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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.

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