« November 2011 | Main | January 2012 »

73 posts from December 2011

December 05, 2011

Florida Panthers 'Return Favor,' Hold On to Beat Capitals 5-4 ... Jet-Lagged Cats Give up Two in Third, Win Anyway ... Lead in SE is Biggest in NHL

JordanflightThe Panthers players may have downplayed the importance of Monday night's game against the visiting Capitals but coach Kevin Dineen wasn't buying it.

Nor should he have.

Florida continued to keep control in the Southeast Division as it took a four-goal lead and had to hold on as jet lag set in to beat Washington 5-4. The Panthers Snakesplaneextended its lead in the division to seven points over the Capitals – most of any divisional leader in the NHL.

Only it didn't come easy. Against the Capitals, it rarely does. Florida had lost 11 of the past 13 meetings to the four-time defending divisional champs. On Monday, the Panthers looked crisp early and held a 5-1 lead until Cody Eakin scored with 20
seconds left in the second period. Two late goals by the Capitals made things a little too close for comfort.

“It was a nice win,'' said Stephen Weiss, who had two goals and an assist. “That's a team that's had our number the past few seasons. It was nice to return the favor. It's nice to have a cushion, but we're not standing around watching yet. We're trying to stay in the groove and keep playing the way we have. We'll look at the standings when the season is over.''

The Panthers left San Jose early Sunday morning and flew five hours after beating the Sharks 5-3 on Saturday night. Some players still had their watches set on California time.

“I don't think it was much [jet lag] as it was us not Majorleagueplanebeing comfortable, going after them,'' Weiss said. “We sat back. We needed to keep our legs moving, put pressure on them like we did in the first two periods.''

The Panthers took a 2-0 lead after getting goals from Weiss and Mike Santorelli within a 13 second span early in the opening period. Dmitry Kulikov made it 3-0, beating backup goalie Michal Neuvirth at 16:31 of the period. Neuvirth made 25 saves in place of former Panthers backstop Tomas Vokoun. 

Florida was also without its starter as Jose Theodore was sick. Rookie Jacob Markstrom was called up to backup Scott Clemmensen, who is now 3-0. The Panthers have scored at least five goals in each of his three starts.  

The Panthers went into the first break up 3-1 before getting goals from Sean Bergenheim (a wraparound into an empty net) and Weiss (a sand wedge from a Tomas Fleischmann pass) to take what looked like an insurmountable lead. But the struggling Capitals kept coming.

Airplane“This is a big win for us coming off the long travel,'' Kris Versteeg said. “We ran out of gas at the end but we found a way. It was a three hour difference and five-plus hour flight. That's never easy to do. We gut it out and found a way to win.''

FROM SOUTHEAST TO SNOWBIRD DIVISION

The NHL's Board of Governors approved realignment for next season, with the Panthers moving from the Southeast Division to a yet-unnamed 'Conference C.' Florida will be with Southeast alum Tampa Bay as well as Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston. 

By being in a seven team division, the Panthers will play each division foe six times – three home, three Snowbirdaway. The new format brings back complete play as each team will play every team in the league at least twice – one at home, one away.

The top four teams in each division will play each other in the playoffs with the four conference champs being seeded for the Stanley Cup semifinals. The new format goes into place next season.

“I'm glad we keep our rivalry with Tampa Bay,'' assistant GM Mike Santos said before declining Delbocacomment until he studies it more.

HOME AGAIN

Vokoun said he was told after Washington's win against Ottawa on Saturday that he wouldn't start against his former teammates – well, the ones who are left – on Monday. Vokoun beat the Panthers 3-0 at Washington on Oct. 18.

With only a one-year deal with the Capitals, Vokoun's family remains in Broward County while he plays in Washington. So, knowing he wouldn't start Monday wasn't exactly the worst news in the world.

“Coming home, and I consider that house my home, was nice because I've been gone since September,'' Vokoun said. “It's nice to be back. I got here on a Sunday and the kids were home. So I enjoyed that.''

-- Dineen said winger Mikael Samuelsson, who hasn't played since being part of the David Booth trade on Oct. 22 with complications from sports hernia surgery, could be back in the lineup this week.

Marcel Goc (concussion symptoms) and Matt Bradley (upper body) aren't expected back until next week at the earliest.

Florida Panthers Leaving Southeast to Join 'SnowBird Division' ... Cats in with Bolts, Bruins, Habs, Leafs, Sens and Sabres

The NHL's Board of Governors approved realignment for next season, with the Panthers moving from the Southeast Division to a yet-unnamed Conference C. Florida will be with Southeast alum Tampa Bay as well as Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston.

By being in a seven team division, the Panthers will play each division foe six times – three home, three away. The new format brings back complete play as each team will play every team in the league at least twice – one at home, one away.

The top four teams in each division will play each other in the playoffs with the four conference champs being seeded for the Stanley Cup semifinals.

This goes into affect next season.

 

 

Florida Panthers/Washington Capitals Pregame Notes

Kevin Dineen says Jose Theodore was sick on flight home yesterday and not much better today.

Scott Clemmensen starts vs. Michal Neuvirth with Jacob Markstrom and Tomas Vokoun the backups.

Evgenii Dadonov back on the San Antonio Express line with Mark Cullen taking the night off. 

twitter.com/OnFrozenPond

Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals Monday Afternoon Notebook ... Tomas Vokoun OUT for Caps, Cats Goalie Unconfirmed

VokounsplashIt's a good night for hockey here in South Florida, although don't get too used to it.

After a four-game road trip, the Panthers are home for a one night stand before going back on the road Wednesday. Florida plays in Boston on Thursday, Buffalo on Friday and visit the new Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

Then, things get back to normal.

For now, however, the Panthers are in a tough stretch.

The Capitals come calling tonight.

Who's in net? Well we know it's not Tomas Vokoun. The former Panthers goalie will not start for the Caps tonight after Michal Neuvirth got Dale Hunter his first win behind the bench on Saturday.

So Neuvirth is in versus the Capitals.

Vokoun spoke to me after practice this morning OnFrozenFilm Video Here! and sounded cool with not playing. He had a different sounding take with the gathered media (I missed that scrum since I was hunting for my lost iPhone. I found it, thanks.)

"Those are decisions coach makes. I'm a paid employee, and I don't make those kind of decisions," Vokoun told reporters.

"I'm a hockey player. I'm here to play games. When they tell me I'm playing, I'm playing. When they tell me I'm not playing, I'm not playing."

Alexander Semin and Roman Hamrlik also are out for the Caps it appears.

Here are some good places for all things Capitals:

Tarik El-Bashir with the Washington Post

Steve Whyno with the Washington Times

As far as the Panthers go, I haven't been able to confirm who is in net, but I would go 70-30 with Scott Clemmensen. Jose Theodore wasn't at the optional skate today but Clemmensen got his work in.

Coach Kevin Dineen wasn't there either. We're talking to him at 6:15 tonight. So hopefully I'll have more then. Check Twitter (again, very easy to follow me. Just go to twitter.com/OnFrozenPond).

Mark Cullen didn't skate and probably won't play after getting a hit to the head late Saturday night. Evgenii Dadonov was back on the San Antonio Express Line in Cullen's stead.

Also looks like Keaton Ellerby is out of the lineup again tonight.

Others who didn't participate in the skate included Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann. They were both there though.

Later on...

 

OnFrozenFilm: Tomas Vokoun Back in Sunrise, Will Not Start v Florida Panthers

Former Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun is back in South Florida as a member of the Washington Capitals.

Vokoun will NOT start Monday against the Panthers.

 

December 04, 2011

11 Years is Enough for Florida Panthers: Hottest Team in Town Bringing Joy to Starved Fans ... Cats to Challenge Washington Capitals on Monday

VanmurphratSAN JOSE, Calif. – Ed Jovanovski thought his days of dodging rubber rats cascading from the stands were long over.

“It was funny. I wasn't even thinking about them and one whistled right by my head,'' the Florida Panthers' 35-year-old defenseman said after a win last month.

“It's good to see that old tradition back, good to see fans have fun again. It's nice to give them something to cheer about.''

Jovanovski, traded to Vancouver in 1999 and signed as a free agent in July, was here when hockey was the coolest game in South Florida – literally and figuratively. As a rookie in 1996, Jovanovski was a big part of the Panthers run to the Stanley Cup Finals, a time when a young hockey team captured the region's attention and became known nationally for fans tossing those rubber rats by the thousands onto the ice after each goal.

The NHL outlawed the practice the following season, but a few fans still bring the rubber critters to games and throw them onto the ice if the Panthers win. In recent years, one or two might make be thrown. These days, dozens fall from all reaches of BankAtlantic Center.

VersteegAlthough the Panthers remained popular after that initial success – Florida made it to the Finals in just its third year of existence – the team definitely lost its place in the area's consciousness over the past decade. Failing to make the playoffs for 11 years will do that. Since last appearing in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2000, the Panthers have given their fans only scant opportunity to really be excited.

This is one of those times.

The Panthers are off to their best start since the last time they made the playoffs. Florida goes into into Monday's home game against the Washington Capitals holding a five point lead on the second-place Capitals after Saturday's 5-3 win in San Jose.

That buzz you are hearing is coming from hockey fans in South Florida who have been starved for success.

“I run into people at Publix now and everyone is stopping me wanting to talk about the team,'' said Randy Moller, the team's radio voice who has been around the team since retiring as a player in 1995.

Rats11“They're an exciting team to watch. The fans believe the Panthers have turned the corner. My neighbors used to dodge the subject of the Panthers or try to lift my spirits. Now? It's 'how 'bout those Panthers!' I'm having a blast calling these games and talking about this team.''

Since 2005, the Panthers have started slow, digging a hole in the standings they couldn't get out of. Florida has been good from the jump this year and are in the strange position of being a chased team.

The Panthers, atop their division for a third consecutive week, haven't been in first this late in a season since 2000.

Dale Tallon took over as the team's general manager in the summer of 2010, just a few weeks before his former team won the Stanley Cup. Tallon brought over some of his old pals from Chicago this offseason, trading for Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg. Combined, the trio has 17 goals and 43 assists.

Gone are many young core players the Panthers had planned to build around. Tallon did keep players such as Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison -- who are both are having career seasons -- and surrounded them with new faces.

“This takes a long time. We have to make sure we're moving ahead every day,'' Tallon said. “We're looking at things a game at a time, a fan at a time, a player at a time. We're sticking to our guns. We're going to be patient.''

When the Panthers opened this season, of the 20 players dressed, 14 weren't with the team for the 2010-11 opener. Tallon cut and slashed the roster through trades and then brought in players he wanted. So far, his plan is working out.

“I've been here eight years and I've never seen the excitement level like it is right now,'' team president Michael Yormark said. “We're making a lot of progress, you can't just flip a switch, but we're enjoying that. Things are really picking up. Fans are thirsty for a winner. This market is ready to explode but we can't get too high, too low. We just need to get better on and off the ice and good things are going to happen for us.''

And some of their fans even go out of their way to follow the team.

Murphy Burch, a Cooper City based pilot for AmericanAirlines, not only has season tickets, but also goes to many road games. When the Panthers win away from Sunrise, Burch lets his painted rubber rats fly. After Saturday's win in San Jose, goalie Scott Clemmensen scooped one of them up and brought it into the locker room.

“I haven't seen this kind of excitement between the fans and players since the run in 1996,'' said Bill Murphy, the in-game host at the arena. “This is one of the most exciting seasons I've seen in a long time. Word is spreading. We have people coming to games who either have never been or haven't been in a while. Demand is higher than it has been in a long, long time.''

If the Panthers beat the Capitals on Monday night, players know not to rip off their helmets too soon.

“Those rats are awesome. I had forgotten all about them until one hit the ice on Long Island in the opening game,'' first-year coach Kevin Dineen said. “We're getting some believers and people are enjoying following us this year. There's nothing wrong with that.''

Vokun12MONDAY: CAPITALS AT PANTHERS

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

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Washington leads 49-41-9

The game: Tomas Vokoun is expected to play in his first game at BankAtlantic Center since leaving the Panthers as a free agent this past summer. Vokoun Vokounweissspent four seasons with the Panthers and beat the Capitals 1-0 in Florida's season finale last year. Washington beat Florida 3-0 on Oct. 18 and have won 11 of the past 13 meetings between the two. Jose Theodore, who spent two seasons with the Captials from 2008-10, is expected to start for Florida.

EDITED: Saturday Night with the Cats: Florida Panthers Dmitry Kulikov Goal Caps 5-3 win over #SJSharks ... Jack Skille's Goal Comes Up Large as Scott Clemmensen Now 2-0-0

TooncesSomehow my spellcheck went bananas last night and I didn't notice all the crazy changes. Michal Handguns? Really? Here is the new/old version. Oy.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Panthers made sure there would be no regrets this time around.

Two nights after losing by a goal despite outplaying the Kings throughout, the Panthers got a late goal from Dmitry Kulikov to cap a 5-3 win over the Sharks at HP Pavilion on Saturday night.

LasercatThe rousing victory – Florida outscored the Sharks 3-0 in the second period – allowed the Panthers to end a four-game road trip in style. The Panthers opened the trip last Saturday with a lackluster 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay before bouncing back 3-1 in Carolina. Florida lost out on a chance at taking at least a point with a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday.

Florida flew home to Fort Lauderdale early Sunday morning and take on Washington at BankAtlantic Center on Monday. With the win, Florida maintained its five-point lead on the Capitals as the Panthers are in their third week atop the Southeast Division.

The Panthers have won four straight against the Sharks and are tied with Philadelphia with a league- Cattvbest nine road wins.

“We went .500 in four games but we would have liked to get at least a point out of L.A.,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “We beat a really solid hockey team. There's a lot of belief in that locker room. We've been down then readjusted. This was a solid, all-around effort. That was a good game for us.''

The Panthers opened up Saturday's game like they have many others – by giving up a quick goal. Logan Couture's shot that caromed off the cross bar and past starter Scott Clemmensen gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 1:16 into the game.

Of Florida's 26 games this season, it has given up the initial goal in 14. Ten of those goals have come in the opening five minutes.

“Our team has been like this all season,'' said Clemmensen, now 2-0 after making 23 saves. “We never feel like we are down. We have a lot of confidence as a team. One, two, three goal deficits mean nothing. We keep fighting to the end. As a goaltender, you get support from everyone. The last game I played we scored six goals. Now we got five. We keep going like that, we'll keep winning them.''

The Panthers bounced back at 7:53 of the period when Stephen Weiss' soft shot somehow found its way past defender Douglas Murray and goalie Thomas Toonces2Greiss. The Sharks answered and made it 2-1 when Jamie McGinn charged through the slot and one-timed a nice pass from Michal Handzus past Clemmensen.

After that, however, it was all Panthers.
Florida outshot the Sharks 15-9 in the second period and got goals from Tomas Fleischmann, former Sharks winger Marco Sturm and Jack Skille.

The third goal of the period came on a pure hustle play from Skille as Florida was killing a penalty. Skille fought for a puck and worked it around the Sharks zone to kill time, then went for the net. Skille had the puck taken from him on a Greiss poke check, only the puck bounced around off skates and Dan Boyle’s downed stick.

Skille technically didn't take a shot, but the goal counts just the same.

“A little bit of puck luck helps,'' Skille said. “I'll take it. I'm sure everyone else in the league would as well.''

Added Dineen: “He had a great game, really took to heart conversations we've had. He understands how he can be a really effective player for this team. He has a lot of of care and his heart is in the right place. It's not always going to pay off on the scoresheet, but that was a big goal for him.''

Florida continued its strong play in the third, holding the Sharks to just two shots through the opening eight minutes. But Couture whipped a shot past Clemmensen on a power play with 6:21 left to give the Sharks hope.

Of course, all that ended when Kulikov scored on Florida's final power play of the night with 1:35 Vanmurphratremaining. The two teams played a tough game throughout, and ended it in a scrum behind the Florida net.

Ed Jovanovski was charged for roughing after the final whistle sounded with Brad Winchester given a post game roughing and game misconduct.

December 03, 2011

Kevin Dineen Helps Florida Panthers Get Off to Great Start ... Dmitry Kulikov's Will to Play

DineenSAN JOSE, Calif. – One of the first things Kevin Dineen noticed in his first game with the Panthers were the accommodations. Even though it was a quick flight to Tampa for a preseason game, the team's charter flight was fully stocked.

Sure beat hours of highway time on a charter bus.

One reason Dineen earned instant respect when he took over the Panthers job last summer wasn't his 19 seasons in the NHL – although that sure helped – but it was that he paid his dues making the transition to coach in the American Hockey League.

Dineen coached the Portland, Maine, Pirates for six seasons. That's a lot of miles in the front row of a bus. That's a lot of bad coffee on a commercial flight.

“His background before he got here – he played in the league, so he knows what it takes to get here – means he understands his players,'' Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen said before Florida's late game Saturday against the Sharks. “He has been through the ranks as a coach as well. He's earned his stripes. He was successful for a long time. The guy earned his stripes. 

“Based on what we know of him, there was no reason to not expect him to have the early success he's had. His playing days put with his coaching days are a reason for his success early in his NHL coaching career.'' 

Now 25 games into his first season with the Panthers, Dineen is getting high marks from players and others around the league as well. A legitimate candidate for the league's coach of the year honor, Dineen has the Panthers flying high atop the Southeast Conference for the past two weeks.

“It's amazing how quickly things have gone. We're already past the quarter pole of the season,'' Dineen said. “You have to be confident in your decision making and the people around you. I'm a big believer in brutal honesty and I ask that of my coaches when it comes to what I do.''

The Panthers were basically a new team when training camp opened. Only a handful of players were left over from last year's team and Dineen was the new coach in town. Those worries about how long it would take the Panthers to gel as a team were unfounded. The Panthers came together pretty quickly, although they still say they have work to do. 

A good road trip like the one the Panthers wrapped up Saturday night – and the one they'll embark on Wednesday – can help strengthen those bonds.

“We [signed] guys with character who could contribute right away,'' Dineen said. “Sometimes things don't work out, but the guys [the Panthers] have signed have really made a strong impact right from the start. They've been an easy bunch to work with.''

Dineen hasn't pushed the Panthers as hard nor been as vocal in practice as former coach Pete DeBoer was. With a more veteran lineup, Dineen may not feel he has to drop the hammer as often. The Panthers do have a looser feel about them.

“He doesn't push things too much. Everything has been good,'' defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said. “I like playing for him, there are new issues. Everyone likes him and he has the respect of the players. That's so important. We all know what he expects from us. When you play in the league, you understand what the players are all about. He's been a player and have had a lot of different coaches. He's taking experiences from everyone.''

KULIKOV'S WILL

Kulikov was back in the lineup on Thursday after taking a deep cut to his left leg Tuesday in Carolina. Kulikov said he felt some pain from the swelling in the leg during the game, but with his skate boot not touching the cut, Kulikov and the Florida medical staff feel like the risk of infection is low.

“I want to play every chance I get,'' Kulikov said. “I don't think it was serious and it's not in a bad spot. I can pivot. It turned out better than we thought.''

() The Panthers benched winger Evgenii Dadonov on Saturday just one game after Dadonov had been bumped up to the top line. With Kris Versteeg back in the lineup (taking his spot back), the Panthers had an extra forward. 

Dineen obviously wasn't happy with Dadonov's lackluster performance on the top line and rewarded Florida's 'San Antonio Express' fourth line of Bracken Kearns, Tim Kennedy and Mark Cullen with another game. 

() Assistant general manager Mike Santos says he is comfortable with the Panthers organizational depth in goal. The Panthers parted ways with Tyler Plante on Friday and have recently traded Alexander Salak and Marc Cheverie. 

The Panthers have Dov Grumet-Morris backing up Jacob Markstrom with AHL San Antonio and Chet Pickard backing up Brian Foster at ECHL Cincinnati. Florida also has prospects Sergei Gayduchenko and Sam Brittain at the position.


Florida Panthers/San Jose Sharks Early Saturday Notebook: Goalies, Scratches and Whatnots

SjsuSAN JOSE -- Good afternoon from high atop the San Jose Marriott.

Quick early notes from the morning (afternoon in the real world) skate:

-- Scott Clemmensen will make his second start of the season tonight. Both of his starts have come west of the Mississippi. He beat the Stars 6-0 in his only action of the season.

Clemmensen told me this morning that he feels great, the rest did him good. "This is the only time I've been without pain since training camp,'' he said. 

This is just the third time Clemmensen has been at the Sharks arena and second with the Panthers. This will be his first start here.

The Sharks will go with backup Thomas Greiss.

-- Evgenii Dadonov was one of the last players off the ice today -- and it wasn't by choice. It's obvious who Kevin Dineen was talking about Friday when he said he was majorly disappointed with the play of some players in Los Angeles.

Dadonov was given a shot on the top line and didn't create much of anything. So, tonight he sits in the press box with us. Dadonov and Keaton Ellerby will be the healthy scratches.

-- Nick Cotsonika from Yahoo! is here doing a story on the Panthers.

He joined the usual lunch crew (Billy & Goldie only as Harvey X. was busy) for lunch and peppered us with questions regarding the access booster Nevin Shapiro had with the Panthers. 

Looks like Erik Gudbranson's NCAA eligibility may be in question.

-- In all seriousness, will have a full feature/notebook posted up here tonight focusing on Kevin Dineen's first 25 games behind the Panthers bench.

Check in, will ya?

-- Don't forget to follow me on Twitter as I give all kinds of game updates and sage advise throughout the night. It's easy and it's free.

twitter.com/OnFrozenPond

December 02, 2011

Florida Panthers Notebook: No Suspension for Bergenheim on 'Mike Richards Hit 2.0' ... Kris Versteeg Back v. San Jose Sharks but No Samuelsson ... Cats and Tyler Plante Part Ways

RichardsboothSAN JOSE, Calif. -- Panthers winger Sean Bergenheim will not be suspended nor fined for his hit on Los Angeles center Mike Richards during the second period Thursday.

Bergenheim lowered his shoulder when he hit Richards – the former Philadelphia center who crushed David Booth with an open-ice hit in 2009 – and made contact with Richards' lowered head.

Richards then slashed Bergenheim and the two were both charged with roughing. Los Angeles' Jarret  Stoll was also charged with a minor penalty and the Panthers ended up with a four minute power play. 

The Panthers went 0-for-6 with the advantage on Thursday and are two for their past 27 tries on the power play over the course of six games. 

"I thought it was a good hit,'' coach Kevin Dineen said, adding he's still ticked nothing happened to Carolina's Derek Joslin.

Samuelsson-- Winger Mikael Samuelsson worked out with the team for the fourth straight day Friday but said he's not ready to play Saturday.

Samuelsson is coming back from complications from a sports hernia surgery performed last May. He hasn't played since being acquired from Vancouver in the Booth deal on Oct. 22.

“I feel better every day, just plugging away'' Samuelsson said. “I have to be cautious so I can play the whole season. I want to play but I know I have to be cautious. I'll be on the ice every day, getting game ready.''

-- Kris Versteeg missed Thursday's game not because of a fractured nose but because he had headaches and symptoms of whiplash after taking a forearm to the nose from Carolina's Derek Joslin.

Versteeg, who returned to Tuesday's game, practiced Friday.

“I wouldn't miss a game with a broken nose,'' Versteeg said. “I just had to get cleared by everyone.''

Plantemask1-- The Panthers and goalie Tyler Plante have parted ways after Plante passed through waivers on Friday. Plante lost the battle to backup Jose Theodore during training camp to Jacob Markstrom and didn't fare well at either the AHL or ECHL level this season.

Assistant GM Mike Santos said Plante signed with a team in the Swedish Elite League.

-- Former Panthers winger Pavel Bure is among five players who will be inducted into the International PavelIce Hockey Federation Hall of Fame on May 20 in Helsinki, Finland.

Bure is also considered to have a good shot to be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2012 after missing out on his first ballot this year.

Florida Panthers Regret Lost Points against Los Angeles Kings ... Panthers Roadie Continues Saturday in San Jose

StarwarsSAN JOSE, Calif. – Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said he walked out of Staples Center in Los Angeles feeling good about his team despite a 2-1 loss to the Kings on Thursday night. 

A day later, regret definitely set in. Florida played the better game on Thursday, outshooting the Kings 42-26 and having plenty of scoring chances throughout.

Only goalie Jonathan Quick was outstanding, his lone blemish a goal to Sean Bergenheim in the second off a loose puck. 

Two points aren't easy to come by on the road, and for the Panthers, they've been extremely difficult to get against the Kings. Los Angeles has now won seven straight against Florida since 2003. 

“There's frustration from last night. After the game, I was upbeat, we had played hard,'' Dineen said Friday afternoon.

“The frustration of not getting the two points has kicked in. There were a couple individual performances in the game that irritated me and I Kings2wanted to make sure I addressed them [Friday]. If we don't have all cylinders running, we cough and spit.''

Quick is 3-0 against the Panthers and 8-1 against teams from the Southeast Division during his career.

“He made big saves all night and we just didn't have an answer,'' said Weiss, who had five of Florida's shots. “We'll regroup and hopefully have the same effort against San Jose, just get some bounces. We had great chances all night. They just weren't going in. The other night in Carolina we didn't have our best game by any means, but we got a bounce and won the game.''

Defenseman Mike Weaver says he continues to be encouraged by the Panthers attitude and play on the road. Florida has won eight road games this season – tied for most in the league as of Friday afternoon – and have played well in all but four of its 14 games away from South Florida. 

“I would be more upset if we didn't get all those chances,'' Weaver said. “We came out hard and battled. We didn't get the result we wanted, but if we play like that, we're going to be on the positive side most nights.''

FonzsharkSATURDAY: PANTHERS AT SHARKS

When, Where: 10:30 p.m.; HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: San Jose leads 9-7-7

The game: San Jose's 4-3 win over Montreal on Friday snapped a two-game losing streak. Before losing to LandsharkVancouver and Los Angeles, the Sharks had won four
straight. .-.-. The Panthers have fared well against San Jose of late, winning the past three meetings. This is Florida's first visit to San Jose since winning on Bryan Allen's overtime goal on March 13, 2010.

 

Florida Panthers Not 'Quick' Enough to Beat LA Kings ... Jonathan Quick Makes 41 Saves in LA's 2-1 Win ... Kevin Dineen: "We Completely Outplayed Them''

BhillsLOS ANGELES – Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi was asked how his team held off the Panthers on Thursday night in a game in which Florida dominated play for much of the night.

“That's easy,'' Scuderi said, sweat pouring off his face as he fought to catch his breath. “Jonathan Quick.''

Quick was the difference as the Kings held off a hard-skating Panthers team 2-1 at Staples Center. Quick made 41 saves in the game, his only blemish coming when Sean Bergenheim slapped at a loose puck as he was falling backward in the slot. The Kings held a 2-0 lead prior to that, but Bergenheim's goal was all the Panthers would get.

“We thoroughly outplayed them and they were trying to run around and hack us and slash us,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “You know, when you are getting outplayed as badly as they were, that's the response. What are you going to do?

"We feel very good about the way we played and we Lalivemove forward from there. There were plenty of opportunities. Their goalie certainly got them a couple of points. [Jose Theodore] gave us every chance to win.''

Thursday's game had plenty of physical moments as Bergenheim knocked Mike Richards out of the game with a hit in the second period, one that led to a pair of penalties against the former Philadelphia captain as well as penalties against Bergenheim and Jarret Stoll. 

Richards, who infamously crushed then-Panthers winger David Booth with an open ice hit in 2009, left the game with an undisclosed 'upper body injury.' 

Florida had a four-minute power play (the Kings could have taken two minutes of 5-on-3 play instead) but failed to convert. The Kings were called for eight infractions during the opening 40 minutes but none in the final 20. 

Regardless, the Panthers – who threw up 29 shots at Quick in the final two periods and had 17 missed in the game – couldn't get anything past the Los Angeles goalie. Florida went 0-for-6 on the power play as Kris Versteeg missed his first game of the season after breaking his nose on Tuesday.

The Panthers say Versteeg should return Saturday against San Jose. 

Tomas Kopecky riled up the Kings on Thursday as he camped in front of the net and made a pest of himself.

At one point late in the third, Quick had to be pulled away from Kopecky behind the net. When asked if the former Blackhawks forward had any real past with the Kings, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon quipped, ''nah, he annoys a lot of teams. They all hate playing against him.''

Los Angeles opened the scoring on a shot from Jack Johnson 1:35 in on the second shot of the night against Jose Theodore (24 saves). The Kings made it 2-0 with 5:47 left in the second when Dustin Brown scored on a similar shot from outside the circle. Just over a minute later, Bergenheim cut the Florida deficit in half, but that's where the scoring ended. 

“He made big saves all night and we just didn't have an answer,'' said Stephen Weiss, who had five of Florida's shots. “We'll regroup and hopefully have the same effort against San Jose, just get some bounces. We had great chances all night. They just weren't going in.

"The other night in Carolina we didn't have our best game by any means, but we got a bounce and won the game. Those things happen. We got a lot of positive out of tonight that's for sure.''

 

December 01, 2011

LATE NIGHT WITH THE PANTHERS: Shawn Matthias' Work Paying Off ... Kris Versteeg Out, Dmitry Kulikov IN ... Say Hello to Bracken Kearns

MatthiasLOS ANGELES – With top-line winger Kris Versteeg out Thursday against the Kings after suffering a broken nose on Tuesday, the Panthers offered an opportunity to step up.

In the past few games, it's been Shawn Matthias answering the call. Matthias scored three of Florida's four goals in its previous two games. 

“He's a player who has shown great development to this point and we're really excited about the way he's going,'' coach Kevin Dineen said before Florida's late-night game at Staples Center. 

Matthias' statistics over the past two games have been a reward for his hard play on both sides of the ice for much of the season. Even though Matthias hasn't been rewarded with goals – his goal on Saturday in Tampa was his first in seven games – Dineen has been appreciative toward what the big-bodied Matthias brings to the team.

This summer, Matthias was one of the last restricted free agents to sign with the team. The Panthers held firm with a two-way contract, meaning Matthias could be sent to the minors and not be paid NHL money.

With a strong training camp, and intense play ever since, the Panthers haven't even considered sending Matthias to the minors. 

Even if they had, with the way he's been playing, he would likely be picked up through the waiver process.
Matthias, who has a two-year deal with the team, doesn't want to go anywhere. 

“I'm just working hard, going to the net and moving my feet more. I'm being aggressive,'' said Matthias, whose line of Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim has been creating numerous chances lately. “Even though I wasn't getting goals, the chances are important. If you're not getting those, you worry. I just keep throwing things at the net because eventually they'll go in. That's what's happening right now.''

Evgenii Dadonov took Versteeg's place on Florida's top line as the trio of Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann were broken up for the first time this season. 

Dadonov came into the game with two goals in his first two games after being called up but nothing in the seven games since.

“You have to be excited if you're the player on that left side,'' Dineen said. “It's a pretty good spot to be in. You would be thrilled to be there. That's a pretty good role to be in. That's the thing you look forward to and look to take advantage of it.''

Rocky1() Dineen and the Panthers weren't happy there were no repercussions for the hit on Versteeg during the opening period of Tuesday's 3-1 win at Carolina after he got smashed in the face by Derek Joslin.

There was no penalty on the play and the NHL decided Wednesday that there would be no suspension nor fine.

“He took a forearm shiver to the nose and it's fractured,'' Dineen said. “He's been having headaches, so for us, it's wise to give him a night off and see where he is Friday. The player in question was challenged [to fight] numerous times and he had no interest. What are you going to do? It sure was nice walking out of there with two points.''

() The Panthers HAD defenseman Dmitry Kulikov back in the lineup on Thursday despite a deep Kulilaceration on his right leg suffered when he was clipped by a skate on Tuesday. 

Kulikov was stitched up and participated in the team's informal soccer game and took part in warmups before the game. 

“I'll tell you, he's one tough kid,'' Dineen said. “He's a guy who has shown us numerous times that his will to play is extremely large. He'll give it a test in warmups and see where he's at. We brought his skates to the hotel and saw where the comfort level was. Our training staff is confident they can keep it where it's in a non-infected way. That's the biggest concern. It's a longer cut that what I originally thought.''

() With Versteeg out, the Panthers recalled 30-year-old center Bracken Kearns from San Antonio. Kearns made his NHL debut with Florida on Oct 20 in Buffalo but was sent to the AHL after the following game.

With Dadonov up on the top line, Kearns became the newest member of the fourth line – dubbed the 'San Antonio Express' – as it has changed in each of the past three games. 

“The Panthers have been doing great so I just want to help out. It's a fun team to play for,'' Kearns said. “I've kept tabs on them and have a lot of buddies on this team. It's been great to watch.''

() Mark Cullen played in his first NHL game since Nov. 9, 2006 on Tuesday and said while he's excited for the opportunity, he knows it can be pulled away at any time. The Panthers are expected to get veteran Mikael Samuelsson in the lineup soon – he has been practicing but is still on the IR.

Cullen, 33, signed with the Panthers last season but tore his Achilles tendon on the first day of training camp. Cullen was limited to just 28 games at AHL Rochester last year but resigned with the Panthers and recorded 12 points off two goals in 19 games with San Antonio before being recalled Sunday. 

“It was very enjoyable. It's been a long time coming,'' said Cullen, who played in 32 NHL games from 2005-06 with Chicago and Philadelphia. “I had a lot of fun out there.''