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Florida Panthers Get Back to Basics in Buffalo ... Welcome Back Mikael Samuelsson (Sorta)

Buffalopost1BUFFALO – A day after a late meltdown cost the Panthers at least one point in the standings and potentially a three-game winning streak, coach Kevin Dineen went back to the basics. 

Dineen's practice on Friday stressed his system and how he wanted the Panthers to use it. Just nine games into a season with virtually an entire new team, Dineen figured it was time to stress how important it was for the Panthers to stay within their game plan.

With two new players in Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson coming over from Vancouver, Dineen felt the need to go over some things. 

“We revisited some of our system things,'' Dineen said after Friday's workout at First Niagara Center, the re-named home arena of the Sabres. Florida plays Buffalo on Saturday. “With Marco and Samuelsson here now, we thought it was important to go through some of our systems and continue to work on that area on the ice. .-.-. We just worked on strong execution and think we accomplished that.''

In Thursday's 4-3 loss to the host Senators, the Panthers were not active on the boards and failed to clear pucks left by goalie Jacob Markstrom at inopportune times.

Ottawa scored the game-winning goal with 2.5 seconds left Thursday as Nick Folgino picked up a loose puck in the slot, worked around a Florida defense that looked to be standing still and popped the puck into the net.

Not the birthday present Dineen was looking for, that's for sure. The Panthers' first-year coach celebrated his 48th on Friday. 

Thursday's loss was extremely disappointing not only because of the end result – but what led to it.

The Panthers held one-goal leads on the Senators two different times, once off Jason Garrison's initial goal then off the one Stephen Weiss nicked in off a Tomas Fleischmann shot in the second. With the score tied at 2, the Senators took a late lead after Colin Greening scored with 2:07 remaining. 

Only the Panthers found new life in the final minute.

With Markstrom on the bench, Florida took full advantage of its extra attacker as Kris Versteeg found Billshimself all alone on the left side of the net as he scored with 47.1 seconds remaining to tie the score and, for all intent and purpose, force overtime to give the Panthers a nice road point at the very least. 

Things just didn't work out as planned. 

The Panthers must now put that loss in the rear view as they get ready for a tough opponent. The Sabres beat Florida 3-0 in Sunrise last Thursday and have won six of their past nine games – but are just 1-2-0 at home. Thursday's win over the visiting Blue Jackets was Buffalo's first home win of the season. 

“We talked about walking by and moving on from last night,'' Dineen said. “In saying that, shame on us for losing a couple of points.''


Mikael Samuelsson doesn't have the greatest memory of his one season with the Panthers as he was injured for most of the 2003-04 campaign. 

“If I'm going to be honest, I had a kind of crappy year,'' Samuelsson said with a smile. “I was injured a lot; I broke my jaw and had problems with the thumb too. So what [Florida fans] know about me is like 'OK I’m hurt all the time.' But that’s not really the case. Since I was in Florida the last time, I've been with Detroit and Vancouver and had decent years.''

Samuelsson is back with the Panthers after being acquired from Vancouver in the David Booth trade last Saturday. He joined the team Thursday in Ottawa and will be flying back to Florida with the team after Saturday night's game. Samuelsson didn't practice on Friday as he is having complications from sports hernia surgery he underwent last May.  

The Panthers do not have a timetable for his return.

Samuelsson played in Vancouver's first six games and scored a goal with two assists. Samuelsson said he was “on the right track” and “should be fine.'' The soreness came gradually, he said. 

Being traded so early in the season, he said, was a surprise. 

“I'm excited they have something good going here,'' Samuelsson said. “My first reaction was 'oh really, I'm traded?' It's one thing to get dealt over the summer and another thing in the season like this. I’m missing the city of Vancouver and friends so it's a little tough. But at the same time, I'm excited about joining Florida with what they got going here right now.''


When, Where: 7 p.m.; First Niagara Center, Buffalo

TV/Radio: No local TV; WQAM-560

The series: Sabres lead 41-24-4

BigbuffThe game: The Panthers finish off their three-game road trip in Buffalo after beating Montreal 2-1 on Monday and losing 4-3 at Ottawa on Thursday. The Panthers may start rookie Jacob Markstrom in net again Saturday as Jose Theodore was on the losing end of last week's 3-0 decision to the Sabres. Markstrom is fourth in the league with a 95 percent save success rate and 14th with a 2.11 goals-against average. Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who shut out the Panthers, is 10th in saves and 14th in GAA.