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54 posts from March 2011

March 08, 2011

Tomas Vokoun Saves Panthers in 3-2 Win over Blackhawks ... Champs outshoot Cats 29-7 in Final 40


Dale Tallon couldn't help but beam with pride as he watched Tuesday's game from high atop the BankAtlantic Center.

His new team, the homestanding Panthers, picked up three goals in the opening period to take a commanding lead on the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks – the team Tallon built into a winner before being asked to step aside.

Tallon's attitude didn't change as his former team made a comeback everyone in the building saw coming because the Panthers held their ground, withstanding a barrage of shots to pull off a 3-2 upset of the reigning champs.

Florida snapped Chicago's eight-game winning streak all while ending a five-game skid of its own. The Blackhawks outshot Florida 29-7 in the final 40 minutes but Tomas Vokoun stood strong and truly earned the win.

“It was a nice win. I was happy for our guys,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, who claimed his 100th NHL victory. “In the second and third they cranked it up a notch. We didn't try to do anything different, but they are that good. We bent but didn't break and got some big saves at the end.''

The Panthers came out flying like they haven't in a long time, getting three goals in the first period for the first time since winning in Buffalo on Dec. 23.

David Booth got the scoring started when he followed up a long shot from Michal Repik and put the puck past starting goalie Corey Crawford 4:06 into the game.

The Panthers quieted the large contingent of Chicago fans – some wearing Blackhawks gear, although many represented the Bears or Cubs – by taking a 2-0 lead when defenseman Clay Wilson slipped a shot past Crawford just before the midway point of the period.

The goal was Wilson's first in the NHL this season and only the second of his career. On March 26, 2008, Wilson got his first NHL goal as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That goal also came against the Blackhawks.

Florida didn't seem too aggressive against Chicago the rest of the period with the defending champs cranking up the pressure on Vokoun. But as the clock ticked down on the first, Marty Reasoner – who was a member of the Blackhawks for about five minutes last summer – fired off a shot that found its way to the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage.

It was the last shot Crawford would see on Tuesday as veteran Marty Turco was summoned from the bullpen to start the second.

“There's no animosity. I never even put on the jersey or even flew to Chicago,'' said Reasoner, who went to Chicago in a trade with Atlanta just before the draft. The Blackhawks traded him to Florida a month later. “We got a break late in the period and that can be a difference maker. If we could have got one early in the second it would have made our lives much easier.''

The Panthers didn't do much to work the rust off of Turco – who hadn't played since Feb. 11 in Dallas – as Florida got off just four shots in the second period. The Blackhawks, however, did a whole lot more.

Chicago looked like a different bunch in the second period as they peppered Vokoun with shots and turned things around in a hurry. The Blackhawks outshot the defensive-minded (read: hang on for dear life) Panthers 15-4 in the second period as they cut their deficit to one in that frame.

Patrick Kane, the first overall pick by Tallon and the Hawks in 2007, picked up Chicago's first goal at 11:03 of the second when he fired a pass from Brian Campbell (another Tallon acquisition) past Vokoun. Just over two minutes later, Marian Hossa – one of the last players Tallon signed before being demoted – made it 3-2 as he punched a pass from Dave Bolland past Vokoun.

Vokoun was assaulted by the Blackhawks in the third as Chicago dominated play as if they were the Monsters of the Midway. Chicago threw everything it had at the Panthers goaltender as Florida's defense gamely tried to keep the puck away. Vokoun tossed 14 pucks aside in the third period alone as Florida rarely even ventured into Chicago territory.

The Florida goalie ended up with 37 saves and has won eight of his past 11 starts against Chicago dating back to his days in Nashville.

“It's disappointing we're not going to the playoffs but you still have to perform,'' Vokoun said. “They're a great team. They're kicking it into a whole different playoff gear right now but we battled hard. Obviously it wasn't pretty but it's a big win.''


The Panthers brought winger Tim Kennedy up from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., after he cleared re-entry waivers at noon on Tuesday. Kennedy, acquired from the Rangers in the Bryan McCabe trade, made his 2010-11 NHL debut against the Blackhawks.

Kenndal McArdle was sent back to Rochester to replace Kennedy.

Kennedy had spent this entire season in the minor leagues despite a strong 2009-10 season with Buffalo. After Kennedy was awarded a $1 million salary by an arbiter last summer, the Sabres walked away from the deal and he was signed by the Rangers.

Kennedy didn't make the Rangers out of training camp and was sent to the AHL where the Rangers kept him because they felt they would lose him for nothing coming through re-entry waivers (in which a team that claimed him only had to pay half of his salary).

Florida felt secure that Kennedy wouldn't be claimed because after AHL rosters were set on Monday, Kennedy couldn't play for anyone but the Panthers or Rochester for the rest of this season.

“He would have been picked up last week for sure,'' general manager Dale Tallon said, “just to be on someone's AHL playoff roster.''

-- DeBoer said defenseman Alexander Sulzer will likely miss at least a week with a rib injury. Sulzer was hurt Saturday in Atlanta and replaced in the lineup by Wilson.


March 07, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks Invade South Florida, Bring Michael Frolik With Them ... Dale Tallon: I've Moved On


The Florida Panthers' Reunion Week continues Tuesday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks, once run by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, come to town riding an eight-game winning streak.

Chicago hopes to join Carolina (with former Panthers Bryan Allen and Cory Stillman), Montreal (former coach/GM Jacques Martin), Atlanta (Radek Dvorak) and Washington (Dennis Wideman) in beating the Panthers in the days following last week's trade deadline.

Michael Frolik is the latest of the former Panthers to face their old teammates as he admitted he had trouble finding the visiting locker room at BankAtlantic Center before Chicago's Monday practice. Frolik admitted he was shocked that that Tallon sent him to Chicago on Feb. 4.

“I was just sitting around at home, getting ready for the game the next day and I got the call,'' Frolik said. “That's hockey these days. It happened so quick. I packed and then played in Dallas. It was strange to play for a different team the next day. .-.-. People had talked about me as [part of the] future here. I expected trades, but I didn't expect it to be me.''

Frolik, who recently turned 23, scored 21 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Panthers but had gone 23 straight games without a goal when he was sent to the Blackhawks for Jack Skille and Hugh Jessiman. Frolik's scoring woes continued in Chicago as he didn't score a goal in his first 10 games with the Blackhawks.

He hopes the drought is behind him. Frolik has two goals and two assists in his past three games.

“It was a long stretch and that had never happened to me in my life,'' Frolik said. “When I got here, they told me not to worry about the goals. They had guys who could score them. They told me to play hard and the points would come.''

Frolik is playing on a third line with Jake Dowell and Troy Brouwer  in Chicago after spending most of his time with Florida's top offensive players over the past few years. The Panthers had demoted Frolik in his final weeks with the team, and he admits his confidence was a bit shot by the time he was traded.

“He's really played well, getting better,'' Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “It seems like he has the puck a little bit more and is dangerous around the net. That line is dangerous a lot of nights.''

And even though it's taken some time, Frolik says he's starting to fit in with the defending Stanley Cup champs.

“Things are better every day,'' Frolik said. “I'm feeling more and more comfortable. I want to play my best against every team, but it's weird to be back here after playing here not too long ago.''


Tallon, who helped built the Blackhawks into a champion, met with the Chicago media on Monday morning and expressed a desire to move on. Tallon did receive a Stanley Cup championship ring from the team and has his name engraved on the Cup even though he resigned as a senior advisor with the team during the playoffs to take the job in Florida.

Tallon joked Monday that he didn't mind not getting an invitation from the team to visit the White House on Friday, saying "I'm a Republican anyway."

On Sunday night, while watching his Panthers lose to Washington, Tallon said he has completely divorced himself from the Blackhawks organization in a career that spanned four decades. While he says he still watches Chicago games on television, he does so no more than other teams in the league.

“I've cut the cord, had closure and have moved on,'' Tallon said. “I wish them nothing but the best, wish them success. I'm focused on the Panthers and that's all I care about. It will be interesting and different, but there's nothing there for me know. I have to keep the faith and keep working here. It was a great 33-year run there, but the day I drank out of the Cup, that was it for me.''

-- The Panthers put Tim Kennedy through re-entry waivers on Monday and could have the former Sabres' winger in the lineup Tuesday. Kennedy has spent the entire season in the minor leagues because it was feared he wouldn't clear waivers because of his low salary.

With the AHL playoff rosters set on Monday, however, Kennedy is almost assured to pass through and be able to join the Panthers for their final 16 games.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Chicago leads 12-8-3
The game: The two teams are headed in opposite directions. With eight straight wins, the Blackhawks are moving up in the Western Conference and fighting for home-ice advantage once the playoffs start. The Panthers will miss the playoffs for an NHL-record 10th straight season as they have lost 18 of 23 games. The two teams, who haven't played since kicking off the 2009-10 season in Helsinki, Finland, conclude the season series March 23 at United Center. Corey Crawford (26-12-3) starts for Chicago.

March 06, 2011

Florida Panthers Comeback Again, Lose in OT Again: Capitals 3, Panthers 2 ... Shawn Matthias Close .. There's No Crying in Hockey (Unless it's the Playoffs)


It was hard to differentiate Florida's game Saturday night in Atlanta compared to Sunday's in Sunrise.

Yes, the opponents and the venues were different. Just about everything else was the same – including the final outcome.

As was the case Saturday, the Panthers tied the Capitals in the third period to force overtime. And, again, the Panthers watched the opposition get a quick goal to end things, Washington's Alexander Semin doing the honors 48 seconds into overtime to give the Capitals a 3-2 win at BankAtlantic Center that propelled them back into the Southeast Division lead.

Washington plays at Tampa Bay on Monday night with just one point separating the divisional foes. 

On Saturday, the Thrashers beat Florida 4-3 when Andrew Ladd scored 25 seconds into overtime.

“We didn't give up and kept pushing through to tie it. But it's disappointing to lose it,'' said Panthers center Marty Reasoner, who had a chance to win it with 23.9 seconds left in regulation. “We have to keep the positives that we kept going at them both nights, kept at it.''

Florida, which has now dropped 18 of 23 games, took a 1-0 lead in the first period – as it had in Atlanta. Bill Thomas got the Panthers on the board with 4:57 left in the period after former Panthers defenseman Dennis Wideman – traded to Washington on Monday – coughed up the puck at center ice.

Thomas picked up the puck and rolled into the Capitals zone, passing it off to Michal Repik. As the two approached goalie Michal Neuvirth, Repik sliced a pass back to Thomas and he deposited it for his third goal of the year.

Florida once again had numerous scoring chances against the Capitals in the opening period, yet like Atlanta, couldn't convert on more than one. The Panthers outshot Washington 16-6 in the opening period – with one of those shots tying the score as Nicklas Backstrom fired a shot from Alex Ovechkin past Scott Clemmensen just over two minutes after Thomas' goal.

“I think we battled hard. We had the chances and the opportunities,'' said Niclas Bergfors, who was credited with five shots in the first period and ended with six of Florida's 34 attempts.

“We need to find a way to get to the net and get the rebounds. Look at the goals we get; most of them are us crashing the net. The effort is there. The difference is playing good and how good it feels to be winning. We have to find that way to win the games. We're close, but we're not there.''

The Panthers trailed 2-1 going into the third period but got a terrific scoring chance late when John Erskine was called for tripping Keaton Ellerby. Just 38 seconds later, Wideman slashed Dmitry Kulikov and joined his teammate in the penalty box. Florida, with a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:21, took advantage as David Booth refused to leave the space in front of the net and knocked in a loose puck originally shot by Stephen Weiss.

“I thought we deserved a better fate for the way we played,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “[Booth] had a big goal, we have to get to those areas of the ice. David is one of those guys who will do it. On the flip side, we can't be minus-2 on a night, either.''

Florida had a few more chances late, none as big as Reasoner's back-handed shot from the slot. The shot came at a strange angle because of Reasoner's shoveling motion, but Neuverth quickly brought up the glove and snagged it out of the air.

“Well, it seems there are a lot of goalies around the league who are good against me,'' Reasoner said. “That's more me than them a lot of times.''


Center Shawn Matthias has been walking around without the aid of crutches the past week and most recently had the walking boot removed from his injured ankle. Matthias, who broke his ankle in a game Jan. 26, said Sunday that he is planning on skating as early as Wednesday.

“They said that's about how long it would take,'' Matthias said. “I can't wait to get back out there.''

-- Jack Skille, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Feb. 23 in Ottawa, would like to play against his former teammates on Tuesday but that's not going to happen. Skille said Sunday that “it's getting close,'' although even he admits there really is no timetable for a return. A high ankle sprain is very tough to deal with. Said DeBoer: “It's almost better if you break it.''

Skille came to the Panthers in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 9. The Blackhawks visit the Panthers on Tuesday although they were already in town, coming directly from Fort Lauderdale after Saturday's win in Toronto.

Defenseman Alexander Sulzer suffered an undisclosed injury Saturday and missed Sunday's game. Clay Wilson was recalled from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

-- DeBoer was asked about Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's comments about some of his players crying the locker room following the Heat's close loss to Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

“Regular season? No,'' DeBoer said, adding, “I've seen coaches [cry]. I might have been there myself over the past couple of weeks. I'm just kidding. Listen, hockey players are emotional guys but it's usually in the playoffs.''

March 05, 2011

Florida Panthers Rally from 3-1 Deficit in Third, Lose 4-3 in OT to Thrashers


ATLANTA – Even back when the Panthers were rolling at full strength, they had trouble putting teams away by fully capitalizing on quick starts.

On Saturday night, with a patched-together post-trade deadline lineup, the Panthers found themselves in a familiar predicament. Despite dominating play on the offensive side of the ice in the opening period, Florida got just one goal.

Atlanta tied the score early in the second, added two in the third and got an overtime goal from Andrew Ladd to beat the Panthers 4-3 at Philips Arena. The Thrashers snapped a four-game home losing streak and handed Florida its 17th loss in 22 games.

All six games between the two teams this season – and 11 of the past 13 – had been decided by a single goal.

“We had a good start, had a good forecheck going that created some turnovers and that turned into chances,'' said winger Sergei Samsonov, who scored Florida's first goal and had a second taken away by a quick whistle. “We just lost momentum in the second, battled back in the third and almost got it done.''

The Panthers were flying offensively in the opening frame, with Samsonov scoring 5:46 into the game with himself, Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Steve Bernier and Niclas Bergfors getting some excellent chances against goalie Chris Mason. Samsonov, who came to Florida in one of four trades last Monday, had a second goal erased after officials said they blew the whistle after the puck hit Mason's mask.

“That was the explanation,'' Samsonov lamented. “There's no point in arguing that one. There were a lot of quick whistles.''

The Thrashers had survived the onslaught and tied the score 43 seconds into the second when Blake Wheeler scored off a rebound. The Panthers ended up committing four penalties in the second – including a four-minute high sticking on Jason Garrison for popping Chris Thorburn in the mouth with his stick – but didn't give up anything more.

Atlanta's power play went 0-for-4 in the second but struck early in the third when Ladd got his first of the night 1:08 into the period. The Thrashers looked to put the Panthers away when Wheeler got his second of the night to make it 3-1.

Coming into Saturday, the Panthers had scored one goal or fewer in six straight games.

The Panthers finally got some offensive mojo going when Weiss' slap shot off a faceoff beat Mason at 7:58 of the third. Weiss' goal came five seconds into a power play and was Florida's first power play goal since Feb. 21. The Panthers had been 0-for-19 before Weiss scored.

Booth tied the score three minutes later after beating Mason on a Dmitry Kulikov rebound, Booth finally rewarded after missing out on numerous chances of late.

“It's good we came back, but it's not good enough,'' Booth said. “We need to develop a mentality of winning games and that starts now. It can carry over into next year. We showed some determination, never gave up, but we need to win there.''

The Panthers and Thrashers then battled until the finish with Atlanta's Bryan Little looking to put things away with his hard shot with 90 seconds remaining. Little's shot skipped off the goal cage and slid across the goal line. No matter. Atlanta ended things early in overtime after Dustin Byfuglien raced past Keaton Ellerby and fed Ladd for the game-winning goal 25 seconds in.

“I was real happy with the effort, proud of how we dug in,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We didn't quit in the third, kept coming at them. Keaton made a gamble in the neutral zone in overtime, but he's a young guy playing in a key situation. He'll learn from that next time.''


With the Panthers struggling to put pucks in the back of the net, DeBoer moved Bergfors – picked up in the Radek Dvorak deal with Atlanta last week – to the top line with Weiss and Samsonov.

Bergfors, who was a healthy scratch 11 times this season with the Thrashers, helped that top line create a bunch of chances early on. Bergfors got his first point with the Panthers on Samsonov's first period goal.

“We're going to give him some quality ice with some skilled people and some power play time,'' DeBoer said. “Hopefully he can some offense. He seems to be a good kid and works hard. He's going to get an opportunity to show his stuff here.''

-- The Panthers will see defenseman Dennis Wideman on Sunday when the Capitals come to town. Wideman, traded to the Capitals from Florida last Monday, has led Washington in ice time in each of his first two games and is a plus-2. Wideman was a minus-26 with the Panthers.

-- Defenseman Alexander Sulzer left Saturday night's game in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return.

When, Where: 5 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Capitals lead 46-40-9
The game: The Panthers have won two of the three games against the Capitals this season with center Mike Santorelli scoring three goals against Washington. .-.-. The Capitals have won four of their past five games and did not play Saturday. Florida played at Atlanta. .-.-. The Capitals are seeking their first four-game winning streak since Nov. 24-Dec. 1 and can take over first place in the division with wins Sunday and Monday (at Tampa Bay).

Hockey Night in Miami: College Hockey in Kendall -- The U Versus the F-I-U

Judd Despite their campuses being less than 10 miles apart, the top athletic teams from the University of Miami and Florida International don't compete against one another.

For various reasons, the Hurricanes and Golden Panthers don't play each other in football, baseball or men's basketball. Saturday night, the two schools reignite their athletic rivalry.

On an ice rink in Kendall.

The newly formed FIU men's hockey team – which isn't sponsored nor governed by the school's athletic department – plays its first game at Kendall Ice Arena. The Golden Panthers debut, naturally it would seem, comes against the Hurricanes.

Fiu “Everyone around campus seems to be excited about this,'' said Michael Amado, a junior from Coral Springs who spearheaded getting an FIU ice hockey team as a freshman. “A lot of people have seen the signs around school or on Facebook and didn't even know we had a team. And playing the Hurricanes is pretty cool. You could say it's an extension of our natural rivalry with them.''

Kendall Ice Arena, which bills Saturday's game as the first-ever collegiate hockey game held in Miami-Dade County, is donating the ice and support crew for the game with the two teams splitting the revenue (tickets will be $10 at the door) to help fray future costs. Amado says the FIU team is only able to practice every other Friday because of the prohibitive cost ($275 per hour in Kendall) of renting ice.

The FIU recreation services department gives the hockey club a $1,400 stipend – similar money other intramural clubs at the school such as rugby, men's volleyball, badminton and even the Harry Potter inspired sport of Quidditch receive. That money must not only fund ice time, but uniforms, travel costs and the like.

“That doesn't go very far,'' FIU coach Mike Toyota said.

Although the FIU team is just getting started, Miami's team has been around a few years – as a roller hockey squad. Alex Lopez, the UM goalie and team captain, says there has been interest in getting an ice hockey team at Miami for some time Umhockey although the higher costs (equipment, insurance, ice rental) and lack of local teams has been a hindrance. Lopez says professors at Miami have raised concerns about students missing too much class time because of the travel a club ice hockey team would endure.

Aside from all that, both Lopez and Toyota – who coached the UM roller hockey team – figure ice hockey at Miami can be a natural fit. “Our team is pretty much all ice hockey players,'' said Lopez, a senior from Weston. “They play roller hockey because that's all that's been available.''

Said Toyota: “Miami has a very competitive team and there seems to be some interest in going to ice hockey. The roller team is funded well. It would be a perfect fit with all the kids from the northeast who go there. There's some talent there. They have kids who have played the game at a high level.''

The sport is definitely growing at colleges throughout Florida. In Boca Raton, the FAU Owls are a successful Division III club program that will be playing at the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament starting March 9. Central Florida and Florida Gulf Coast also advanced to the tournament.

Coached by former Florida Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell, the Owls are one of Florida's top teams with victories over Florida, USF and Gulf Coast. The University of Tampa, Florida State and Embry-Riddle also compete at the Division III club level. The FIU and Miami teams, still in their infancy, are not part of the national club association although FIU would like to be by the fall of 2012.

Worrell Worrell, who coaches both at FAU and North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek, can coach at both the high school and collegiate level because, as a club sport, the Owls hockey team is not an official part of the athletic program and exempt from most NCAA rules.

That also means FAU's hockey team does not get money from the school and is almost fully funded from their players themselves. The Owls hockey team also raises money at home games held at the Panthers training facility in Coral Springs.

“It's not easy making it work. It's been a challenge, but it's been very rewarding,'' said Worrell, whose team will be traveling to the national tournament by bus. “It's hockey in Florida. A lot of people in charge don't understand how we can benefit the school. Going across the country and representing FAU is very important. We're showing them what we can accomplish for them, hoping the floodgates open.''

There are only 58 schools in the United States playing at the highest level of collegiate hockey. Penn State joins in 2012 after new Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula – who lives in Boca Raton -- donated $88 million to the school to fund a new arena and start up an NCAA team at the Big Ten school.

In March 2012, the NCAA's 'Frozen Four' will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum in Frozenfour downtown Tampa. The University of Alabama-Huntsville, the southernmost NCAA hockey program, will serve as host.

Although Florida's hockey-playing schools aren't eligible to compete for the NCAA postseason, the hope is the coverage the Frozen Four gets in the Sunshine State will spur interest. Perhaps, even, the teams could move from club status to being officially part of the athletic department -- with the funding and support that comes with it.

Fsuhockey Unless a billionaire like Pegula comes up and writes a enormous check, however, that's doubtful. Schools aren't in the business of adding sports these days. For now, this will have to do.

“FIU and Miami is a big rivalry,'' Lopez said. “We know a lot of people are going to be there so we want to do well. This hasn't always been a friendly Umfiu rivalry, either. We're all excited about it.''


March 04, 2011

Jacques Martin: Mistakes Were Made in Florida, But No Regrets ... JM the Former GM Praises DeBoer

Jm2 Jacques Martin made himself right at home in South Florida this week. Martin and his Montreal Canadiens spent three days in the sun, wrapping a pair of practices around a dominating 4-0 victory over the Panthers on Thursday.

Martin knows his way around the BankAtlantic Center and the surrounding area. As he should. Martin was hired to coach the Panthers in 2004, became the team's general manager in 2006 and left the franchise in 2009 to take his dream job of coaching the Canadiens.

After Friday's afternoon practice at the Panthers arena, Martin was all smiles as he joked with the media before leaving for Tampa.

Just a few miles to the north in Coral Springs, there were few at the Panthers training facility in such spirits. The Panthers and Canadiens are heading in opposite directions: Montreal is moving up in the standings and trying to improve their playoff seeding. The Panthers, well, aren't. Florida's loss Thursday was its 16th in 21 games and Florida is just seven points away from last place in the entire league.

Martin, who built the Panthers team that has been torn apart, said there were some mistakes under his watch but some hits too. It's all part of the business.

“I have no regrets. You learn with every situation in your life,'' said Martin, who coached the Panthers from 2005 until being relieved of that duty following the 2007-08 season. “I enjoyed my time here, enjoyed working here. There are some great people here. I always enjoy coming back.''

Jm Some of the deals Martin would probably like to a do-over on include signing Rostislav Olesz to a impossible-to-move six-year contract worth $19 million and not trading Jay Bouwmeester at the 2009 deadline. The Panthers were in the middle of the playoff pack at that deadline and Martin kept Bouwmeester for a playoff chase. That fizzled and Bouwmeester walked away – as expected –with the Panthers getting nothing in return.

Martin, the Panthers all-time winningest and longest tenured coach, said he didn't have mixed feelings in watching Dale Tallon tear things apart last month. Of the seven players moved by Tallon by the Feb. 28 trade deadline – including Michael Frolik going to Chicago on Feb. 9 – only Dennis Wideman and Chris Higgins were not acquired or drafted under Martin.

Pete DeBoer was hired by Martin in 2009 and spent one season working under him before Martin left for Quebec. That one season was good by Panthers standards as they finished tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference, losing the tie-breaker to – coincidentally – the Canadiens and missing the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

“That really was a good year for us. We missed the playoffs only because of our record against the Canadiens,'' said Martin, who has won six of eight games against the Panthers as Montreal's coach. “We tried to help the team that year. We should have been in the playoffs with 93 points. It just didn't work out.''

Martin says he believes DeBoer is doing the best he can do under the circumstances. Since DeBoer took over, the only addition Florida has made during a playoff chase was Martin's acquisition of lightly-used defenseman Steve Eminger. Florida has been a seller in DeBoer's past two seasons – leaving him handcuffed as a coach.

“I think Pete has done a good job. He's a really good coach,'' Martin said. “When you look at this team, they're obviously building with youth and that makes it difficult on the coach. But sometimes that's part of being in the NHL. And that's part of the solution. Dale is working under the plan he used in Chicago. Truth is, I think Peter gets the most out of his guys, gets the most out of what he has.''

DeBoer worked a lot harder in his practice Friday than Martin did in his. DeBoer is back to being a teacher, trying to get the most out of a patched-together lineup. This is not the way DeBoer hoped it would be this late in the season.

“We're trying to teach and coach these young guys but still win games as we go,'' DeBoer said. “It's a tough time of year. I enjoy the teaching part of it, but not as much as being in the heat of a playoff battle right now. The way it should work is you teach in September and push buttons down the stretch. That's not the situation we're in.''

-- Injured wingers Evgeny Dadonov and Ryan Carter skated before Thursday's morning skate although DeBoer said they were both out at least until next week. Dadonov suffered a broken finger on Feb. 2 at Montreal and has had his cast removed. He still hasn't been able to handle the puck, however.

Carter, who says he has a problem around his rib cage, hasn't played since Feb. 10 when he was still with Carolina. The Panthers acquired the injured Carter in the Cory Stillman deal last week. 

When, Where: 7 p.m.; Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Thrashers lead 36-26-5
The game: Tomas Vokoun will be back in net for the Panthers after being pulled in the opening period of Thursday's 4-0 loss to Montreal. Vokoun gave up two goals on three shots to the Canadiens, but DeBoer said he couldn't really blame his goalie for either. “We just needed a change,'' he said afterward. Florida, which has scored one goal or less in six consecutive games (not counting a team-awarded shootout goal), has lost three straight after beating the host Thrashers 2-1 in a shootout last Friday.

March 03, 2011

Canadiens Win Home Game on the Road, Beat Florida Panthers 4-0 ... Panthers Within Two Points of 28th


In the past few weeks, the Panthers had talked about how close they were to eighth place in the Eastern Conference, that spot marking the final playoff spot.

Now, after selling off six veterans in the past week, the Panthers are looking at a more realistic destination in the standings, one that will go much further in helping their future: Dead last – or something close to it.

The Panthers continued to inch closer to the NHL's bottom rung on Thursday as 'visiting' Montreal scored two goals off its first three shots and ran away with a 4-0 victory in front of a sold-out, Canadien-centric crowd at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida is now 12 points out of eighth place in the east, but came into Thursday just nine in front of Edmonton – the league's worst team and current favorite to pick up the top pick in the June draft. If Florida finishes in the bottom three – as it did last year – it's assured a top three pick and a chance at the No. 1 selection. The Panthers are just two points ahead of the Islanders for that bottom-three positioning.

“For me, we're trying to win games,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “Management, I'm sure they're looking at auditioning players. When you're standing behind the bench, you don't feel good about having tryouts in March and April. I've said it before: I could care less about the draft. I want to win games. Winning is as contagious as having good draft picks. We have to make sure we keep pushing [for] that culture.''

The Panthers have now lost 16 of their past 21 games and are averaging a single goal a game in their past six. So one could not really be sure if it was the large amount of Canadiens fans who descended on the Sunrise arena who were booing the Panthers when they came onto the ice for warm-ups – or just fed up fans of what was technically the home team.

Regardless, the Canadiens had plenty to cheer about on Thursday as Montreal dominated Florida from start to finish.

Montreal started the scoring 5:02 into the game when Hal Gill ripped a shot from 60 feet out. With a screen in front of the net, starting goalie Tomas Vokoun never saw it coming. Less than four minutes later, Andrei Kostitsyn fired a shot from the left circle that got past new Florida defenseman Alexander Sulzer and past Vokoun.

Backup Scott Clemmensen was quickly sent in, Vokoun kicking the dasher boards in disgust as he skated off the ice. DeBoer said he didn't blame Vokoun for either goal, but, “we needed a change.''

After stopping all three shots he faced during his time in the opening period, Clemmensen gave up a soft goal to David Desharnais 4:59 into the second. Montreal would add to the Panthers misery in the third when Lars Eller walked in on Clemmensen and scored fairly easily.

Montreal goalie Carey Price, on the other hand, was sharp and stopped 30 shots to beat the Panthers for only the third time in six starts against them. Price stopped a number of scoring chances in front of the net – David Booth is still shaking his head at his opportunity in the second – and helped the Canadiens win the season series 3-1.

“We're professionals here and it doesn't matter what place you are in,'' Mike Weaver said. “We have some new faces and bodies. We just have to work hard, outwork the other team. I don't think we did that tonight.''

Florida had some of its best chances on its final two power play opportunities of the game, although the Panthers didn't get anything past Price. The Panthers are now 0-for-16 on the power play since scoring against the Islanders on Feb. 21, and went 0-for-16 with an advantage in four games against Montreal this season.


DeBoer said Thursday morning that while he's not in any hurry to name Bryan McCabe's replacement as Florida's team captain, one could be named soon.

The leader, DeBoer said, is center Stephen Weiss.

“We'll make some decisions. We have some good people here,'' DeBoer said. “Stephen Weiss is probably at the front of the line because of his tenure here and what he's meant to the organization. He's in this for the long haul, wants to see it to the other end. That kind of commitment deserves some recognition.''

Weiss, who is Florida's active leader in games played with the franchise, has been with the organization since he was the fourth overall pick at the 2001 Draft held in Sunrise. Weiss said he would be honored if chosen.

“To be a captain of an NHL team is pretty special,'' Weiss said. “That's not something you dream of as a kid though. You just want to make it to the NHL. That's just an added bonus. It shows your performance and the kind of person you are, and that's an honor. I've been through a lot of things here, but that would be a nice accomplishment.''

-- Mike Weaver, in his first year with the Panthers, joined Weiss and Marty Reasoner as an assistant captain on Thursday. Weaver replaced the traded Bryan Allen.

-- Injured wingers Evgeny Dadonov and Ryan Carter skated before Thursday's morning skate although DeBoer said they were both out at least until next week. Dadonov suffered a broken finger on Feb. 2 at Montreal and has had his cast removed. He still hasn't been able to handle the puck, however.

Carter, who says he has a problem around his rib cage, hasn't played since Feb. 10 when he was still with Carolina. The Panthers acquired the injured Carter in the Cory Stillman deal last week.

Tomas Vokoun: Do Panthers Want Me to Stay? Do I Want To?

Barry Jackson covered the Panthers for me today because of a weird traveling quirk. Mr. Jackson spoke to Tomas Vokoun at length today about his potential future with the Panthers.

He said he gave the Panthers three teams he would waive his no-movement clause to. They never asked him to.

Money quote:

“You want to play in the playoffs,” he said. “In a way, it is a little bit disappointing. But I like being here, too. It’s not like I asked to leave. I told them I’d like to stay.”

Oh, here's another:

"I respect their decision. I want to see my options, too. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of options to pick from. I’m not too worried about it right now.”

Barry also asked Pete DeBoer what he thought of his three years with the Panthers. Pete, honest as ever.

“My thoughts right now are obviously frustration,” he said. “We haven’t accomplished what I feel we’re capable of. It’s my job as a coach to get this team into the playoffs and get them to overachieve. I do believe they work hard almost every night. I believe we have buy-in as far as what we’re selling.”

Since I didn't write the article, not going to cut-and-paste in it's entirety. It's worth reading. You can do so RIGHT HERE.

Back in full Panthers mode Thursday as the Montreal Martins come to town.

Check back in the afternoon for updates.

March 01, 2011

You Again? Cory Stillman, Cam Ward lead Hurricanes Past Panthers 2-1 ... FLA Outshoots Canes 42-22 in Loss


RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tuesday was a very good to Cory Stillman.

First, Stillman presented with a commemorative silver hockey stick as well as some gifts from old teammates to honor his playing in 1,000 NHL games. Then his son Riley was  honored for leading the Carolina team he captained to a junior championship in Quebec.

The goal and assist Cory Stillman scored against his former team made a memorable day a truly special one.

Stillman, traded from Florida to Carolina last Thursday, showed the Panthers he still had a little left in the tank as he scored the Hurricanes first goal then sent a pretty pass to Eric Staal for the second as Carolina held off the feisty new-look Panthers 2-1 at RBC Center.

The Panthers, who trailed 2-0 going into the first break thanks to Stillman's shot and pass, outshot Carolina 42-22 as they pushed the Hurricanes throughout.

"They work every night,'' Stillman said of the Panthers. “I think they've played 37, 38 one-goal games. They're in the game every night and the longer you leave them hanging, the better they get. We sat on our heels a little in the second and third and played a lot in our own zone.''

The trade of Stillman signaled the start of Florida's sell-off, with Bryan McCabe, Bryan Allen, Radek Dvorak, Dennis Wideman and Chris Higgins also being sent elsewhere.

Allen was traded to Carolina on Monday afternoon and initially thought the Panthers were going to let him travel on a charter flight to Raleigh that had plenty of room thanks to the deals. Allen said he was later denied transit with the Panthers and took a later flight; travel problems in North Carolina meant he didn't get to his hotel in Raleigh until 4:30 a.m. That didn't mean he wasn't ready to face the team he spent five seasons with.

“This is just something I have to fight through,'' Allen said during the first intermission. “I don't think I can put into words what playing them is like. This wasn't easy.''

Neither Stillman nor Allen showed any displeasure nor anger with being traded. And why would they? The Panthers are obviously playing for the future as Carolina is playing for the now. The Hurricanes victory --  their fourth in six tries against Florida this season – helped them solidify their postseason spot.

Florida dropped to 10 points behind Carolina in a race for eighth place that the Panthers are no longer realistically taking part of. General manager Dale Tallon surmised that for the Panthers to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000, they would have to win 15 of their final 20. Make that 15 of 19 after Tuesday's loss.

That doesn't mean the Panthers gave up on Tuesday. Far from it. Stephen Weiss' goal early in the second cut Carolina's lead in half and Florida dictated play for most of the final 40 minutes – including a full-out final minute. Stillman cleared the puck with eight seconds left to end the game.

“We're creating chances, got shots, we played hard. I can't say we would play much different but get a better start and finish some chances,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We can't play better than 44 shots. It's not cohesiveness. We just have to score.''

Added goalie Scott Clemmensen: “We played well. The effort was there, can't fault that. The shots just weren't going in. I'm proud of the way we played tonight. We kept coming and fought the entire game. We never gave up. We keep playing like that, we'll be fine.''

The new-look Panthers – which had eight different faces in the lineup since last Monday's demoralizing 5-1 loss to the Islanders – trailed 1-0 after Stillman worked a loose puck past Clemmensen after Darcy Hordichuk had taken out Erik Cole on a rush.

Florida had a prime chance to tie the score midway through when Kenndal McArdle's hard shot from the left side seemed to surprise Ward. The Canes goalie left a juicy rebound and an empty net for the hard-charging Michal Repik to deposit the puck into. Instead, Repik wound up a bit too much and blasted the puck high into the air and into the mesh netting protecting those in the end zone seats.

Carolina made it 2-0 a few minutes after Repik's blastoff as Stillman slipped a perfect pass to a waiting Eric Staal on Carolina's only power play chance of the period. Staal barely moved his stick to redirect the pass past Clemmensen.


Stillman played in his 1,000th NHL game as a member of the Panthers on Feb. 16. Stillman was scheduled to be honored by the team before last Sunday's game against the Devils but he had already been traded. Weiss, one of Florida's two alternate captains (Allen and Stillman had been), presented Stillman with a silver stick commemorating the achievement after Florida's morning skate.

Weiss and his teammates also gave Stillman a gift certificate to a resort as well as a John Deere Gator riding cart for his summer cottage. A video tribute produced by the Panthers played on the RBC Center big screen prior to the game's start.

“He's a pretty special guy,'' Weiss said. “I learned a lot in the three years I played with him.''

-- DeBoer said Tuesday that it was unlikely forward Byron Bitz would play for the team this season because of complications following sports hernia surgery performed months ago. Bitz came to the Panthers on March 3, 2010, and played in seven games before missing the end of the season with an elbow injury. Bitz was diagnosed with a groin strain in training camp but eventually had hernia surgery.

“We have 20 games left and he hasn't been on the ice as far as I know,'' DeBoer said. “I don't think I'm out of line saying I don't think we're going to see him this year – unless something miraculous happens.''

OnFrozenFilm, Traded Panther Edition: Bryan Allen

OnFrozenFilm, Traded Panther Edition: Cory Stillman

OnFrozenFilm, New Panther Edition: Sergei Samsonov

OnFrozenFilm, New Panther Edition: Nicklas Bergfors

OnFrozenFilm, Traded Panther Edition: Cory Stillman Gets A Silver Stick