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57 posts from November 2011

November 20, 2011

Welcome Back: Pete DeBoer Returns to Face Panthers on Monday with Devils ... DeBo: No Regrets, Has No Problem with Dale Tallon

DeboerdevsPete DeBoer was in unfamiliar territory on Sunday afternoon, strolling the halls of the BankAtlantic Center as a few members of his team practiced on the ice.

Being at the arena wasn't anything new for DeBoer after spending three seasons coaching the Panthers. Now with the Devils, DeBoer found the visiting side of the building to be a bit strange.

“I have never been over here. I used to meet [Carolina coach] Paul Maurice over in the middle there, the neutral zone,'' DeBoer said. “It's a little Deboergolfdifferent but it's all good. I'm excited to be back. I looked at the calender to see when we'd be back. I made a lot of friends, met a lot of people in three years.''

DeBoer was back at the Sunrise arena for the first time since being fired by Dale Tallon on April 10. DeBoer will face the Panthers on Monday, telling reporters after Saturday night's win in Tampa “for a lot of reasons, I'd like to win that one.'' It's not just the revenge factor either. DeBoer's Devils are playing very well, going 3-1 on this five game road trip and winning six of eight. 

“He has his team playing well,'' said Kevin Dineen, who replaced DeBoer behind the Florida bench. “You move on. Someone as old as I am know it's a tough game to sit there and wish ill will on anyone. Sometimes that's the human reaction, but as far as two points go, I'm sure he wants the wins for the standings instead of just beating the Florida Panthers.''

DeboersignOnly a few Devils participated in Sunday's optional practice, DeBoer joking as he often did in Florida that he “took his option” and didn't skate. He instead met with the media and reflected on his time with the Panthers.

DeBoer says he still follows the Panthers and has no regrets in regards to his tenure here. Florida got 93 points in his first year, second most in franchise history, but missed out on the playoffs. The final two years were a mess as the team was in turmoil and flux. 

“I'm definitely a better coach, I've learned a lot'' said DeBoer, who won his last game as Panthers coach April 9 against the Capitals and has the second-most wins in franchise history.

“I have no regrets, none. Obviously you don't take a job anticipating three GM changes and three ownership changes in your time, but I don't regret the job I did and wouldn't have changed anything. We poured ourselves into this job and lived it for three years. I left a better coach and really enjoyed my time in South Florida.''

Dineen said he and DeBoer didn't have much of a relationship before this summer when DeBoer approached the new coach of the Panthers to talk.

The two mostly spoke of the youth hockey scene in South Florida as the two both have kids around the same age. DeBoer wanted Dineen to know he wasn't Deboer (2)bitter about anything. Dineen appreciated DeBoer reaching out. 

A few weeks after the two met, DeBoer got the Devils job. 

“We had a great talk,'' Dineen said. “He couldn't have been more gracious to me. He really is a guy I have respect for. It's no fun being on that side of it and we both worked on making something that could have been uncomfortable be not that way at all. We wish him well for a lot of times, just not Monday night.''

Said DeBoer: "I just wanted to touch base with him. Whenever you replace someone there's always that awkward feeling. I just wanted him to know that I wished him luck and that he was getting a good man in Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas. I also wanted him to know how great the support staff is here from Michael Dixon to Justin Copertino. 

"We didn't talk a lot about personnel. We did talk minor hockey in South Florida though.''

Monday's game will feature DeBoer coaching against Dineen, but the bigger picture deals with the two clubs. The Panthers go into the game atop the Southeast Division this late in a season for the first time since 2000; the Devils have 21 points and are right in the thick of things. 

DeBoer says he is happy the Panthers are having success and seeing “players we had a hand in developing” doing well. DeBoer had praise for the likes of Stephen Weiss, Dmitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison, Shawn Matthias and Keaton Ellerby. 

“Stephen Weiss is one of my all-time favorites,'' he said. “The one thing about the coaches we had here in Florida was that we didn't cheat the players on effort in trying to make them better. That was our job.

"We had no regrets on the job we did on the way out. The results just weren't good enough and a decision was made. We were all OK with that.''

As far as Tallon and the Panthers go, DeBoer says he is not bitter and is glad for the opportunity he had with the Panthers. 

“Dale has made all the right moves,'' DeBoer said. “This organization is heading in the right direction and he treated me with great respect. I have no issues with him. You can't argue with the success they've had.

"He's making the right decisions. Myself included.''

DevilsMONDAY: DEVILS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Devils lead 43-23-7

The game: The Devils are in the final game of a five-game road swing in which they've won three of the Devilfirst four – including Saturday's game in Tampa Bay. The Devils are 10-7-1, a stark contrast to last year as John McLean got the quick hook after a dreadful 5-11-2 start. .-.-. Florida won its third home game of the season Saturday with a thrilling 3-2 decision over the Penguins. Expect Jose Theodore to return after stopping 39 shots against the Pens. 

 

OnFrozenFilm After Dark: Florida Panthers Bill Murphy Sings for Supper In Sunrise

November 19, 2011

Jacob Markstrom Back with Panthers ... Scott Clemmensen Expected Back on Ice on Monday

MarkstromhabsCoach Dineen said backup goalie Scott Clemmensen is out for the short term with “a little soreness'' after shutting out Dallas on Tuesday.

Rookie Jacob Markstrom was called up from AHL San Antonio and was Theodore's backup against the Penguins.

Dineen said Clemmensen's absence had nothing to do with his surgically repaired right knee and that he could be back skating by Monday. The Panthers are taking Sunday off. 

“I want guys to feel 100 percent,'' Dineen said. “If this were later in the season, the decision would be different. I was going back with Theodore [Saturday] and thought an extra day or two off the ice would help Clemmensen more than having him practicing.''

Although Dineen doesn't expect Clemmensen to be out long, he didn't rule out Markstrom starting Monday against the Devils. Markstrom went 2-2-1 with a .944 save percentage and a 2.05 GAA while with the Panthers before being sent to the minors; Markstrom is 2-3-0 (3.60/.879) with the Rampage after posting a win on Friday. 

“It's short-term, I just don't know how short term,'' Dineen said of Clemmensen. “Jacob has done a really good job since being up and I like keeping my options. We'll play it from there on Monday.''

Florida Panthers Get Rare Home Win, Hold Off Penguins 3-2 ... New Sawgrass Express Line Gets 2 Goals, 5 Assists

BACPanthers coach Kevin Dineen said his team's record on home ice was a bit misleading. Florida came into Saturday with the fewest home wins in the league, only three of the past four losses came in a shootout and could have gone either way. 

On Saturday, one finally went the way of the Panthers. 

Stephen Weiss capped off a great night by jamming a puck through with 3:30 left and Jose Theodore held off the late-charging Penguins as Florida ended its home losing skid with a 3-2 win in front of an announced 18,071 at BankAtlantic Center. 

“Just to get a home win, get that off our back, and to beat a team like that really is huge for us,'' said Weiss, who had a goal and two assists. “I don't know Sawgrassif it was a statement, but this gives us confidence that if we play the way we want to play we can compete with teams like that.''

The Panthers hadn't won in Sunrise since beating the Islanders on Oct. 22. Saturday's win also snapped Florida's losing streak to Pittsburgh at five and catapulted them over the Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. 

“It's about time we get some bounces in our building in the final minutes of games,'' said Kris Versteeg, who had a pair of assists as his line of Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann had something to do with all three goals. “We have to be better at home, a hard team to play at home.''

Theodore ended with 39 saves and stopped all 17 shots offered in the third period. The night didn't start off the way he would have liked as the Penguins got on the board first after Chris Kunitz knocked a puck Theodore got a piece of through just 1:09 in. Only Theodore stood firm.

“I didn't panic,'' he said. “We out-battled them in front of the net. Huge win. You need to start the week on the right note. You never want to lose two in a row. This was a good bounce back win.''

Florida responded six minutes later as Brian Campbell got his second goal of the season after getting the puck into the slot and putting it underneath Brent Johnson. The Panthers then took their first lead of the night in the second when Tomas Fleischmann ended Florida's power play drought at 18 chances when he pulled in a puck and flung it past Johnson (28 saves). 

Pittsburgh tied it on a sweet Jordan Staal goal with 7:22 left in the second, but the Panthers finally got the go-ahead third period goal at home it had been looking for when Weiss, Fleischmann and Versteeg all chopped at a loose puck on a power play chance. Weiss got a piece of it and Johnson couldn't find it.
After that, the Pens threw everything they had at Theodore.

“The desire to keep the puck out of the net was extremely strong by all six players on the ice,'' Dineen said. “I don't think our fans ever get cheated here at home. We always make it entertaining.''





Austin Dillon Takes Truck Title After Homestead Storm

Austin Dillon said he wouldn't run a defensive race and slide into a championship despite entering Friday night's season finale with a cushion in the points race.

The 21-year-old hot shot with the No. 3 on the side of his black Chevrolet all but slipped into a championship thanks to a torrential downpour that prematurely ended the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Dillon was declared the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion after rain halted the Ford 200 with 15 laps remaining and Dillon running in 10th. Johnny Sauter came into the night 20 points back in the chase for the title but his run was literally washed out. Sauter was leading, after holding off Denny Hamlin on what turned into the final lap under green, when the race was called.

Sauter's second win of the season was a bit bittersweet as he knew how close he had come to the title. Had Dillon been closer to the bottom of the field at the time, Sauter would have won the race – and the championship. Sauter ended the season a mere six points back.

“I had no clue,'' Sauter said when asked when he knew rain would be an issue, “until it was on my windshield.''

Dillon couldn't contain his emotion as he was told the race was over as he jumped into the air and hugged everyone in sight – including team owner (and grandfather) Richard Childress. Dillon becomes the youngest truck series champion in its 17th season.

“This,'' Dillon said, “is the best day of my life.''

Dillon had been battling for the top spot until dropping back with less than 35 laps remaining. By the time Dillon dropped to 14th with 32 laps to go, his points lead was cut to just two as Sauter took the lead. Sauter, in his third full year in the truck series, led 44 of the 119 laps – most of any driver. Dillon never led a lap but spent plenty of time up front.

With 24 remaining, Dillon had moved up to 11th and found a comfortable spot as he settled in 10th. That's where he stayed until the skies opened up again – the starting grid was based off practice times as qualifying was washed out – and the trucks were called to pit road.

“What an eventful day. It was a phenomenal year,'' Sauter said. “Winning two NASCAR races in a year is a huge accomplishment and something I've always tried to do. To be six points back at the end is a bit of a bummer knowing some of the things we went through the year. You can go down the list; everyone can. That's racing. It was a pleasure to drive this truck. To win two races and know we get to come back next year and chase a championship is awesome.''

Dillon, the 2010 rookie of the year, goes into next season with momentum as he takes on a full-time ride for Richard Childress Racing in the Nationwide Series.

And like the truck he brought into victory lane on Friday, Dillon will be running stock cars with the famed No. 3 on the side in 2012 – the first time that number will run full-time in either Nationwide or Sprint Cup since Dale Earnhardt's tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500.

Dillon is not only the grandson of Childress but the son of RCR general manager Mike Dillon. Earnhardt won six of his seven Cup titles for Childress upon coming over to RCR in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has run a No. 3 car in three Nationwide races since his father's death – including a victory at the Daytona summer race last year.

Ty Dillon, 19, takes over the No. 3 truck for RCR next season. In his third truck start Friday, Ty finished sixth. He placed third at Texas – Austin ran second – earlier this month.

Austin Dillon Takes Truck Title After Homestead Storm

November 18, 2011

Sid-Less in Sunrise: Florida Panthers to Face Penguins Sans Sidney Crosby ... Cats Kick Off Big Homestand ... Bring Food to Game, Eh

SidneyFrom a competitive standpoint, the Panthers got a dose of good news out of BankAtlantic Center on Friday morning when Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said star Sidney Crosby wouldn't make his much anticipated return on Saturday.

Only the Panthers wouldn't have minded seeing Crosby come out and play.

Florida kicks off a season-long four-game homestand Saturday night against the Crosby-less Penguins.

Crosby hasn't played since suffering a pair of concussions last January, and there was plenty of speculation he would make his season debut against the Panthers. 

After skating with his teammates at BankAtlantic Center, Crosby and Bylsma huddled for a few minutes. A number of media members stalked Crosby's locker waiting for some sort of news.

When Crosby finally came off the ice he politely declined comment – as he has the past few weeks – saying only nothing had changed. Bylsma made it official a few minutes later. 

Crosby has been practicing with the Penguins for the past month, lending to speculation that his return is right around the corner. Bylsma updates the media on Crosby's playing status the day before each game.

On Friday he explained that Crosby's status hasn't been a distraction. Last year, the Penguins went 23-13-5 without their captain and earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs before being knocked out in seven games by the fifth-seeded Lightning. 

Pittsburgh came into South Florida tied for the most points in the Eastern Conference even after losing 4-1 at Tampa Bay on Thursday. 

“Sid has been rehabbing with us, is a part of our team,'' Bylsma said. “We know right now he's not going to be out there for us. We've been going through this for 10 months. We're about the guys who play every night. We love seeing him skating around out there and hope he rejoins us.''

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said he was “a big fan'' of Crosby on Thursday but added “my nose would grow if I said I wouldn't mind him waiting another game.'' On Friday, after being told Crosby was officially out, Dineen changed course a bit.

“I am disappointed,'' Dineen said after part of his team went through a light skate in Coral Springs. “Yes, I'm the opposing coach, but I was looking forward to seeing him play again. We all are – players, coaches and fans. It would have made our task much more difficult so there is some relief that you're not the first team to face him. .-.-. Lets not kid ourselves. He's the face of the game right now. There's a hole there not having him play.''

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said he had mixed emotions on hearing that Crosby would miss Saturday's game. On one hand, his absence helps the Panthers on the ice. On the other, everyone wants to play the best. And Crosby is arguably the best player in the league. 

“You obviously want to be supportive and hope he comes back soon,'' Kulikov said. “But it's a good thing for us; one of the best players in the world isn't going to play against us.''

HOMEWARD BOUND

The Panthers will be looking for a rare win in Sunrise on Saturday. The Panthers have won just two home games this season – fewest in the league – and haven't celebrated a home win since beating the Islanders 4-2 way back on Oct. 22. Florida leads the NHL with seven road victories. 

“This is huge. You have to win at home to have success in this league,'' Mike Santorelli said. “We have a big homestand and know it's a big homestand. We have to focus on each game no matter where it is. Bring it every night. We have to bear down at home.''

-- The Panthers recalled winger Michal Repik from AHL San Antonio on Saturday as center Marcel Goc will miss a second straight game with an undisclosed injury. 

Soup-- Fans attending Saturday's game are asked to bring canned or non-perishable food for the team's annual holiday food drive. Fans who donate will get 20 percent off merchandise at the new team store and one fan will win an autographed can of soup by defenseman Brian 'Soupy' Campbell. Donations will also be accepted at Monday's game.

YsuSATURDAY: PENGUINS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Penguins lead 36-30-4

The game: The Penguins have won five straight over the Panthers including a 4-2 decision in Florida's second game of the season. Backup goalie Brent Johnson (1-2-2) is expected to start for the Pens. During its winning streak against the Panthers, Pittsburgh has yet to give up more than two goals in a game to Florida. .-.-. The Panthers won four straight road games before losing 4-1 at St. Louis on Thursday. 

November 17, 2011

Florida Panthers Can't 'Win One for the Zipper,' Lose 4-1 at Blues ... Goc Out, Skille In ... Rostislav Olesz Off to the Minors ... Evgeny is now Evgenii

Striker2ST. LOUIS – Two nights after one of their most dominating and complete performances in years, the Panthers effort for much of Thursday was much different.

It could be summed up in a line uttered by Ted Striker, the flawed hero of the movie Airplane!: The Panthers were simply “sluggish. Like a wet sponge.”

 Despite Florida's lackluster play, the host Blues – as well as a bad call that cost St. Louis a goal – let the Panthers to stick around until late in the game. StrikerFlorida didn't take advantage of the Missouri hospitality.

Kris Russell scored the back-breaking goal midway through the third as the Blues ended the Panthers run of road success with a 4-1 win at Scottrade Center.

“We look sloppy and slow,'' coach Kevin Dineen said, “when we're not engaged in the game. We had our opportunities, but didn't do enough to realistically win. We've come back before, settled down after bad stretches but didn't do that [Thursday]. In the third, they were very hungry. They smelled that we were trying an easier way to win. That doesn't work for us.'' 

The Panthers were trying to tie a franchise record with their fifth straight road win. Instead, the Panthers limp home for a four-game set that starts Saturday against Pittsburgh with one of its worst played games of the season fresh in their minds. 

The Blues took a 1-0 lead at 6:04 of the first when David Backes stole a Brian Campbell pass intended for Tim Kennedy and rifled a shot past goalie Jose Theodore. 

Florida was able to counter later in the period on a similar theft by Mike Santorelli as he picked off a pass from Jason Arnott and whipped a shot from 10 feet out to beat Halak.

The Panthers had an extended power play chance at the start of the second, but as has been the case lately, weren't able to do anything with it. The Blues controlled play despite being down a skater and kept the Panthers from taking the lead. 

Not long after the power play ended – Scott Nichol had been assessed five minutes for spearing and was kicked out of the game – Chris Porter got in front of a Mike Weaver pass that neither Keaton Ellerby nor Marco Sturm could corral and put a shot past Theodore. 

The Panthers should have trailed 3-1 when T.J. Oshie scored in front of the net, but the goal was waved off for goalie interference. No penalty was called, nor should there have been. Oshie and Jason Garrison got tangled up down low and no one touched Theodore. 

“It was one of those nights when you feel like you are on your heels the whole night,'' Ed Jovanovski said. “We just couldn't get 'er going. We got a couple breaks along the way, the disallowed goal and it's 2-1 on the road. That's a pretty good position. But we really didn't have it.''

Florida had another nice power play chance with a 4-on-3 opportunity but failed to score late in the second. The Panthers power play, which is much improved over last year's franchise-worst 35 goals, hasn't scored in their past 14 chances. 

St. Louis outshot the Panthers 25-15 in the final 40 minutes, with Russell driving in on Theodore and scoring off a nice pass from Vladimir Sobotka with 10:14 left in the third. Backes ended it with 1:50 left when he scored into an empty net.

INJURIES CONTINUE

The Panthers got winger Jack Skille back on Thursday but were forced to play seven defensemen against the Blues as center Marcel Goc was held back. Goc, who said he was feeling better, suffered an undisclosed upper body injury after being hit Tuesday in Dallas. 

Goc could be back for the Panthers on Saturday; Matt Bradley says he hopes to be back from his undisclosed injury next week. Skille suffered a minor injury Sunday against the Flyers and missed just one game. 

-- Former Panthers winger Rostislav Olesz cleared waivers on Thursday afternoon and was sent to the minors by the Blackhawks. Florida traded Olesz to Chicago in June for defenseman Brian Campbell.

Even though Campbell makes much more than Olesz, Florida didn't want to pay the $11.65 million owed to him over the course of the next three seasons.

In six games with the Blackhawks, Olesz had no goals nor assists and was a minus-1. Campbell, meanwhile, has been one of the Panthers scoring leaders and came into Thursday's game second in the NHL with 16 assists. Olesz has been assigned to Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill. 

-- The Panthers announced the spelling of winger Evgeny Dadonov's first name is now 'Evgenii' to reflect a change on his passport.

When asked how he wanted it spelled, Dadonov shrugged and said to go with what's on the passport.  

 

November 16, 2011

Florida Panthers Head Up Food Drive ... Win a Brian Campbell Autographed Soup Can ... Get It?

 ST. LOUIS -- SoupThe Florida Panthers Foundation and Feeding South Florida will be collecting non-perishable and canned goods at the next two Panthers games: Saturday against Pittsburgh Penguins (Sidney Crosby?) and Monday against Pete DeBoer's New Jersey Devils.

You can deliever your food -- they are hoping for rice, beans (dry or canned), canned tuna/chicken, canned fruits, canned veggies, mac and cheese (me too!) and plastic containers of peanut butter and jellies -- at the main gates. 

Luckily, a lot of this stuff is on sale at Publix. A lot of 2-for-1 deals. That's double the stuff you can bring. Cool, right?

As a bonus, fans who bring food receive a 20% discount on merchandise at wherever Pantherland is located these days.

And as an extra special bonus, one fan will walk away with a very limited edition Brian Campbell autographed can of Campbell's Soup each night.

Will it be chicken noodle or will it be tomato? No one knows!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sidney Crosby to Return at Florida Panthers on Saturday? ... Stephen Weiss 'Only' plus-5 ... St. Louis Blues: NEXT

CrosbyWELCOME BACK CROSBY?

The Panthers could be in the hockey spotlight on Saturday – and it's not necessarily because of their surprising start. 

Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been out of action since suffering a pair of concussions last January.

Reports have indicated that Crosby's much-anticipated return could come Saturday against Florida at BankAtlantic Center. 

KotterCrosby traveled with the Penguins to Florida but will not play Thursday against the Lightning. 

Let the speculation begin.

And the hoarding of tickets by scalpers.  

-- After Tuesday's lopsided game in Dallas, coach Kevin Dineen gave the team a day off to explore St. Louis.

Or, being that Wednesday brought cloudy skies and a cold whipping wind, some chose to just hang out at the hotel and relax a bit. 

“The score plays into it,'' Dineen said, “but guys are feeling it a little bit. The game seemingly went well, but we have some ice packs going around.'' 

-- Center Stephen Weiss was originally credited with a plus-6 rating on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the league reviewed the tape and determined Weiss wasn't on the ice for Evgeny Dadonov's goal – Florida's sixth of the night.

Weiss' rating went down a notch to a still very respectable plus-5. 

Deboergolf“[A plus-5] doesn't get you into Sunday during the Masters,'' Dineen joked, “but it's still a pretty nice way to go. He had a super game. Four of those goals were directly related to him. That's a reflection of a real good game.''

-- Dineen said winger Matt Bradley would likely be out for a week with an undisclosed upper body injury.

The Panthers aren't expected to bring anyone up from AHL San Antonio as Jack Skille (groin) did skate on Wednesday and should play Thursday against the Blues.

Skille was hurt Sunday against the Flyers and missed Tuesday's game.

THURSDAY: PANTHERS AT BLUES

BluesWhen, Where: 8 p.m.; Scottrade Center, St. Louis

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Blues lead 14-7-3

The game: The Blues are 3-0-1 since veteran coach Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench – including a rousing 2-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday. .-.-. Florida has won two of its past three games in St. Louis. Scott Clemmensen could start for Florida after pitching a shutout Tuesday in Dallas. Clemmensen is 1-0 against the Blues, leading the Devils to a 4-3 win here on Dec. 30, 2008. 

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.''

 

November 15, 2011

Florida Panthers Vacation Continues, Rout Dallas Stars 6-0 ... Stephen Weiss Gets 3 Points as Scott Clemmensen Eases into Shutout

VacationDALLAS – The Panthers continued their strong play away from South Florida by putting on an absolute clinic in a 6-0 win Tuesday over the Stars at AmericanAirlines Center. 

Florida took a 2-0 lead in a opening period it dominated, holding the Stars to four shots.

Dallas didn't their first shot of the second until after the midway point. By the time Stephen Weiss scored in the final seconds in the second, it was over.

The Panthers are tied with Detroit and Chicago with seven road wins. Florida has won four straight away from home and outscored its past three opponents 16-3. The Panthers have won a league-low two home games.

“That's hockey, it's just one of those things,'' said Weiss, who had a goal and two assists. “For whatever reason we're more relaxed on the road and play too cute at home. Maybe it's because we have a lot of new guys and want to put on a show for the fans. We have the best intentions, but sometimes, you have to keep it simple and do what works. We just have to find this formula at home.''

Dallas took just 25 shots – fewest against the Panthers this season – as Scott Clemmensen made a triumphant return by getting his seventh career shutout and third with the Panthers. Clemmensen hadn't played since knee surgery during training camp. Tuesday's shutout was his first since beating Toronto last March.

“That was a good game for me to play in my first game back as well as they were playing,'' Clemmensen said. “Basically it turned into a 20 minute game for me with a 4-0 lead.''

The Panthers made quick work of a Dallas team that has now lost three straight. Dmitry Kulikov continued Florida's trend of scoring from the blueline by banging in a puck with 3:16 left in the first. Two shots later, Jason Garrison blasted one from 50 feet out to make it 2-0. 

Florida survived a brief run by the Stars midway through the second, but kept momentum when Tomas Fleischmann made a spectacular move with the puck and roofed a shot past Kari Lehtonen – who beat the Panthers in 13 of 22 starts while with the Thrashers.

With 7.8 seconds left in the third, Stephen Weiss took a feed from Kris Versteeg to make it 4-0.

Weiss returned the favor at the midway mark of the third, feeding Versteeg for his team-leading ninth goal of the year.

Evgeny Dadonov ended it after Marco Sturm's pass deflected off his skate and past Lehtonen. Originally waved off, Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed the play and awarded Dadonov his second goal in as many games with the Panthers this season. 

WEISS FOR CAPTAIN? 

Weiss moved into sole possession of second place in all-time games played for the Florida Panthers on Tuesday by playing in No. 574. The guy he is chasing for first said a Weiss captaincy with the Panthers is in order. 

“He's been with them a long time, started his career there,'' said longtime Florida winger Radek Dvorak, who now plays for the Stars. “Every year he's been a better player, shown he's a leader. He's a great teammate and just deserves it. He's a Florida Panther. He's one of the top players to ever play for them.''

Dvorak, who was traded to Atlanta last February and signed with the Stars this summer, is Florida's all-time leader in games played. Dvorak, 34, logged 613 games for the Panthers in two different stints.

Weiss could become the Panthers leader in games played in the middle of February. He says he's not counting.

“It's not something you think about, but to be up on the list of games played for an organization in this league is pretty cool,'' said Weiss, the fourth-overall pick of the 2001 draft in Sunrise by the Panthers. “At the end of your career it's an accomplishment.''

 

Florida Panthers Injury Update: Scott Upshall out 6-8 Weeks; Mikael Samuelsson Back Next Week?

UpshallDALLAS -- The Panthers have lost winger Scottie Upshall for a considerable amount of time as he suffered an hip injury last week in Winnipeg.

Assistant general manager Mike Santos said he doesn't think Upshall will need surgery but it's possible; if he doesn't need surgery, Upshall is still likely out until late December. 

Santos said Upshall got hit in an awkward spot against the Jets, his body folding back and pulling something in the process. 

“It's an injury that takes time to heal,'' Santos said. “I think it's going to be a little while. [Dineen] said Christmas, and that's probably about right.''

With Upshall out, the Panthers may be getting Mikael Samuelsson back in the coming days.

Santos said Samuelsson was back in Vancouver getting Visa issues corrected but could join the team in St. Louis. Santos said he expects Samuelsson to practice with the team once he joins them and will play once he gets his legs under him.

Samuelsson came to the Panthers in the David Booth trade on Oct. 22 but hasn't played with the Panthers because of complications from a sports hernia surgery he underwent in May. 

“I think physically he's OK, but he just hasn't played in any games,'' Santos said. “I don't have a real timetable, but we're close. I think it'll be this month.''

-- Matt Bradley left Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury. If he can't go Thursday, the Panthers are in trouble. Not much left in the San Antonio well apparently.

-- The Panthers recalled center Tim Kennedy from AHL San Antonio on Tuesday as Jack Skille was out with an apparent groin injury suffered Sunday against the Flyers. Skille is with the team but didn't practice Tuesday. He did say his injury felt much better. 

-- Goalie Scott Clemmensen made his first start of the season Tuesday. Clemmensen missed time thanks to knee surgery in preseason and good play by Jose Theodore the past week. 

 

Stephen Weiss: Face of the Florida Panthers? ... Tim Kennedy Recalled, Scott Clemmensen Starts

Weiss3PANTHERS EARLY EDITION

DALLAS – Stephen Weiss moved into sole possession of second place in all-time games played for the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. 

The guy he is chasing for first said a Weiss captaincy with the Panthers is in order. 

“He's been with them a long time, started his career there,'' said longtime Florida winger Radek Dvorak, who now plays for the Stars.

“Every year he's been a better player, shown he's a leader. He's a great teammate and just deserves it. He's a Florida Panther. He's one of the top players to ever play for them. This is his 10th year and he's been on the top of the charts and is one reason they've played good this year.''

Dvorak, who was traded to Atlanta last February and signed with the Stars this summer, is Florida's all-time leader in games played.

Dvorak, 34, logged 613 games for the Panthers in two different stints. Dvorak first started with Florida in 1995 and left via trade in 1999. He returned in 2007 before last year's trade at the deadline. 

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Tuesday that he has thought about the Panthers captaincy but doesn't expect to name a singular one anytime soon. Weiss is one of four alternate captains for the Panthers, joining newcomers Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski – who, coincidentally, was one of three rookies to play on Florida's 1996 Eastern Conference championship team. Dvorak and Robert Svehla were the others. Weiss moved past Svehla on Tuesday.

Florida has been without a captain since Bryan McCabe was traded to the Rangers last season. The Panthers last went without a captain for a full season in 2008-09 – Pete DeBoer's first year as coach – after Olli Jokinen was traded to Phoenix that offseason. 

“I think we're getting excellent leadership from our leadership group,'' Dineen said. “Those things will come in time. Everything has its own time frame. Right now, I'm extremely happy with the leadership we're getting.''

Weiss smiled when told of Dvorak's praise as the two were close during their time with the Panthers. Dvorak's franchise record is just one of many Weiss is chasing down. 

Barring trade or injury, it's likely that Weiss will not only become the Panthers leader in games played but goals (he trails Jokinen by 59 going into Tuesday), assists (15 from Jokinen) and total points (74, Jokinen).

Weiss could become the Panthers leader in games played by Feb. 15 against Ottawa. 

He says he's not counting.

“It's not something you think about, but to be up on the list of games played for an organization in this league is pretty cool,'' said Weiss, the fourth-overall pick of the 2001 draft in Sunrise by the Panthers. “At the end of your career it's an accomplishment.''

-- The Panthers recalled center Tim Kennedy from AHL San Antonio on Tuesday as Jack Skille was out with an apparent groin injury suffered Sunday against the Flyers. Skille is with the team but didn't practice Tuesday. He did say his injury felt much better. 

-- Goalie Scott Clemmensen made his first start of the season Tuesday. Clemmensen missed time thanks to knee surgery in preseason and good play by Jose Theodore the past week. 

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for all Florida Panthers updates -- as well as other stuff.

twitter.com/@OnFrozenPond

OnFrozenFilm: Kevin Dineen

OnFrozenFilm: Stephen Weiss

Stephen Weiss takes over second place in games played for the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. What did he say to the refs the other night? It wasn't that bad. Complete overreaction. We did not discuss on camera.

 

OnFrozenFilm: Radek Dvorak

Former Florida Panthers winger Radek Dvorak talks about Stephen Weiss chasing down his franchise record for games played - among other stuff.

November 13, 2011

Flyers Dig Life in the Sun, Bounce Florida Panthers 3-2 ... Stephen Weiss Hits Milestone, Gets Kicked Out ... Two More ex-Panthers to Reach Hall of Fame Monday

RockyAfter playing their previous game Wednesday in Tampa, the Philadelphia Flyers made themselves at home in the Sunshine State with a 'team bonding' trip that including fishing on the Gulf, golf and time by the pool. 

On Sunday, the tourists from Broad Street took over BankAtlantic Center with a strong performance in a 3-2 win over the Panthers. 

So, the Panthers failed to win at home again? The good news is they go right back on the road. 

Florida has been strong on the road and just so-so in Sunrise so far this season, Sunday just another example of the Panthers lack of a home-ice advantage.

The Panthers came into the game tied for the league lead with six road wins; Florida is tied for last with just two at home. Florida kicks off another two-game road trip Tuesday in Dallas. This is nothing new: The Panthers haven't had a winning home record since 2008-09.

“You want to have success in front of your home base,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “We have business to take care of this week before we come back here.''

The Panthers weren't happy with the officiating crew, not after Matt Read was given a penalty shot 4:14 into the third on a Jason Garrison penalty. 
Stephen Weiss was obviously steamed, so much, he had some select words for the official and was ejected. Read scored on the penalty shot – this was during a four-minute power play by the Panthers – and Philadelphia had a 3-1 lead. 

“I got caught flat footed, there was a loose puck on the boards and one of their guys flew,'' Garrison said. “He was off to the races and my only play was to try and get the puck. Obviously I hit the body as well. I'm not exactly sure what happened with [Weiss], but it's an emotional game and he was showing his emotion. He was probably frustrated with the call. It was a tough goal for them to get.''

With Weiss out, Florida was down two forwards as Jack Skille left the game with an undisclosed injury earlier. Still, the Panthers had plenty of chances as Philadelphia was called for six penalties. The Panthers failed to cash in on any of them.

“I believe it was a penalty, not a penalty shot,'' Dineen said. “Stephen showed frustration. Our composure was not great and that was a good example of it. We lost our best forward for the last 10 minutes of the game. .-.-. Stephen is, to me, our most valuable player in how I use him in a lot of key situations, power play and penalty killing. When he's not there, it's a pretty big hole.''

Philadelphia took its first lead with 3:50 left in the first as Danny Briere roofed a loose puck down low. In the second, Braydon Coburn took a pretty pass from Jakub Voracek and slid it past Jose Theodore (32 saves). Florida got going midway through the second with Evgeny Dadonov scoring in his first game back from the minors. 

Down 3-1, the Panthers pulled Theodore late and got an goal in the closing seconds as Tomas Fleischmann flipped the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov with a mere 7.4 seconds remaining. 

“It was one of those games where we weren't very good early,'' Ed Jovanovski said. “We made it a game. We kind of just ran out of time.''

FLORIDA HALL OF FAMERS

The Panthers will have two more former players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Monday as Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour will join Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe as the Hall's Class of 2012.

Nieuwendyk, now the general manager of the Dallas Stars, signed with the Panthers soon after the lockout in 2005 but retired early in the 2006-07 season before briefly joining the Florida front office. Belfour also spent his final NHL season with the Panthers, playing here in 2006-07. 

Other players in the hall who have played for the Panthers include Dino Ciccarelli (1998-99), Igor Larionov (2000), coach Roger Nielson (1993-95) and builder Bill Torrey (1993-present). 

-- Weiss moved into a tie for second place for games played with the Panthers. Weiss will pass Robert Svehla on Tuesday at Dallas as both are tied with 573 games. Radek Dvorak set the record with 613 last season.

 

November 12, 2011

Florida Panthers Welcome Back Evgeny Dadonov ... Cats Play host to 'Rested' Flyers on Sunday

DadsWith Scottie Upshall out “a little while,'' as Dineen put it, Evgeny Dadonov was recalled from Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Saturday and is expected to be in the lineup Sunday against the Flyers.

Dadonov, Florida's lone representative at All-Star Weekend last year, had a poor training camp and was sent to the minors just a week into the season.

Dadonov has three goals and an assist in nine games for the Rampage.

“Dads has played well at times in San Antonio,'' Dineen said. “We're expecting a lot out of him. He was consistently inconsistent [during training camp]. We need more consistency out of him.''

SUNDAY: FLYERS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 5 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSN; 560-WQAM

The series: First meeting this season; Flyers lead 40-26-7

The game: Both teams are 8-4-3, with the Panthers winning two straight and going 4-1-3 in their past eight games.

Florida is off to its best start since 1996. “It's great to see the community behind us,'' said former Flyers winger Kris Versteeg. “They haven't had much to cheer about.''

The Flyers are coming off a 2-1 loss at Tampa on Wednesday and have spent the past few days on Florida's west coast on a 'team bonding' trip.

“We like them coming down here and supporting our economy, enjoying themselves,'' Dineen said.  

Florida Panthers Have Big Time in the Pines

VersteegThe Panthers held their first practice at Pines Ice Arena since Hurricane Wilma damaged their Coral Springs based facility in 2005. A large crowd greeted the team as the surrounding parking lots were packed.

“The hottest thing in South Florida just happens to be here today,'' the manager of a nearby bank told a customer who was complaining about the traffic.

The light practice was spirited as the Panthers put on a show at the end. Kris Versteeg's shootout goal – he moved the puck between his legs then backhanded it top shelf to beat Scott Clemmensen – would have made every highlight reel on Saturday had someone actually been taping it.

The players posed for a team photo afterward then saluted the fans who were there. Afterward, the team signed autographs in the bank's drive-through line.

Pinesrink“There's nothing better than switching things up,'' Dineen said. “It adds a little enthusiasm to practice and you could see it in the way they practiced. You work on shootouts, but when you have people here, you want to put on a little show. I was looking for a little confidence there, a little showmanship.''

 

Florida Panthers: 'Your Defensemen are Offensive!'' ... Panthers get NHL-best 46 points from Blueline

HangoverWith the addition of Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski, the Panthers expected a little more offensive output from their defensemen this season.

No way they saw this coming though.

The Panthers defensemen have been doing a little more than just chipping in this season and their 46 collective points is most by a blueline in the league. 

“We have great defensemen,'' Kris Versteeg said.

Campbell leads Florida's defensive corps with a goal and 14 assists. But holdovers Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison have really amped up their game. Garrison scored his career-high sixth goal in just the 15th game of the season on Thursday; Kulikov has 12 assists – including at least one in the past five games and in eight of the past nine.

Kulikov is eight assists away from tying his career-high of 20 set last season. 

“We were encouraged in the past to get up ice, but Campbell has come in and is leading the charge,'' Garrison said after Saturday's practice in Pembroke Pines. “I think another thing going is Kulikov and I are another year older. The learning process of it has been there, done there. We're looking to create offense now.''

Dineen credits the Panthers defensemen for not only shooting the puck more – Mike Weaver is aiming for career highs in assists as he already has six – but keeping the puck in the offensive zone. A great example of that was Kulikov keeping possession during a power play on Thursday, a save that led to a goal from Mike Santorelli. 

Kulikov and Florida's rearguards have done an exceptional job of keeping the play alive this season. 

“It may not be a scoring a chance, but it keeps the puck in their end,'' Dineen said. “It's always fun to play down there and it gives you more energy. They're doing a good job of keeping the puck alive and we're getting points.''