Florida Panthers Ready to Put Preseason Behind, Look Foward to 2011-12 Opener ... Stephen Weiss Ailing
With the season opener just a week away, the Panthers are ready to put a 1-4-1 exhibition record in the rear view as they spend the coming days gearing up for the start of the real season.
The Panthers open Oct. 8 against the host New York Islanders.
“I think the players are very excited,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “There's nothing like the real thing and we're going to get some quality time on and off the ice. We're going to hit the ground running. We want to continue to work on our system, finalize our lines and name our leadership group. We have some time to work and six games to rely on and get feedback for what we need to work on.''
Dineen admitted that there were few bright spots in Thursday's 7-1 loss to the Stars, with starting goalie Jose Theodore giving up seven goals on the final 23 shots he faced. Dineen said after the game that he had concerns about Theodore's preseason – he gave up five goals in his other loss to the Lightning – but adds that with a week to go, Theodore has plenty of time to get ready.
"At the end of the day, a lot of our success early is going to ride on him,'' Dineen said Thursday. “He's a guy who has been down these roads before. I believe in him. He can right this. This hasn't been fun for him, these past two games. Now he has to put on his work boots over the next eight games to get ready for opening night. .-.-. The one that counts is the next one.''
Theodore took the blame for Thursday's defeat although he did look sharp early on as the two teams went into the first break in a scoreless tie. Then Dallas scored three goals in the second period and really opened it up in a sloppy third.
"It's not a great way to end it,'' Theodore said. “Personally, i have to be better. It's as simple as that. I've been around long enough to know I need to be better. .-.-. I'm pretty confident. I will work hard and work ethic overcomes many things. I'm confident for the start of the season. We just need a big week of practices. I expect more out of myself.''
Center Stephen Weiss stayed off the ice for the fourth straight day as he battles what is believed to be a minor groin injury. Weiss isn't expected to practice Saturday but said he'll definitely be back Monday in preparation for the season opener.
“I'm doing off-ice drills to get this stronger so it doesn't happen any more,'' Weiss said. “I've been trying to back on the ice the past couple of days, but [trainer Dave Zenobi] isn't having it. We just want to make sure it's 100 percent before we get going next week. It's never easy to sit out, but I realize how it felt a few days ago. I'm not going to be stupid. I'll rest and be ready for next week.''
Weiss wasn't the only one out on Friday; Sean Bergenheim and Scottie Upshall missed as well.
“A healthy Stephen Weiss makes us a heck of a lot better hockey team,'' Dineen said. “For him to practice when he's a little nicked up doesn't help us long term.''
The Panthers only have a few roster spots left after putting forward Tim Kennedy on waivers on Friday in order to assign him to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
Kennedy, who was informed of the decision by Dale Tallon after Thursday's game, spent most of last season in the AHL because both the Rangers and Panthers were afraid of losing him through the waiver process.
Kennedy was traded to the Panthers in the Bryan McCabe deal in February and ended up playing in six games with Florida at the end of the year.