win. It wasn't how we drew it up, but we'll take the two points.''

The Panthers clinched the season series against the Lightning, winning four of the first five meetings. Since the rivalry began in 1993, Florida has won the series nine times with four ties. Saturday's win was Florida's 53rd against Tampa Bay with 34 losses and 10 ties. The Panthers visit Tampa Bay in their final road game of the season in April.

And this year's losses couldn't come at a worse time for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay has lost control of the Southeast Division to the Capitals after losing six of seven. The Lightning lost to lowly Ottawa on Friday night before coming south to play the Panthers. Had it not been for Florida taking so many penalties, the Lightning may not have even scored.

Coming into the game, Florida had stopped 15 of Tampa Bay's 16 power play chances this season. On Saturday, the Lightning went three-for-eight on the power play as Florida's penalty kill surrendered three goals for the first time all season.

“We didn't play mistake-free hockey, but I'm just happy for the guys in this room,'' said goalie Scott Clemmensen, who gamely stopped 35 shots. “They've been playing really hard since the trade deadline and haven't necessarily been rewarded. We got the win, we just did it the hard way.''

Florida hopped to a 1-0 lead when David Booth scored early in the second, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos tying it on a power play chance 10 minutes later.

The Panthers looked to put the Lightning away when Niclas Bergfors and Ryan Carter each picked up their first goals as members of the Panthers – Carter's coming in his inaugural game with Florida. Bergfors' goal with 5:18 gone in the third made it 3-1, but the Lightning would get a few more power play chances.

Vinny Lecavalier took advantage of a 5-on-3 chance with 7:25 left to cut Florida's lead to one, and with Bergfors in the box for clipping Martin St. Louis with a high stick, Simon Gagne scored to tie the score with 2:05 remaining.

Overtime belonged to the Panthers, however, with the Panthers getting some big chances. Garrison's goal came on the fifth shot Mike Smith faced in the extra session.

“It was back-and-forth but were able to close it out,'' Bergfors said. “It was a good win for us. We took some bad penalties at the end, but we showed we were the better team [Saturday].''

SECRET WEAPON?

Defenseman Clay Wilson hasn't been much of a scoring threat during his NHL career, but he's turned it up of late. Wilson came into Tuesday's game against Chicago with just one NHL goal; after scoring in successive games, he now has three.

DeBoer says it's not strange to see Wilson scoring goals – well, at this level it is. Wilson has his share of goals at the AHL level, scoring 10 in 62 games with Florida's affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., this season. In his first pro season in 2005-06, Wilson scored 10 goals for Grand Rapids, Mich. He would later score 11 for Syracuse in 2007-08 and 14 for Rochester last year.

“We signed him as a depth guy in the organization but he's been a perennial All-Star in the American league,'' DeBoer said. “He's a guy who has made the jump for small stretches but just can't find a consistent job. With the injuries we have and the guys we moved out, this is a good opportunity for him. He's an offensive guy. He helps on the power play and is not afraid to push things offensively.''

Wilson was called up when defenseman Alexander Sulzer was injured last week and is trying to stick around. With Rochester's playoff hopes pretty much dead, there's really no reason for him to go back. On Thursday, his was the only goal scored in a loss to Ottawa.

“When you're down 2-0 with five minutes left, the defense has to jump in and look for any hole you can find,'' Wilson said. “I jumped in off the faceoff, got it to the net and luckily it went in.''

-- Winger Jack Skille tested his injured ankle in practice on Saturday and could be back in the lineup this month.


March 11, 2011

Scott Timmins has slight Concussion ... Hit on Purpose?

Timmins Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said that center Scott Timmins had a slight concussion after being knocked cold by Ottawa's Francis Lessard during Thursday's game.

Lessard was assessed a five-minute major for charging and ejected from the game.

Lessard caught Timmins flush in the face but was not suspended.

DeBoer said his first reaction to the hit was that it wasn't intentional. He appears to have changed his mind. And, DeBoer said, he didn't think the officials overreacted in penalizing Lessard off the heels of the much-publicized Zdeno Chara hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty.

“I looked at the player that delivered [the hit]. He’s out there for one purpose and that is to intimidate,'' DeBoer said. “If Marty Reasoner delivers the same hit, does he get five minutes? Probably not. I think the referees are smart enough to know that guy is on the ice for one reason. That’s to try to intimidate or hurt somebody.”

Mike Weaver is a Believer ... Pete DeBoer Practices with the Kids ... FAU Done at Nationals

Petekids Through all the doom and gloom that has been this Panthers season, defenseman Mike Weaver sees opportunity and hope.

Weaver said Friday that he anticipated the Panthers would go through some growing pains in the first year under general manager Dale Tallon.

“I knew what I was getting into when I signed,'' said Weaver, who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers over the summer. “Dale called me and said he had a blueprint to build this franchise. He asked me if I wanted to come along for the ride. I was all for it.''

Weaver said while he doesn't enjoy the losing that's going on right now, he agreed with Tallon's decision to sell off veterans at the trade deadline and help prepare the team for the future.

If the salary cap rises as expected next year, the Panthers could have in excess of $30 million to spend just to get to the league-mandated salary cap floor. The Panthers are going to be a very different looking team next season an that, Weaver says, is exciting.

“We're moving in the right direction and I'm really excited about next year,'' Weaver said. “Dale has a vision and you can see it in his face. He's confident and knows where this is going to lead. He's been there. How can this not be a great destination? It's a great place to play, we have great weather. Players have a choice in free agency but I don't think many know about the facilities we have. We have the structure here. We just need the personnel to reach his goal.''

Coach Pete DeBoer, who gave his players the day off on Friday, said it's good to have players like Weaver who keep things in perspective. Yet he understands the frustrations of Florida veterans such as Stephen Weiss and Tomas Vokoun who have been around the franchise for some time and have yet to play in the postseason as a member of the Panthers.

“You have a couple different groups of veterans here, the ones who have been here six or seven years and then you have the Mike Weavers,'' DeBoer said. “Weiss and Vokoun are having a hard time swallowing this, and you completely understand that. But at the same time, all of them come to the rink as pros and work hard. I haven't seen a change in their work or attitude. But when you're honest, they've been through this a long time.

“The general attitude has been good. It's an opportunity to learn, to earn jobs. We've been in so many close games, it just tells you we're just a couple of good players short of being right in the hunt.''

-- With only two players – injured wingers Ryan Carter and Evgeny Dadonov – on the ice Friday, DeBoer took advantage of the situation and worked out his two young sons.

Outfitted in their Junior Panthers practice jerseys, Jack and Matthew DeBoer – off for Spring Break -- worked on skating and shooting drills as their dad barked directions and collected pucks.

“It's called March break responsibilities,'' Pete DeBoer said. “That was as much fun as I've had in a while. In this business, you don't get to see the kids much.''

Fauhockey -- After losing to Robert Morris 5-1 on Friday afternoon, the FAU Owls ended their run at the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament in Holland, Mich.

The Owls, a Division III club team, went 0-3 in pool play this week. Coach Peter Worrell's season isn't over, however: His North Broward Prep team is also participating in a national tournament up north.

Lightninggirls SATURDAY: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Panthers lead 52-34-10
The game: The Lightning had lost four straight before beating Chicago on Wednesday night and played host to the Senators on Friday. Lightningnewlogo One of those losses came in a shootout to Washington as the Capitals went into Friday holding a two-point lead on Tampa Bay atop the Southeast Division. Florida has won three of four games against the Lightning. The Panthers final road game of the season comes on April 8 in Tampa.




 

 

March 10, 2011

Craig Anderson Stops Panthers in Snoozer ... Scott Timmins Hit Hard

SENATORS 2, PANTHERS 1

Just before the end of the second intermission, Panthers public address announcer Bill Murphy promised fans “an exciting third period.''

No, he didn't laugh while making such a bold proclamation.

The Panthers and Senators played about as uninspiring a game as their records suggested they might. The two cellar-dwellers, who are competing for draft standing and not playoff position, went through the motions for much of the night, the night of pond hockey finally ended when Erik Karlsson scored twice within the final nine minutes to give Ottawa a 2-1 win.

“It was a bad hockey game both ways,'' coach Pete DeBoer said afterward. “The goalies were the bright spots on the ice for both teams. We looked like we could play for weeks and not score at some points. It was our sixth game in nine nights. I'm not making excuses, but I thought our tanks were a bit empty.''

With the Heat playing host to the Lakers a few miles south in downtown Miami, there wasn't much hype for Thursday's game against the league's 29th ranked team (Ottawa) and its 26th. The Panthers announced a crowd of 12,310 at BankAtlantic Center although that number was definitely inflated. The biggest cheer of the night came with 6:13 left when Murphy announced that the Heat had ended its five game slide by beating the Lakers.

Well, the home fans needed something to cheer about. Both teams gave up on their playoff dreams long ago. While their coaches and players won't admit it, both teams would love to secure a top three pick in the June draft.

Based on Thursday's game, both teams could use the infusion of talent such a high pick would bring.

Neither team did much of anything through the first two periods, although – as Murphy sagely predicted – play did pick up in the third.

Former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson – whom Colorado gave up on and gave away to Ottawa last month – continues to impress in his new environs. Anderson picked up his first win in Sunrise since leaving Florida as a free agent in 2009 by stopping 34 shots.

Anderson, who has won six of nine starts with the Senators and will likely start Friday in Tampa, was put to the test in the third when Francis Lessard was ejected for ramming Scott Timmins. Lessard, who declined to fight Darcy Hordichuk after the hard hit, put the Senators on the spot as Florida went on a five minute power play. Timmins left the game with a possible concussion. He will be evaluated further on Friday.

The Panthers took their best shots of the night against Anderson during the extended power play but failed to get anything through. Anderson snuffed out Florida's biggest chance with three seconds remaining in the power play, pouncing on a loose puck in front of the net.

“We had some chances, but the power play was the turning point,'' DeBoer said. “We had chances to cash in and didn't do it.''

The Panthers fell behind when Karlsson scored twice late in the third period, the first coming off a soft shot that trickled past Tomas Vokoun and the second a slap shot from the right side.

The Panthers finally got on the board with 4:13 left as defenseman Clay Wilson scored for the second straight night. Wilson came into Tuesday's game with just one NHL goal; now he has three.

“It would have been better with a better outcome,'' Wilson said. “I'm getting some bounces right now and they're finding the net.''

NEW LOOK

Panthers center Shawn Matthias is shaving off his thick blond locks on Friday – and it's all for a good cause. Matthias will be shaving his head at a Boynton Beach pub to help support the St. Baldrick's Foundation and its work with children's cancer charities.

Unlike others who have undergone the clippers for St. Baldrick's, Matthias says he isn't going with the 'chrome dome' look. Instead, he's just cutting his hair as short as it can. His mother, he joked, isn't too thrilled with the new look but happy for the cause.

“I like the long hair, but it's just hair. It'll grow back. I'm just happy to help out,'' Matthias said. “This is fun and we're giving back at the same time. It's funny to be shaving my head but I wouldn't do it if it wasn't a good cause.''

-- DeBoer has joked that his frustrations with the Panthers this year has taken a toll on his hairline as well, at one point pulling off his baseball cap and showing his receding locks.

DeBoer, who has one year left on his contract, says he doesn't think it's going to take general manager Dale Tallon all that long to get the franchise back on track. The Panthers are about to set the NHL record for postseason futility, missing the playoffs for a 10th straight season.

“I wasn’t here for seven of them,'' DeBoer said, “but it's tough, there's no doubt about that. .-.-. I don’t think it’s a five-year turnaround with the plan Dale has. He has made it clear he’s going to try to turn this around as quickly as possible, bringing in fresh faces. There's money to be spent. This isn’t something that’s going to go on another 10 years.”

March 09, 2011

Stephen Weiss' Marathon Shift vs. Capitals: Just Under Six Minutes ... With Video from TSN

Weissislanders Center Stephen Weiss worked overtime in Florida's 3-2 loss to Washington on Sunday, playing a total of 25:22 – just a minute short of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for second among Panthers in the game.

A big chunk of Weiss' time came in the second when he was on the ice for a whopping 5:43 – on one single shift. Weiss took the ice at 2:36 of the period when Darcy Hordichuk drew an elbowing penalty and ran the point on the power play. The whistle never blew when the power play ended, and with Washington working the puck around the Florida zone, Weiss couldn't come off. Florida, with Weiss playing back, was stuck playing four forwards and a defenseman as the Capitals buzzed goalie Scott Clemmensen.

Weiss had a chance to leave the ice past the six minute mark but the Panthers iced the puck at 6:19 – meaning no Florida players could come off as Washington reset in the Florida zone. Weiss finally took a breather at 6:47 when Steve Bernier drew a penalty – which brought a television timeout – although Weiss was right back on the ice to take the faceoff for the power play.

“At one point, it went through my head that I had been out there a long time. What are you going to do?,'' said Weiss, who didn't officially come off the ice until the 8:19 mark.

“I didn't want to change on the power play because I felt good. I thought it was a key point where we needed a goal. Then I got stuck out there against [Alex] Ovechkin's line. I was all out for staying out there. Once you're out there that long, they forget about you. I didn't look toward the bench. If I was tired, I would have come out.''

Said coach Pete DeBoer: “We've asked Stephen to do just about everything this season. He does it all for us. You always worry about the tank running dry at this time of year so we've tried to manage his ice time. But he's a hard guy to keep on the bench in any situation.''

HERE IS TSN'S TAKE ON WEISS' SHIFT ON MONDAY'S SPORTSCENTRE

Thanks to @YouAre138 (for those of you who lika the Twitta) for the link.  


 

Tim Kennedy: Welcome to Florida, now say Cheese

KENNEDY Tim Kennedy had been a member of the Florida Panthers for just over a day when he slipped on his game uniform and joined his teammates at center ice of the BankAtlantic Center Wednesday afternoon for the annual team picture.

“I felt kind of bad, being here just one day and then being there,'' Kennedy said, his freshly unwrapped Panthers hat tilted slightly to the left. “It was weird being in the picture.''

After the season Kennedy has had, he doesn't owe anyone an apology.

Until passing through re-entry waivers Tuesday afternoon, Kennedy had been banished to the minors. It wasn't because of his play, but because of financial semantics. Kennedy had a strong season in Buffalo last season, scoring 10 goals with 16 assists – with a goal and two assists in six playoff games.

During the offseason, he and the Sabres went to arbitration with Kennedy being awarded a $1 million contract for this season. The Sabres thought that was too much and bought him out, making him a free agent.

Kennedy ended up signing a one-way deal with the Rangers. After not making it out of camp, Kennedy was assigned to the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford, Conn. He stayed there because the Rangers – who had signed him for $550,000 – would have likely lost him to another team if they tried bringing him up through re-entry waivers because a team who claimed him would only owe half of his salary.

The Panthers acquired Kennedy in the Bryan McCabe deal on Feb. 26 and sent him to their AHL affiliate in western New York for the same reason the Rangers did. Once AHL rosters were set on Monday, the Panthers brought him up knowing no other team would claim him. If one did, Kennedy couldn't play for them anyway.

“It's been a tough year mentally with everything that went on,'' Kennedy said. “I was really stuck in prison because they didn't want to lose me. No matter what I did, I was stuck. I didn't know that would happen when I signed.''

Going to the Panthers was a relief to Kennedy. Even though he had to report to Rochester, he knew the Panthers were going to bring him up when they could. And Kennedymsu having old friends like David Booth, Mike Weaver and Mike Santorelli on the team definitely helped.

“He's a great guy and a great teammate. He's going to help us out,'' said Booth, who played with Kennedy at Michigan State. “He can do good here. He's a smart player and is good positionally. He can score some goals, he got some big ones at Michigan State. I wasn't there but I set the tone for him.''

Kennedy now has 15 games to prove his worth. A restricted free agent, Kennedy – like many others – is playing for a contract.

“This is where I want to be next year,'' said Kennedy, who scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the winner in the 2007 national title game as a sophomore in 2007. “I didn't think the Rangers were going to let me go so I was happy to hear about the trade. I'm glad everything played itself out.''

-- DeBoer said injured wingers Evgeny Dadonov (finger) and Shawn Matthias (ankle) could be back in the lineup next week. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (oblique) is out for the next 10 days.

Andy THURSDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Ottawa leads 37-26-3
The game: Ottawa, like Florida, appears to be in a race for last place in the league although the Panthers have eight more points. The Senators have played better lately since getting former Florida goalie Murray Craig Anderson from Colorado. Anderson, who left Florida in 2009, has started eight straight games for Ottawa and has won five – including a 5-1 victory over the Panthers. The Sens upset host New Jersey on Tuesday, the same night Florida stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.