TAMPA – With just two games remaining, David Booth is on pace to play in all 82 games this season for the Panthers.
From where Booth was last season, everything else that follows is just a bonus.
Booth, who missed all but 28 games last season after suffering two major concussions, has been named the Florida Panthers nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Florida chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game.
Capitals goalie Jose Theodore won the award last season.
“Last year was one of the hardest years I have ever been through,'' said Booth, who will be honored by the team prior to Saturday's season finale. “I learned a lot about life in general. Learned about character and perseverance. It is a privilege to play this game for a living. When it’s taken away, I guess you realize how good you have it. When you look at everything else going on in the world, it’s so fortunate the lives we have. I think we take it for granted too much.''
Booth leads the team with 23 goals, the third time in his career he's eclipsed the 20-goal mark (he led Florida with 31 goals in 2008-09). Coach Pete DeBoer says Booth is close to being back to 100 percent and says this offseason will help him as he won't have the restrictions he did last summer.
“He has dealt with the ups and downs. The fact that he will potentially going to play all 82 games is a huge step in he right direction,” DeBoer said. “His confidence started to come back. There were ebbs and flows but I think for the most part the fact he’s going to play 82 games is the biggest thing. We can pick apart things .-.-. his defensive play or should he have scored more goals. I don’t think that’s fair with what he’s dealt with.''
Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said the reason Quinton Howden was the first player Florida signed from its highly-touted 2010 draft class was as a reward for the season he had. Florida took three players in 2010: Defenseman Erik Gudbranson (third overall), center Nick Bjugstad (19th) and Howden (25th).
Howden signed an entry level contract with the Panthers on Wednesday and is expected to attend rookie development camp in July as well as training camp in September.
“It really hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still bouncing off the walls,'' Howden said. “I've dreamed of this my whole life and I'm one step closer to where I've always wanted to play.''
Said Santos: “He deserves the first contract. And that's what he got. He's done everything we asked him so that's his reward. I think that's a good thing to show other draft picks. If you want to be a part of an organization and you're going to do the things that we want you to do to be a Panther, you'll be rewarded.''
-- The Panthers continue to be a banged up bunch as three more players appear to be on the shelf. Ryan Carter missed Thursday's skate because of a mild concussion suffered Wednesday in Washington. Forwards Steve Bernier (shoulder) and Darcy Hordichuk (oblique) will not play Friday and are probably done for the season.
Stephen Weiss (groin) practiced and DeBoer says it's likely goalie Tomas Vokoun will get a start in one of Florida's final two games.
FRIDAY: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
TV/Radio: No local TV (NHL Center Ice); WQAM 560
The series: Florida leads 53-34-10
The game: The Lightning are trying to move up to the fourth slot in the Eastern Conference as it plays its home finale against a Panthers team Tampa Bay has struggled to figure out this year. Florida, which comes in with nine straight losses, has won four of five against the Lightning this year and seven of the past 10. Since the lockout season of 2005-06, Florida has won 25 of 41 against its cross-state rivals.
David Booth's Bounceback Year Earns Masterton Nomination ... Quinton Howden "Bouncing Off Walls" ... Injuries Keep Growing