In the midst of the team's longest losing streak since 2005, it's hard to find many silver linings for the Florida Panthers. When this season finally does come to an official close Saturday against the Capitals, many changes are in store.
For some players on this current roster, what they do through the final week of the season could determine whether or not they are invited back.
“You're looking for energy out of those guys,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “You have to notice them when they hop over the boards,'' DeBoer said. “If I was a player, I would be doing everything I could over these last games to not just blend in.''
As much as some members of the Panthers deny it, the team is in full tryout mode as players hope to impress and get a contract offer for next year.
Some are doing a much better job of that than others. Ryan Carter, Jack Skille and Clay Wilson have all shown the Panthers they are worth future considerations.
“Ryan Carter is separating himself from the group,'' DeBoer said of the 27-year-old who came to the Panthers in the Cory Stillman deal with Carolina around trade deadline time. “A lot of other guys have blended in.''
Jack Skille has definitely been noticed for his physical play. Skille hasn't played much because of an ankle injury, but he was very aggressive on Saturday against the Penguins and scored his first goal as a member of the Panthers. Skille came to Florida in February as part of the Michael Frolik deal with the Blackhawks.
“Give the guy credit for keep coming back through the injuries,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “He's shown how much he wants to be here and how much he wants to play. We're looking for guys with his kind of character. Other guys in the room should look at him and say 'I need to play like that'. He has the right attitude, the right character. That's what we're looking for. Pete has been saying it and it's true: Guys should be playing for jobs.''
Wilson has had a cup of coffee with Atlanta, Columbus and the Panthers prior to this season. Wilson came into the season with one NHL goal; in the past three weeks, he's scored three.
“This is my sixth year and I'm still a 'call-up' guy. I just try to do the best with what opportunities I get,'' said Wilson, who scored 22 seconds after Skille did Saturday against the Penguins. “This has been about as good an opportunity I've had. It's been a good experience, I've learned a lot. Any time you get to play in different roles, it's good to get that chance. Every night is an interview here.''
Then there is the curious case of Tim Kennedy.
Kennedy has only played in three NHL games this season – all with the Panthers. Kennedy had been stashed in the minors first by the Rangers (he played for the Sabres last year before being bought out over the summer) before the Panthers also banished him to the minors knowing if they called him up, they would lose him through the waiver process.
Once the Panthers did call Kennedy up on March 8, the speedy winger didn't do much and he was sent back to the minors. Kennedy was scheduled to join the team Saturday night, but because of a mistake by the Panthers front office, he won't be able to until Wednesday in Washington.
Kennedy is expected to play in Florida's final three games. He's got some catching up to do.
“I expected to see speed and energy from [Kennedy], a guy tenacious all over the ice,'' DeBoer said. “We saw a little of that. He's getting another chance. I think we'll see a different player.''
-- The Panthers took Sunday off but will return to their training facility in Coral Springs on Monday morning. The 10:30 a.m. session is expected to be Florida's final practice at Saveology IcePlex (3299 Sportsplex Drive, Coral Springs) this season. The workout is free and open to the public.