There was a large crowd on hand for today's practice in Coral Springs with the team working out on their rink before moving over to one of the other ice sheets to work on power play and penalty kill.
It was a pretty good practice with some news coming afterward.
First off, free agent center John Madden is in South Florida and spent part of the day talking with the team – including coach Kevin Dineen – and being checked out medically.
Ran into Dale Tallon and Bill Torrey at lunch, with Tallon telling me nothing has happened yet. The Panthers are talking to Madden as well as some other unnamed players. He said they will likely bring in someone by Monday.
“There are ongoing conversations,'' Dineen said. “We have different things to evaluate. .-.-. He's certainly, given his past history, is a valid option for us. He can be an effective player if he's conditioned and ready to go. He came down and I wanted to see where he's at physically. We haven't concluded that yet.''
As far as Madden chomping at the bit, well, Dineen says 'duh!' Madden hasn't played since last April.
“When you play as long as you have,'' Dineen said, “I know Bryan McCabe is down here too and I bet if that opportunity arose, he'd be here. Good for them. I was the same way. John should be excited about it. We'll get through the process and see what works out.''
-- And finally, the Panthers appear to be healing up.
Although Scottie Upshall and Jack Skille aren't close to returning, Stephen Weiss practiced today and “looked good,'' said Dineen. It looks like he's going to play tomorrow against the Rangers.
“I sure liked the way he was skating,'' Dineen said. “He looked like he had some real jump and he's itching. He doesn't like to be away too much. I'm leaning toward being positive right now.''
Said Weiss: “We'll see in the next 24 hours. I had a good practice, felt strong. Now it's just a matter of being able to take contact. I have a little time here. But I need to make a decision soon.''
Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson are out for the next two games, but could also get in here in the coming days and weeks.
-- Dineen definitely noticed that the Panthers played 'Brass Bonanza' during Tuesday's game against the Leafs. That kitschy song is best known for being the Hartford Whalers goal song back in the day. Dineen is a former captain of 'The Whale.'
“I got a kick out of it,'' Dineen said. “I remember when I was doing player development and went to the University of Vermont. I called, got a pass. Then they played the song during an intermission. I asked if it was a coincidence, and they said no, it was because I was there. The Red Sox play it and that has nothing to do with the Whale, but I get a kick out of it. Every time I hear it.''
-- Dineen on more than 40,000 fans attending either the Heat home opener or the Panthers-Leafs on Tuesday: “It's a great testament to the sports fan in South Florida. It's a great night out. During the holiday time you're looking for quality time with the family and here's something you can do together.
“We think we're an affordable, quality option for families here in town. I don't know where the Heat season ticket base is, but we're very sensitive that we're not cheap sports to see live so we want to play as well as we can.''
-- Dineen on the HBO 24/7 cameras being around tomorrow: “You never know,'' he said, looking my way. “You might be the next Turtle on Entourage. You never know how how things play out. You just need a little bit of a window. As I say, I try to sell opportunity all the time.''
-- Speaking of the Rangers and the outdoor game, how about bringing it south? Like way down south.
I floated the idea of playing the outdoor game at the new Marlins ballpark back on Jan. 1, 2010. You can read the original post here.
Go ahead and laugh. But check this out:
“I wish I would have thought of this myself, but it's a real possibility,'' team president Michael Yormark said.
“I think David Samson and the Marlins would love to do something like this. At the right time, we would want to discuss this with the league. We would like to put this on their radar. Florida is such a great destination, who wouldn't want to be here for a game like this? Our town would embrace this. It would be a huge event for us, South Florida and the NHL.''
More on this topic, believe it or not, soon.
-- And finally, if you need Rangers tickets, you better hurry up. The Panthers say they have less than 1,000 left and stubhub.com says it has less than 700 for sale. Prices on the hub start at less than $15.
The Canadiens game is all but sold out through the Panthers, although stubhub has 1,400 left starting at $16.