BUFFALO – Jose Theodore watched Jacob Markstrom from one of the best seats in the building. Sitting on the Panthers bench right near the ice, the Panthers elder statesman in goal took in what Florida's youngster was doing.
And no one was rooting harder for the kid to have success.
“What a character guy. He's been awesome in the room to everyone, but what a positive influence on Jacob,'' Stephen Weiss said of the relationship between the 35-year-old Theodore and the 21-year-old Markstrom.
“No one is happier for Markstrom than Theo was. Theo is a class act, has been great since he's been here. He's great for Markstrom although he has a confidence about him where he's comfortable in his own shoes and does his own thing. But it doesn't hurt to have Theo right there beside him.''
Markstrom appeared to have taken away the starter's job from Theodore with his play in the past week. Last week, Theodore faced 10 shots in the first 40 minutes of Florida's home game against the Islanders before cramping up. Theodore thought it would be best if Markstrom came on in relief and he excelled, stopping all 18 shots he faced as Florida rallied to win 4-2.
Two days later, it was Markstrom – not native son Theodore – getting the start for the Panthers in Montreal. Markstrom was impressive, stopping 40 shots in a 2-1 win. After that, Markstrom had to start in Ottawa.
After Florida lost 4-2 to the Senators, however, coach Kevin Dineen put Theodore back in. In Saturday's night's thrilling 3-2 win over the Sabres, Theodore was sharp throughout as he stopped 26 shots to get Florida to 6-4-0.
“We have two guys playing extremely well,'' Dineen said. “Jose had a couple of days off and that's not the worst thing for him. When his time came to play, he answered the bell.''
Theodore said he was anxious to get back in the net and help the team rebound from the Ottawa loss.
“I was so happy to see Jacob get in there and do so well,'' he said. “One of my jobs here is to help him and try to mentor him the best I can. I was really excited to see him do so well. It was great to see. He played great under some tough circumstances.''
Dineen said the most impressive thing he's noticed about Theodore is his work ethic. Whether he's starting or not, he's usually the first player on the ice. “And then I have to drag him off,'' Dineen said. Markstrom has obviously noticed as he seemingly has the same ideals when it comes to doing the work on the ice. If Theodore is on the ice first, Markstrom isn't far behind. Sometimes the kid makes it out there first.
“I don't know if it bugs me yet, but he almost works too hard,'' Dineen said. “He went three or four games in a row and he was still out there all the time. He's not a big man, so I worry a little about his workload. But it's early in the season and he's not concerned. He's in bring-it mode right now. He definitely puts the work in and things follow from there.''
-- Panthers forward Tim Kennedy played in his hometown Saturday for the first time since he was let go by the Sabres after scoring 10 goals with 16 assists as a rookie in 2009-10.
Kennedy did play in nearby Rochester for a short period last season after Florida acquired him in a trade with the New York Rangers in February.
“It’s nice,'' Kennedy said of returning to Buffalo. “It just happened to work out that it’s on the schedule, but I think that’s where it ends. You get to see your family and friends, and that’s where it ends because this is my job and I want to stay here so I’m going to prove to them that I have what it takes.''