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Florida Panthers Enjoying Rare -- and VERY Early -- View from the Top ... Scottie Upshall OUT v Flyers on Sunday

StandingsAfter a thrilling win in chilly Winnipeg the night before, Panthers winger Jack Skille tweeted how nice it was to be back in sunny South Florida. 

Waking up in first place isn't too bad either.

By beating the Jets 5-2 on Thursday night, the Panthers jumped Washington and Tampa Bay to take over first place in the Southeast Division. With Washington playing twice this weekend and the Lightning going on Saturday, Florida's view from the top may be short lived indeed. 

Yet for a team that has finished in last in the division the past two seasons – and were worst in the entire conference last season – it's nice to visit the penthouse every once in a while. 

The Panthers came into Friday holding the third spot in the Eastern Conference. It should be noted that Florida has 67 games remaining.

“It's a little too early in the season to be watching the standings,'' coach Kevin Dineen understated. “We're just going about our business. We're not looking too far ahead. But it is nice to see that our hard work is paying off.''

The Panthers, off to their best start since 1996, have played nine of their 15 games this season away from South Florida.

Florida has found success on the road so far, its six wins is tops in the east and tied for the NHL lead. Florida won two of three on its previous road trip before sweeping Toronto and Winnipeg this week. The Panthers outscored those two opponents 10-3.

“Before the season, we talked about how you can identify the character of a team on how they play on the road,'' Dineen said. “We take a lot of pride in playing solid hockey on road. Ownership has given us leeway to do anything schedule-wise we feel we need to get peak performance. The players appreciate that. It's important for us to now reciprocate at home.''

The Panthers' two home wins are tied for fewest in the league. Florida plays host to Philadelphia on Sunday before heading out on the road for two more at Dallas and St. Louis. 

-- Scottie Upshall suffered an undisclosed injury during the first period of Thursday's game and will miss Sunday's game. Dineen said injured winger Mikael Samuelsson likely isn't ready to play yet so Florida will call up a forward from its AHL affiliate in San Antonio. 

“He got caught in an awkward position, he's not even sure he got hit,'' Dineen said.

Clevel-- Goalie Jacob Markstrom gave up four goals on Thursday night as he made his season debut with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. Markstrom, 21, only gave up that many goals once in five appearances for the Panthers before being sent to the minors on Monday.

The host Lake Erie Monsters scored four goals on 28 shots against Markstrom in a 5-2 win at Quicken Loans Arena. 

Panthers prospects Angelo Esposito and Colby Robak scored for the Rampage. 

 

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It's absurd that markstrom is not with the cats. His skills could deteriorate in his boredom at SA.

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