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Florida Panthers Clicking on All Cylinders ... Cats Have Four in Top 32, T-6th in Scoring

02_policesquad_560x375ST. LOUIS – In the world of hockey coaches, Kevin Dineen is in an envious position.

The first-year coach of the Panthers not only has his team playing well, but it's how the team is achieving its success that has other coaches around the NHL looking at the Panthers with a touch of jealousy.

Scoring? The Panthers have been getting plenty of that as they are off to their best start in a decade.

In Florida's past three road games, it has scored 16 goals. In the Panthers past seven games, it has outscored opponents 26-14 and came into Wednesday tied for sixth with Pittsburgh by averaging three goals per game. 

The Panthers also have four players within the top 32 in the league in scoring; last season, Stephen Weiss led the Panthers with 49 points and was ranked 99th. 

Even Florida's power play is improved. After scoring a franchise-low 35 power play goals last year, the Panthers have already scored 14 this year and are ranked sixth in the league for efficiency. 

HomesteadDefense has also been strong, with the Panthers holding opponents to three goals or fewer in nine straight games. Florida's defensemen has definitely chipped in on the offensive side; Florida's seven defensemen have accounted for 11 goals and 41 assists – those 52 points being most in the league.

Brian Campbell is tied with Vancouver's Daniel Sedin for the league lead with 16 assists and is 18th overall in scoring. Dmitry Kulikov, who got his first goal of the year on Tuesday, has 12 assists. Jason Garrison has already surpassed his previous career high by bombing in seven goals through the first 17 games. 

“Whoever it is who scores, we're thrilled,'' said Weiss, who had a goal and two assists in Tuesday's 6-0 win at Dallas. “We want them from all over the place. We even want to get [goalie Scott] Clemmensen involved as much as we can. Whomever it is, whether it's our line or [Shawn] Matthias' line or the defense, that is what good teams do. It's going to help us win.'' 

And goaltending, one of the big question marks coming into the season, has been more than adequate. Scott Clemmensen played in his first game of the season Tuesday and stopped all 25 shots faced for his seventh career shutout. 

Jose Theodore is 6-3-2 and has stopped 92 percent of his shots. Rookie Jacob Markstrom, sent to the minors last week, is still ranked 10th in the league after stopping 94 percent of his shots faced as he went 2-2-1. 

“We have three goalies. It wasn't too long ago we were talking a lot about Markstrom and I was talking about Theodore,'' Dineen said. “I have some excellent choices in net. I love it when they make it hard on me on the next decision.''

 

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