When the topic of new Panthers winger Krys Barch came up, Nieuwendyk grinned. “Those guys,'' he said, pointing toward the Florida bench, “are going to love him.''
A few minutes later, Barch was fighting. Again.
“Sure there's a difference. We have more toughness right off the bat,'' Panthers center Stephen Weiss said of Florida's new tough guy.
“The other team looks at our lineup and sees a guy like that and knows we have someone who will stick up for his teammates if need be. He's only been here four games and he's already been doing that. Guys want to get involved early after being traded. He's done that for sure. It's great to see.''
Nieuwendyk traded Barch to the Panthers for almost nothing and did so to enable Barch to get more playing time. With Dallas, Barch was stuck in limbo, playing in just 10 games this season before being sent to the Panthers last Wednesday.
Barch made his Panthers debut in Boston the following night and, just 2:17 into the game, brawled with Shawn Thornton after Barch's big hit on the Bruins' Daniel Paille. The fight came in Barch's first shift with the Panthers.
He has amassed 21 penalty minutes in those four games – already seventh-most on the Panthers through the entire season. Barch is just eight penalty minutes away from being Florida's most penalized player.
And he's been here a week.
“It's a compliment to these guys here because it feels like I've been here for months,'' Barch said Thursday after his first practice at the Panthers training facility in Coral Springs. “Being traded is a whirlwind, but these guys have made it easy. The only bad thing is we haven't gotten the two points each night out.''
On Thursday, hours before the Boston game, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was asked if he though Barch would be a deterrent that kept opposing teams from taking liberties with his top players. “We don't play that game,'' Dineen said then. “That's not our makeup.''
Dineen's tune has changed although he once again stressed Barch can't be a one-dimensional player. Being only a fighter won't keep him in the lineup. Playing on the fourth line, Barch needs to contribute on both sides of the ice – and not just hang out in the penalty box.
“Every team needs that and he has a lot of respect for his teammates,'' Dineen said. “He's been willing to engage anyone on the other side of the ice. He's made an immediate impact in those four games here.''
() Erik Gudbranson was back at practice after missing Tuesday's morning skate and the game against New Jersey after getting a Charley horse in Sunday's game against the Rangers.
() Dineen confirmed Thursday that the Panthers weren't expecting center Marcel Goc back anytime soon. The Panthers didn't think the concussion he suffered Nov. 15 at Dallas was too serious at the time. He has now already missed a month.
Goc's play has definitely been missed. Not only was Goc one of Florida's top faceoff men, but he also was strong on the penalty kill. Goc also has the only shootout goal the Panthers have scored this season.
() Dineen on his team being 'fresh': “Well, I think that term is relative at this time of year. We've played so much on the road. Day old fruit is considered fresh. They still sell it. But it's a little rough around the edges.''
FRIDAY: FLAMES AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
The series: Calgary leads 11-8-3
The game: The Panthers have won their past two games against the Flames in Calgary, but haven't beaten them in Sunrise since 2002. The Flames, with former Florida captain Olli Jokinen and All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, had won six of nine going into Thursday's game against the Lightning. Calgary is 1-2 in the second game of a back-to-back set.