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73 posts from December 2011

December 20, 2011

Florida Panthers to Celebrate Hanukkah on Tuesday

Chanukah2The Panthers are presenting tonight's game against the Coyotes as South Florida's largest Hanukkah party.

It should be quite the festive evening. 

Among the festivities: There will be a giant menorah lighting ceremony on the ice during first period intermission and a special broom hockey match between costumed Maccabes and Greeks during the second intermission.

The Maccabeats will perform pre-game and during the first intermission. They will also sing the National Anthem.

Glatt Kosher food will be available for purchase throughout the game.

PanthersyarmThere's also a rumor some of those popular Panthers yarmalukes may be given out as prizes. 

Chabad of Florida helped organize the event through the Panthers.


Florida Panthers: Tuesday Afternoon Notebook with the Coyotes

The Coyotes are in town to close out the Panthers four game homestand.

With a win, the Panthers will match their previous four-game Sunrise stand by getting seven of eight points. 

Not going to come easy though. The Panthers have played 12 straight one-goal home games. Anyone expecting a blowout on either side tonight? Anyone?

-- Bill Thomas is back to being an official member of the Panthers after signing a pro-rated one-year deal with the Cats. 

Thomas, who played well during his time with Florida last year, wasn't offered an NHL deal during the offseason and ended up signing an AHL deal with the Panthers. Florida had to sign him to an NHL deal to bring him up. It's a two-way.

Thomas said that the honesty Dale Tallon and Mike Santos have shown in recalling players who deserve it was a big reason he signed with the Rampage. 

He's happy to be back and knows it's a much different situtation than the last time he was with the Panthers. 

Them being in first place and all.

-- Jose Theodore didn't participate in Tuesday's optional skate.

He's still starting tonight though.



December 19, 2011

Ed Jovanovski Sees Similar Story in Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers ... Greg Rallo Returned, Tim Kennedy Recalled ... Desert Dogs in Town Tuesday

JovophxEd Jovanovski has been part of a surprising success story before. And not just as a rookie with the 1996 Panthers. 

In 2009, the Phoenix Coyotes went into the season considered to be one of, if not the, worst team in hockey. Before the season started, the team filed for bankruptcy and the league stepped in and took  control of the team.

Few knew what to expect from the Coyotes, but instead of foundering, Phoenix took off and had its best regular season in franchise history -- setting records for wins and points to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

With the Coyotes coming to town Tuesday, Jovanovski – who left Phoenix over the summer to come back to the Panthers – sees some similarities in the two stories. After all, the Panthers were picked to finish next to last in the Eastern Conference by the Hockey News (among others) before the season started yet came into Monday just a point out of being tied for first. 

Florida, which holds an eight point cushion atop the Southeast Division, is trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2000. Detroit beat Phoenix in seven games to end the Coyotes' 2009-10 season in the opening round.

“With all the turmoil surrounding that team, management did a great job keeping things together,'' said Jovanovski, who spent five seasons with the Coyotes.

“I'm excited to be here. It's been great so far. But it's going to get harder. We're not going to surprise anyone anymore. It's similar to Phoenix. Everyone said we were lucky, waited for us to fall off. And we finished with 107 points. If you have structure and maintain consistency, you'll have success.''

Jovanovski is in the first year of a four-year deal worth $16.5 million with the Panthers, a contract widely panned around the league when Florida offered it on July 1. At 35, Jovanovski's best years are likely behind him although the Panthers see Jovanovski as not only a fan favorite from his early days, but a mentor to Florida's talented young defensemen. 

Since the beginning of the season, Jovanovski has either been paired with 19-year-old rookie Erik Gudbranson or Keaton Ellerby, now in his second full season with the Panthers. When Jovanovski was a rookie with the Panthers back in the 1995-96 season, Gord Murphy mentored him. Now, Jovanovski is returning the favor.

“They are both great kids who both work extremely hard,'' said Jovanovski, who had a pair of assists in Sunday's overtime win. “You're seeing Gudbranson get a lot more comfortable out there. He's figuring the game out. Ellerby has loads of talent, skates the puck out of trouble. They are big pieces of the future of this team.''

Although Jovanovski has many friends on the other side of the ice, he says Tuesday's game will bring “mixed emotions going against your former team. I had a good time there. They treated me well.'' 

Jovanovski isn't alone in seeing some old pals on Tuesday. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett – the league's coach of the year in 2009-10 – is an old friend of Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. The two spent seven years together playing in Hartford (and later one in Philadelphia). Tippett was in Dineen's wedding. 

“I know what kind of a coach he is and how he gets his team ready to play,'' Dineen said. “He's the real deal. They play a sound game and know how to win hockey games.''


Greg Rallo's time with the Panthers was short-lived indeed. Rallo was called up from AHL San Antonio on Saturday and made his NHL debut at the age of 30 on Sunday against the Hurricanes. Rallo played just 3:31 on four shifts and was sent back to the minors on Monday. 

With Sean Bergenheim out with a groin injury, the Panthers called up center Tim Kennedy on Monday and could  have another player recalled in time for Tuesday's game. 

() Kris Versteeg didn't take part in Monday's practice as he was given time to rest after being roughed up a bit in Florida's past two games. Stephen Weiss, who took a hard shot off his skate late in Sunday's game, never left the game and was at practice Monday. 


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

TV/Radio: FSN/WQAM-560

The series: Coyotes lead 11-9-2

The game: Phoenix has lost four of five, including a 3-2 decision to the Rangers on Saturday as Brad Richards' goal bounced in off the post just before time expired. The Panthers had lost two straight to the Coyotes before winning 2-1 in a shootout in JokinenbobbleGlendale last season. Scott Clemmensen made 40 saves in the win. Florida has played 12 straight one-goal games at home and have picked up points in each of its past eight home games (6-0-2), longest streak since the 2005-06 season.


Florida Panthers Goalie Jacob Markstrom Dances in San Antonio

This cat has some moves...

December 18, 2011

Florida Panthers Sean Bergenheim Injures Groin ... Greg Rallo Gets Little Ice Time in NHL Debut

BergenheimThe Panthers will likely have to bring up another forward from AHL San Antonio with Sean Bergenheim out with an apparent groin injury.

Bergenheim, who was playing banged up, had three goals in his past two games.

“It's a huge loss the way he's been playing,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “That's the game. We play a hard game and that leads to casualties. We have to manage our team a bit and do a good job on days off to be as strong as we can.''

-- Forward Greg Rallo played just four shifts in his NHL debut, the 30-year-old arriving from Texas on Saturday.

Rallo said he was told of his NHL recall after Jack RalloSkille was hurt Friday night allowing friends and family to book flights from Chicago and Alberta to be at Sunday's game. Rallo estimated a dozen made the trip.

“It's been a crazy couple of days. The family is really excited. This is a really big deal,'' he said before the game. “They spared no cost. They got here right away.''

Florida Panthers 'Skate in Mud' for Much of Second, but Rebound, Beat Hurricanes 3-2 in OT ... Cats Get Goals from Bergenheim, Garrison and Versteeg

4x4One of these days, the Panthers are going to win a game decided early in the third period. A runaway, a rout.

Lately, however, little has come easy for the Southeast Division leaders.

More often than not, Florida finds its way into the win column.

Sunday was another grind-it-out affairs as the Panthers were listless in the second and trailed going into the third. A game-tying goal from Jason Garrison led to a overtime winner from Kris Versteeg as the Panthers topped Carolina 3-2 at BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers now lead second place Winnipeg by eight points after playing in their 12th straight one-goal home game. Aside from a 6-1 whitewash in New York last Sunday, nine of the past 10 games have been decided by two goals or fewer.

“I have a bunch of guys who find a way. Sometimes it's not a thing of beauty, but we're finding those two points,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “Dale Tallon brought in quality guys who know how to win. There were a lot of question marks about our team early. I think our guys take pride in where we're at, under the radar or whatever, but we're taking pride in games are a lot harder now. Nothing comes easy for this team.''

Florida opened the scoring when Sean Bergenheim followed his own shot off the back boards and beat Cam Ward on the rebound for his third straight goal.

Bergenheim didn't get the fourth, however, leaving the game early in the second with a groin injury. He could miss some time, something the banged-up Panthers don't need right now.

Carolina matched Bergenheim's goal with 1:22 left in the first as Tim Gleason got his first of the season by firing a shot from 55 feet out. The puck deflected off Florida defenseman Brian Campbell and slipped between Jose Theodore's skates.

The Panthers did not sell alcohol in much of the arena on Sunday as part of a sponsorship deal. With the way the team played in the second, that allowed fans to partake in the coffee being sold instead. The Panthers, however, looked like they needed something stronger than java as they were outshot 10-2 in the second frame as Carolina took a 2-1 lead.

The Panthers “were skating in mud,'' in the second said Dineen, with Carolina taking its first – and only lead – when Chad LaRose stole the puck deep in the Florida zone and quickly turned a fired high to beat Theodore (24 saves).

Florida rebounded nicely in the third. With former Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen in the penalty box, Garrison whipped a shot from 60 feet out. Cam Ward stopped the shot, only it trickled behind him and into the net. Florida had a great chance late when Tomas Kopecky hit the post and Tomas Fleischmann's rebound shot ended up in Ward's glove.

“The second wasn't our best 20 minutes, but we know what we need to do and came out in the third and put together a good game,'' Garrison said. “Our forwards did a great job getting the puck deep, we forechecked. We don't like being in that position, but we've come back before. We have a lot of firepower, a lot of skill. We find a way.''

The Panthers had more chances in overtime, with Shawn Matthias being stopped after breaking free with the puck at center ice.

Not long afterward, Campbell got the puck deep and worked around in front of the net with Versteeg picking it up and depositing it into the net with 1:52 left in overtime.

As the Panthers are finding out, being in first brings a target they aren't used to. So far this year, most teams are saving their starting goalies for the Panthers.

Carolina, in last in the division, had lost six straight in regulation during a time in which coach Paul Maurice was fired and former Panthers center Kirk Muller was hired. The Hurricanes, despite missing young winger Jeff Skinner, have points in four of their past five.

“That's a tough team to play against,'' Versteeg said. “They are rolling four lines and really come after you. It's a difficult team to play against but we found a way again.''


December 17, 2011

Jack Skille Injures Shoulder, Out Indefinitely ... Florida Panthers Welcome Greg Rallo; 30-year-old to Make Debut v Carolina

SkilleleafsWinger Jack Skille likely dislocated his shoulder when he missed making a check late in Friday's game and hit the glass hard with his elbow.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Skille would be out for at least the next week.

“He's going to be out through Christmas at the minimum,'' Dineen said. “He's a big loss for us. He had Skillepicked up his game quite a bit lately. .-.-. I don't know if he [dislocated] it, but it's safe to say it wasn't where it was supposed to be.''

Greg Rallo, 30, has been called up from AHL San Antonio and will make his NHL debut against the Hurricanes. Rallo is the second Rallo30-year-old to make his debut with the Panthers this season. Bracken Kearns played in his first NHL game Oct. 20 against Buffalo.


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

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Hurricanes lead 48-35-11The game: Despite firing coach Paul Maurice and replacing him with former Montreal captain and assistant coach Kirk Hurricanegirls2Muller, the Hurricanes continue to struggle. Before beating Vancouver on Friday, Carolina had won just one of its previous 10 games. Losing second-year winger Jeff Skinner to a concussion isn't helping things. Florida won the only meeting between the two 3-1 in Muller's coaching debut on Nov. 29.


Florida Panthers Have Fun, Show Originality in Shootout Drill Day After Rare Shootout Win ... Michael Yormark Talks About Slowing Alcohol Sales Sunday v Carolina

PanthershootoutwinThe Panthers were allowed to have fun in their shootout drills Saturday afternoon.

Had the Panthers lost another shootout Friday night, do you really think Kris Versteeg would have attempted his shot juggling the puck on his stick before whipping it lacrosse style? Or would Erik Gudbranson try to knock the puck through by using his head as if he were David Beckham?

Yes, a day after beating Calgary 3-2 in a four-round shootout, the Panthers were much more relaxed mood.

Although Stephen Weiss said the Panthers never lost their confidence in the shootout despite mounting losses, coach Kevin Dineen admitted he was worried Florida's lack of success was going to start festering.

After all, the Panthers came into Friday's shootout just 1-4 with one goal on 16 shots.

Against Calgary, Florida fell behind 1-0 and was down to its last shot when defenseman Dmitry Kulikov came on for his first shootout attempt in his three seasons with the team. Kulikov kept things going by beating rookie goalie Leland Irving glove side.

After Jose Theodore stopped T.J. Brodie, Weiss scored Florida's second goal as rats came down prematurely. Theodore then stopped Lee Stempniak and the celebration was on.

“It's good and bad shooting third. You may not get the chance, and if you do, the game could be decided by the shot,'' Kulikov said. “When I got out there I wasn't even thinking about the game. It was just a practice shootout. I just wanted to get out there and score.''

Theodore said he wished he hadn't given up the initial shootout goal, but liked the pressure of having to hold down the fort once Kulikov tied it up.

Theodore has been good in shootouts throughout his career and is tied for 14th with 19 wins. Of goalies with more than 10 shootouts, Theodore's 70 percent success rate on shots is 12th best among active players.

“We won the first one against Tampa and that's been it for us,'' said Theodore, who has both of Florida's shootout wins this season. “When the game is on the line and you know you get the win with one save, that's pressure. It was on.''


The Florida Department of Transportation is sponsoring Sunday's game against Carolina. With that Southparksponsorship comes a rarity in professional sports: Limited alcohol sales at BankAtlantic Center. The
Panthers will not sell alcohol at any concession stands in the upper or lower levels and are closing the two bars in the 100 level.

Fans will still be able to drink in suites or in various clubs on the suite and club level. Team president Michael Yormark said the Panthers wanted to take part in the FDOT's campaign to curtail drunken driving but admitted it was easier to do such a promotion on a Sunday afternoon game than, say, the New Year's Eve game against the Canadiens.

“We wanted to create something different, out of the box, that would send a strong message to the community,'' Yormark said.

“With the holidays, the timing of this really works. We want to create a message of safety. We want everyone to drive sober. We think our fans will embrace it. Sunday is a family day for us. I think other teams will see this and may try it themselves.''


December 16, 2011

Florida Panthers Finally Breakthrough in Shootout, Drop Calgary Flames 3-2 ... Kulikov, Weiss Score in Shootout as Flames Rookie Pitches a Gem in NHL Debut

KoolaidKevin Dineen spoke before Friday's game that his Panthers needed to get back to the business of winning games and quit talking about long road trips and “worrying about other uncontrollables.''

Late in the third period, it appears Florida finally listened.

Sean Bergenheim scored his second goal of the night with under five minutes remaining in regulation and Stephen Weiss scored on Florida's fourth round of the shootout to lift the Panthers to a 3-2 win at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida's shootout win was apparently so rare that some fans tossed rubber rats onto the ice following Weiss' goal – before Calgary got its fourth shot of the night. Once the rats were scooped up, Jose Theodore stopped Lee Stempniak allowing even more rodents to fall from the sky.

The Panthers are just 2-4 in shootouts this season with all coming at home. In its history, Florida is 26-48 in shootouts (most losses in the league) and just 9-32 at home. Friday's win snapped a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) as the Panthers extended their lead in the division to seven points over Washington.

“It's nice to get the monkey off our back with the shootout,'' Weiss said. “There's always confidence. If you lose that, your lost. We know we were going to turn the page on that. It was just a matter of time. Theodore keeps us in every one.''

It looked as if Calgary was going to pull out a win as it lead 2-1 in the third after Rene Bourque scored on a power play off an assist from former Florida captain Olli Jokinen. But the Panthers had new life late as Bergenheim knocked in a loose puck in front of the net. Goalie Leland Irving made his NHL debut against the Panthers and pitched a gem, stopping 39 of 41 shots.

Irving all but made sure the Panthers would play in their 11th straight home game decided by a goal.

“I remember my first game and it's always exciting to see someone play in their first game,'' said Theodore, the Panthers goalie who played in No. 603 on Friday. “He was really solid. I think it's great to see someone play like that in their first game.''

Added Bergenheim: “Every time you are down and get a big goal, it's a great feeling. The whole team was excited. We tried to win it in regular time. [Irving] made some great saves and really came through for them. He was tough, but we got the goals we needed.''

Calgary, which lost in overtime at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, trailed 1-0 in the first after Bergenheim's first goal. Jokinen tied it three minutes later. The score stayed that way despite both teams having extended power plays later in the game. Florida failed to convert on five power plays, including a short stint with 5-on-3 play. The Flames were a touch better. Even though Florida killed off a long 5-on-3, Calgary got in with Bourque's goal 3:55 into the third.


General manager Dale Tallon said the Panthers aren't in the market for any other players at this time, denying rumors that Florida was in the running for disgruntled Phoenix center Kyle Turris.

“I'm done,'' Tallon said. “Our roster is set for Christmas.'' The NHL's Christmas roster freeze is Monday and Florida already made one move Thursday by sending center Mark Cullen back to AHL San Antonio.

Florida is carrying seven defensemen (Erik Gudbranson was scratched for a second straight game), 12 forwards and two goalies.

Jack Skille left Friday's game after being hit along the boards late. The Panthers would have to make a roster move if Skille is hurt.

() Aside from Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester, former Panthers video coach Jamie Pringle and goalie coach Clint Malarchuk were back in Sunrise as members of the Flames staff. Calgary assistant coach Dave Lowry was an original member of the Panthers, playing for Florida from 1993-97.

() Bouwmeester played in his 538th consecutive game Friday, the longest active streak in the league. The run started when the Panthers lost to Tampa Bay 5-3 on March 6, 2004. Bouwmeester passed former Panther Karlis Skrastins (who died in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash this summer) for most consecutive games played by a defenseman last March. 

Florida Panthers Giving Back: Visit Evert Children's Hospital on Monday

_EJA9548A number of Florida Panthers -- including Ed Jovanovski, Jason Garrison, Mike Weaver, Scottie Upshall and Stanley Claus-- will take part in the Panthers' Holiday Hangout on Monday.

The players and support staff will "visit inpatient and outpatient children in the pediatric oncology unit of Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.''

StanleyclausAccording to the Panthers, the Holiday Hangout includes "a pizza party, face-painting, arts and crafts, cupcake decorating, one-on-one hockey lessons with the players, along with the opportunity to visit with our very own Santa Claus.''

Always good to see the players do these kind of things. The Panthers minor leaguers recently visited _EJA9537a hospital in San Antonio and you tell they were very happy to do so.


Florida Panthers Game on Sunday Alcohol Free -- Sort Of

AnimalhouseThe Florida Panthers are shutting off the taps and shelving the $12 Molsons on Sunday against Carolina as the arena goes alcohol free -- for the most part.

It's part of a sponsorship deal with the Florida Department of Transportation. Their official release says Sunday is "in support of FDOT’s 'Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over' campaign.''

But I've been told the FDOT -- already a season sponsor of the team -- is writing a check to the team to not sell the suds or the spirits.

“The Florida Panthers are honored to support the Barney‘Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over’ campaign with this unique initiative on Dec. 18,” Michael Yormark said in the release.

“Our organization is committed to helping FDOT prevent impaired driving in our local community and beyond.”

And if you really need a little more sass in your sarsaparilla, well, the arena isn't going completely alcohol free.

Those who have access to the club levels will still be able to drink just like before. 

BrianAccording to the release, there will be no alcohol sales in the 100 or 400 levels -- that includes all concession stands and stand-alone bars (including the former Bud Terrace).

BUT, "all other clubs and restaurants (ADT Club, Patron Club, Black Velvet Lounge, Duffy’s Sky Club) Hangoverare serving alcohol. The Black Velvet Lounge is open to all patrons. Alcohol consumption will be confined to those areas." 

So there you go. 

December 15, 2011

Florida Panthers Ready for Road Game at Home: Team Asks Season Ticket Holders to Trade In Canadiens Tickets

QuebectagIf you are a season ticket holder, the Florida Panthers want to know if you plan on going to the annual New Year's Eve game against the Canadiens. 

Not only have they sent out emails to season ticket holders but they are also calling them.

If you're not, the Panthers have sweetened the pot: Give us your ticket for the Canadiens and we'll give you tickets to TWO games in 2012.

It's obvious demand will be high for the Canadiens game as usual.

And the Panthers could use the cash.

So, they'll take your ticket, jack up the price and sell it to someone else. Likely someone with Quebec tags on their car. 

Yeah, it's going to be another road game for the Panthers on home ice that night.

Make no doubt, the price is higher for the Habs than other games -- and they'll probably sell all of them.

Visit ticketmaster.com and you'll find plenty of tickets for Tuesday's game against the Coyotes starting at just under $16. 

For the Canadiens, the cheapest ticket is $53.

On StubHub, tickets to the Coyotes can be found starting at $10; for the Habs, it's currently $19.

QuebecHere's the email the Panthers sent out to season ticket holders: 

This season’s December 31st New Year’s Eve matchup against Montreal looks to be our most anticipated home game of 2011, and we’re going to do whatever we can to fill absolutely every seat in the BankAtlantic Center for puck drop.

If you’d like to purchase extra tickets for this game, please contact your representative as soon as possible to get the best seats left available. As a reminder, puck drop is at 7pm.  

On the contrary, if you are not using your season tickets for the Dec. 31st game, we would like to offer you tickets to two other games of your choice (no restrictions, post-January 1st, 2012) in exchange for them.

We want to provide the most exciting and electric atmosphere possible for our team and our fans, and we need your help. 


We look forward to seeing you at the BankAtlantic Center soon on New Year’s Eve and for all of our spectacular December home games.


Florida Panthers Krys Barch Making Early Impact ... Marcel Goc Likely Out Until January ... Welcome Your Calgary Flames

BarchflafightDuring the first intermission of Sunday's game in New York, Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk came up to the press box to chat.

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. 

BarchIn four games so far, Barch has fought three times.

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. 

EllerbybenchKeaton Ellerby, who was hit hard in the third period and ended up in the Devils bench, was also at practice. 

() 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. 

Bananastand() 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.''


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

OlliTV/Radio: No local TV/WQAM-560

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 BoBouwmeester, 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.


Florida Panthers Gambling on Sunrise Casino

RatpackThe Panthers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to potentially landing a casino if Florida changes its gaming rules to allow destination casinos in South Florida. 

Michael Yormark confirmed to The Miami Herald that the Panthers have been showing the property around; The Sands, MGM and Wynn have visited the site.

If the laws change, there is potential for two casinos (one on the site of the Miami Herald) in Dade County and one in Broward.

The Panthers feel they need to land this. If they do, any talk of the hockey team moving ends forever. 

Being part of the casino game would set the Panthers up for years -- or at least that's the way that they look at it.

"This,'' a team executive told me, "makes us a major player.''

Yormark's been spending a lot of time in Las Vegas the past few months and it's not because he's a big roller at MGM Grand.

And the Panthers feel their site -- as opposed to Gulfstream or Pompano Park -- is perfect because of its closeness to major highways as well as Dade, Palm Beach and Naples/Fort Myers.

The Panthers 'Oz' plan would basically go back into effect with blackjack, poker and the like being added to the bars, stores and nightclubs.

Will this ever come to pass? Probably not. But it would be a game changer if it did. We'll see.


December 14, 2011

How Bad are the Florida Panthers in Shootouts? Bad. Really Bad.

KaneSOWhen the NHL instituted the shootout to end tie games following a five minute overtime, many old time fans decried the practice as nothing more than a gimmick. 

Many players and coaches around the league felt the same way. Seven years later, the shootout remains. And so do its critics. 

Only it doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. The main argument for the use of shootouts was that fans tired of watching a game to its conclusion yet when it ended in a tie, there was no winner or loser. 

Except in the case of the Panthers. 

Since the advent of the shootout in 2005, if the Panthers end up in a shootout, they usually lose.

This year, the Panthers have been in five shootouts. They have just one win. In 73 shootout games since the 2005-06 season, the Panthers are a mere 25-48.

Florida's 48 shootout losses are most in the league (four more than 29th-ranked Columbus) and its winning percentage of 34 percent is also worst in the league.

The Panthers are the worst team in league history in shootouts at home winning just eight of 40 in Sunrise (all five shootouts this season have been played at home). Calgary has only won five shootouts at home, but have played in 20 fewer such games.

This season, like most, the Panthers problem is a lack of scoring in a shootout. In five contests, the Panthers have connected on just one of 14 shots.

Marcel Goc scored on Florida's second shot of its first shootout, a win against Tampa Bay during the home opener. 

In their history, the Panthers have scored just 57 shootout goals in 73 games – an average of .78 goals per shootout. That, too, is worst in the league. 

Florida's 73 shootout games are tied for eighth most all-time and with 48 losses, that means almost 50 points have been given away to someone else. By contrast, the Devils have won 49 of 75 shootouts since 2005. New Jersey has also scored on 16 of 23 shots this season.

“We’ve got to try to get extra points,'' said winger Kris Versteeg, who leads the Panthers in goals and points but has yet to connect in the shootout. 

“We’ve thrown a lot away and we’ve got to be better in the shootout. Myself, when you’re 0-for-4, you’re not contributing in that. That’s something I take pride in and I’m sure other guys do, too. You want to help the team out that way.”

() The Panthers have been atop the Southeast ThrashgirlsDivision for over a month, but now have a new team challenging them for first place. 

Winnipeg, the former Atlanta Thrashers, have rebounded from losing six of its first eight games. After beating Minnesota 2-1 on Tuesday, the Jets passed Washington and are in second place, six points behind the Panthers. Florida and Winnipeg still play each other four more times. The two meet again Jan. 21 in Sunrise. 

"We have a lot of confidence," Bryan Little told The Winnipeg Free Press. "At the start of the year that’s one of the things we struggled with, closing teams out in the third and winning that third period. We were letting teams back in the game. Now I think we’ve got it figured out how we have to play in the third period." 


December 13, 2011

Florida Panthers Shut Out in Shootout AGAIN ... Cats lose Fourth Straight Shootout 3-2 to Jersey Devils ... Quinton Howden Hurt ... Krys Barch Likes Penalties Apparently

TombstoneJose Theodore gave up six goals Sunday night against the Rangers, but Panthers coach Kevin Dineen looked at that outing as more fluke than the norm.

With that in mind, Theodore was back between the pipes Tuesday against the Devils. Theodore rewarded Dineen's faith by stopping 32 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey at BankAtlantic Center. 

The Panthers are 1-4 in shootouts this season – all coming at home – and have scored just one goal in those five contests. Marcel Goc, who could be out until the New Year, scored to lead Florida to a 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay in the home opener.

Despite the loss, the Panthers gained a point over second place Washington. The first-place Panthers have a seven point lead on the Capitals once again.

“We weren't very good and we have to go back, have a few good practices and the next few days will be big for us,'' said Kris Versteeg, who scored both of Florida's goals but is now 0-for-4 in the shootout.

“We weren't good enough all night and that will happen sometimes. We should be thankful we have a point. [Theodore] saved us all game. He's the reason we got to overtime. We should have pushed back.''

Theodore's game Sunday definitely looks like an anomaly as he had only given up four goals once in a game this season and had given up three goals or fewer in 16 straight heading into New York. Theodore let Sunday's game roll off him as he was loose after Tuesday's morning skate, wearing a retro Chicago Bears t-shirt with a Yankees cap tilted to the side. 

On Tuesday, he was forced to be at his best as the Panthers struggled for offense once Versteeg gave them a 2-0 lead with another two goal performance against the Devils. 

The Panthers were outshot 16-6 in the second period and 5-1 in the third. Florida's one shot in the third was its fewest in a single period this season. The Panthers came hard at Martin Brodeur in overtime but none of their four shots found the back of the net. 

In the shootout, Ilya Kovalchuk (5-for-6 this season) scored for the Devils as did Patrik Elias. Florida only got two shots as it shot second; Tomas Fleischmann and Versteeg were stopped. 

Florida took a 1-0 lead in the first after a sweet pass from Stephen Weiss found Versteeg on the right side of Brodeur. In the second, Versteeg got loose on a penalty kill and walked in on the Devils' Hall of Fame goalie to make it 2-0.

Elias scored less than a minute after Versteeg's second goal to make it 2-1, with Zach Parise tapping a puck off the back wall past Theodore to tie with 7:40 into the third.

Fleischmann had a chance to give the Panthers the lead but hit the post with 5:16 left.

“We were lucky to get one [point],'' defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “We had a lot of turnovers and that's eventually going to bite us. We'll take the point and put it in the bank but we could be a lot better.''


Rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson was held out of Tuesday's game with leg tightness after Sunday's game against the New York Rangers. Dineen said Gudbranson could be out a few games; Gudbranson said if the medical staff would have let him, he would have played against the Devils. 

With Gudbranson out, Keaton Ellerby was back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 25.

() Center Tim Kennedy cleared waivers Tuesday and was assigned to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio. With Kennedy gone, Mike Santorelli was back in the lineup after being benched Sunday against the Rangers. Santorelli centered the fourth line with Matt Bradley and Krys Barch.

() Barch, acquired from Dallas last week, fought for the third time in four games and also took a delay of game penalty. He has now spent 21 minutes in the penalty box, already seventh-most on the Panthers this season. 

() Panthers prospect Quinton Howden was being treated for concussion-like symptoms after being hit by Brett Connolly during a Team Canada world junior intrasquad scrimmage Monday night. Howden could miss some time but his condition isn't too serious.

Howden also suffered a concussion during Panthers training camp and didn't participate in any on-ice activities before being sent back to his Canadian junior team.  

Lomopanthers() Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison dropped the ceremonial first puck Tuesday while wearing a customized Panthers jersey with his No. 20 on the back. 


December 12, 2011

Florida Panthers Erik Gudbranson Learning on the Fly ... Tim Kennedy Waived, Off to San Antonio ... Devils Here Tuesday After Lightning

GudbranbloodNEW YORK – At 19-years-old, Erik Gudbranson is learning a lot about life, including his craft as a defenseman in the National Hockey League.

Gudbranson played just his 24th professional hockey game on Sunday. It came against the famed Rangers at the 'world's most famous arena.' It is at Madison Square Garden where the Panthers prized prospect-turned-regular may have learned more about what it takes to make it in the NHL than he did in any of his previous games or weeks of training camp.

The NHL is a league of give and take. In one moment, Gudbranson is celebrating after scoring his first NHL goal. Not long after, he's limping to the ice after taking a couple of rough hits. Mind you, Gudbranson laid out some doozies of his own. Yet the picture of him slowly skating off the ice pretty much summed up Florida's 6-1 loss to an unforgiving Rangers team that night.

“Some of the goals were bounces, some were mistakes,'' Gudbranson said after a game in which he left with less than 10 minutes remaining. He said he suffered a charley horse and should be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Devils. “I take full responsibility for the third goal. It was just one of those games and their tough to be in. You need to bounce back in the next one.''

Like many of his teammates, Gudbranson will take home a souvenir from the big city. Although unlike the watches and leather belts and expensive winter coats, Gudbranson will likely hold on to his keepsake from New York for a long time. 

Like Keaton Ellerby did last season, Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal at the Garden against the Rangers. Like Ellerby, the team grabbed the puck after it went past Henrik Lundqvist so to present it to the rook in a proper way. 

Of course, an NHL equipment manager's 'proper way' is to put white stick tape around the rubber puck and write the puck's significance on the tape with a black Sharpie. There will be no ceremony; Gudbranson will likely find the puck sitting in his locker on Tuesday. 

“It was nice to score. It was a good goal at the time and it's nice to get that monkey off my back,'' Gudbranson said. “But it's overshadowed by the night. This is a new league. Guys hit hard and you have to hit harder. I took one in the corner. That's the way it is.''

The Panthers have high hopes for Gudbranson, a player considered part of Florida's future success. The third overall pick in 2010, it appeared Gudbranson would play for the Panthers as an 18-year-old. Only he and the Panthers couldn't work out a contract and Gudbranson was returned to his junior team. It was probably for the best. 

Gudbranson played in Florida's first 11 games before “given a break,'' by coach Kevin Dineen. Gudbranson watched six of the next 10 games from the press box as Ellerby replaced him in the lineup. Gudbranson got back on the ice on Nov. 23 and hasn't sat since. He played in his 10th consecutive game Sunday. 

“He's played extremely well the past two weeks,'' Dineen said. “I went through a long experiment and I know it's no fun for Keaton right now. But it's not good to keep flip-flopping guys. Just to keep both fresh is self-defeating. I made a decision not based on potential or contract, I did it on performance. I felt Gudbranson's body of work was deserving of staying in the lineup. He's building confidence.''

The Panthers had considered loaning Gudbranson to Team Canada so he could play in the popular world juniors tournament. Had he gone back, Gudbranson would be a candidate to captain the Canadian team.

Only the Panthers decided against it for various reasons. One is, Gudbranson has become a regular in the lineup. That, and he played for Canada last year. He's a professional now.

Gudbranson also knows he needs to keep moving forward. After Sunday's game, it's very possible he'll find himself in the press box again Tuesday. 

Ellerby, after all, has been good about being replaced. The two are good friends – “I love Goody; he's an unbelievable kid who has played well and well enough to stay in the lineup,'' Ellerby said – but he wants to play too. If he gets into the lineup Tuesday, he's going to do everything he can to stay in it. 

Gudbranson understands that just as Ellerby does. The Panthers have carried seven defensemen all season yet only need six per game. Someone has to be the odd man out. Lately, it's been Ellerby.

“It sucks. You want to be playing, but the team has been winning so I support the guys and am doing the things off the ice to help us be successful,'' said Ellerby, who has been scratched eight straight games in favor of Gudbranson. “You can't let this put you in a bad mood. You have to be a good team guy.''

() The Panthers put center Tim Kennedy on waivers Monday in order to return him to AHL San Antonio. Florida have been carrying an extra forward – center Mike Santorelli was benched Sunday – and could get Marcel Goc (concussion) back this week.


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

TV/Radio: FSN/560-WQAM

The series: Devils lead 43-24-7

The game: The Devils had lost five of seven before playing at the equally-struggling Lightning on Monday. The Devils are expected to start Martin Brodeur in net Tuesday. In the previous meeting last month, Jersey had a 3-0 first period lead before Florida stormed back for a 4-3 win. The Panthers have won four of the past five at home (4-0-1) and will play seven of their next nine in Sunrise. 

Happy Holiday Cheese from the Florida Panthers

HockoryfarmsThe Panthers get all holified for you as they send out a little Christmas cheer.

Hope you enjoy holiday Karaoke.


December 11, 2011

Florida Panthers get 'Old Fashioned Tail Kicking' as NY Rangers Roll 6-1 ... Cats Coming Home for Seven of Next Nine ... Mike Santorelli Benched ... Dale Tallon Returns

ChucknorrisNEW YORK – The Panthers haven't offered too many stinkers this season, but Sunday's game against the Rangers definitely fits that category.

It's hard to remember a worse effort by one of the league's most surprising positive stories this year.

The Panthers did little right Sunday and the Rangers pounced, rolling to a 6-1 win at Madison Square Garden. Florida heads home as Sunday's game was the sixth in the Panthers' past seven that was away from Sunrise.

Florida has seven of its next nine at home. Of these seven road games, the Panthers went 3-3-1.

Florida's five-goal loss is tied for its biggest margin of Roadhousedefeat at MSG, matching a 5-0 loss on Feb. 24, 2008.

“Any time you get a tail kicking like that, you say things like 'the will to compete','' coach Kevin Dineen said. “It was obvious their will was greater than ours. When we play well, we travel as a unit. We were really spread out, very individualistic. We didn't play as a group. That's an old fashioned tail kicking for sure.''

Despite the loss, Florida goes home after playing arguably its hardest stretch of games more than just Roadhousefamilusurviving as it continues to lead the Southeast Division by six points. The Panthers 10 road wins is tied for most in the league. Florida's 18 road games is also tied for a league-high.

Sunday's rout sure didn't start out that way as the Panthers went into the first break still in the game. The Rangers led 2-0 in the opening period off goals by Brad Richards and Artem Anisimov, but 40 seconds after the second goal, rookie Erik Gudbranson got his first NHL goal by whipping a shot from the blue line.

“It's nice to score, but I'm pretty sure it's completely overshadowed,'' Gudbranson said. “You can't win every game and this was a tough one. It was one of those nights.''

The Panthers hoped the Rangers were a little tired after Saturday's win in Buffalo, yet should have known better. New York is now 4-0-1 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season (3-0 at MSG) Familyguychickenand a very impressive 24-8-3 in such situations over the past three seasons.

Florida gave the Rangers what they wanted early as New York drew three penalties in the opening period – scoring on two of them. By contrast, the Panthers went 0-for-7 on the power play – their worst showing since a 3-2 loss to the Flyers last month.

“We didn't allow ourselves to hang in with the game,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said. “They came out hard and we weren't prepared from the get-go. We took three penalties. We can't do that. We haven't played like that all season.''

Things soured for Florida in the second. Derek Stepan stole the puck in the Florida zone on one power play chance and weaved through the defense. Stepan's shot beat Jose Theodore with one second left on Florida's advantage for the shorthanded marker.

Theodore, who hadn't surrendered more than three goals in a game since giving up four against the Lightning on Oct. 17, was pulled after giving up six in the opening two periods. The Rangers got their fifth and sixth goals a minute apart late in the second.

Dineen said he thought about pulling Theodore earlier, but let him play the first two periods. Scott Clemmensen started the third.

The last time Theodore gave up six goals in a game was in a 7-4 loss to the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center on April 11, 2009.


Matt Bradley returned to the lineup for the first time since being hurt Nov. 15 in Dallas. It was thought Santtorellinewcomer Krys Barch would be the healthy scratch, but instead, Dineen decided to bench Mike Santorelli.

“I'm not a message sender,'' Dineen said. “He's going to get his opportunity somewhere down the line. He has to be better to go. It's a whole snapshot of his recent play.''

Santorelli said “obviously I have to play better,'' before declining to comment further.

() General manager Dale Tallon met the team in New York after a bout with kidney stones on Thursday morning. Tallon visited Mass General in Boston on Thursday and didn't travel with the team to Buffalo.

Tallon said he's dealt with the problem for years and has even had surgery a few times. “It's awful,'' he said while shaking his head.  

December 10, 2011

OnFrozenPhoto: Florida Panthers Occupy Central Park Album III