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51 posts from January 2012

January 16, 2012

Florida Panthers Play Strong in 3-2 SO Loss to Boston Bruins ... Ed Jovanovski Injures Hand During First Period Scrum

After a horrible performance Friday at home against Pittsburgh, the Panthers desperately needed a strong game against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Monday.

Despite taking a defeat in the standings, the Panthers did just that as they more than held their own against visiting Boston in a 3-2 shootout loss in front of an announced 19,018 at BankAtlantic Center.

With the point gained in the standings, Florida once again took sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division over idle Washington.

“That was a good hockey game, a fun game to be a part of,'' said Stephen Weiss, who became the Panthers all-time leader with 232 assists after helping on Shawn Matthias' game-tying goal in the second.

“We would have liked to come out on the other side, but if we play like that, we're going to have success. We needed to bounce back and have a better effort than the last time out. We had a few chances to win it. It just wasn't meant to be.''

Said coach Kevin Dineen: “I liked the response after a pretty average game against Pittsburgh. We knew the game would have a little bit of testosterone to it. Unfortunately for us, we couldn't score that final score or get the final save.''

One negative from Monday's game: Defenseman Ed Jovanovski could miss some substantial time after injuring his hand during a first period fight.

Jovanovski had his hand wrapped up after the game but wouldn't confirm whether the hand was broken or not. He's expected to see a surgeon on Tuesday.

Another negative is Florida's continued struggle in shootouts. Florida has won just two of seven shootouts this season – all on home ice – as Monday's went four rounds.

After going scoreless through two rounds, Stephen Weiss scored to give the Panthers a short-lived lead as Patrice Bergeron (who scored Boston's two regulation goals) followed suit. Boston won it in Round 4 when David Krejci beat Scott Clemmensen.

“We need efforts like that on a consistent basis to win in this league,'' said Clemmensen, who made 33 saves. Boston scored on its initial shot of the night. “We were right there.''

Florida played a strong first period yet trailed 1-0, then scored twice in the second with Jason Garrison tying the score at 1 with another of his patented bombs from way out that worked past Tuukka Rask (38 saves). 

Matthias was stopped by Rask on a first period breakaway yet came back in the second with one, beating the Boston goalie – who shutout the Panthers 8-0 on Dec. 23 at the Garden) – by squeezing the puck through his skates. 

“The good thing was I knew where to go the second time,'' said Matthias. “That was a big goal for us. .-.-. This was good for the confidence. They're a great team, been killing some of the best teams by scores like 6-0. And you saw what they did to us the last time. We have to take the positives and build from there.''

Florida had numerous chances in the third period to take the lead, with Michal Repik getting stopped on a breakaway with 1:01 left. The Panthers had a power play in overtime but couldn't connect as Kris Versteeg was stopped on a prime chance. Versteeg was also stopped with 15 seconds remaining.

-- Jose Theodore continues to work his way back from a knee injury suffered Dec. 31 against the Canadiens but didn't dress for Monday's game against the Bruins.

Dineen said Theodore will be on Florida's upcoming road trip and he expects Theodore to play this week.

-- Florida had four of their injured forwards on the ice Monday and Dineen said all four are close enough to coming back that he's now considering making lineup changes once they are officially cleared by medical staff.

Marco Sturm (concussion) joined Jack Skille (shoulder), Scottie Upshall (hip) and Sean Bergenheim (groin) at the morning skate.

With so many players looking to come back, general manager Dale Tallon has some decisions to make. Florida is only allowed to carry 23 players on its active roster and are at 21. Michal Repik has played well, but could be headed back to the minors.

Keaton Ellerby, who hasn't played since Dec. 23, will likely replace Jovanovski.

-- The Panthers held a moment of silence before Monday's game to honor fallen Pompano Beach firefighter Bill Elliott Jr. Elliott, 49, died on Jan. 6 after falling during a ladder drill. 

January 14, 2012

Panthers Head South, Get Rousing Reception in Kendall

IMG_0571The Panthers skated in Miami-Dade County on Saturday for the first time since leaving Miami Arena in 1998 for new digs in Sunrise.

The stands at Kendall Ice Arena were full and the line for autographs from players snaked around the back of the building. 

The team supplied a charter bus for the drive down from Sunrise, although some players chose to drive themselves. 

“After the first few games, I knew we had some pretty good fans,'' said Matt Bradley after signing autographs for 15 minutes. “These things are a lot of fun. It's cool to practice in a different place and meet new fans.

"And we got to see some kids play here before we IMG_0572practiced which was fun. I'm jealous of their hands. They were good.''

Said Dineen: “What this shows is the tentacles the Panthers have in the South Florida market. This was a fabulous turnout and we're really thankful for our fan base. It's a good setup for us.

"It's nice to be able to get out and interact with our wide fan base and come down to Kendall. That's a good day for us.''

Panthers Top Trio Struggling, Ice Time Limited v Pens on Friday

ToplineThe Panthers top line had been a source of so many goals earlier this season, no one saw the party coming to an end. 

Although the trio of Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg have plenty of time to get things going again, the well of prosperity they once brought has been dry of late.

On Friday night, with the three on the ice as Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy walked in on Scott Clemmensen to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead on the opening shot of the third period, coach Kevin Dineen had obviously seen enough.

The trio were split up for the rest of the period, with all three seeing limited minutes in the later stages of the Penguins' 4-1 win at BankAtlantic Center.

Versteeg, one of the big success stories of the Panthers thus far, spent most of the third period on the bench. Versteeg was benched after the Kennedy goal and didn't get back in until there was 7:03 remaining. He played 48 seconds before sitting for the remainder of the night. 

“I think that was a pretty strong reflection of my feelings were on his play,'' Dineen said. “That's not a one-game snapshot. I don't just do that on one game. I think it's been a stretch of games where he, in such an important leadership role, needs to play to a higher level of hockey.''

Said Versteeg: “Obviously I want to be out on the ice. When things aren't going, I guess you have to find ways to get guys going. It's been up-and-down lately, but we're still getting chances. I don't know how many posts or empty nets we've missed. If one of those goes in, it changes the whole dynamic, gets the confidence going.''

Versteeg wasn't the only player to see his playing time diminished in the embarrassing loss.

Weiss – who hasn't scored since Dec. 5, a span of 14 games – skated on just five shifts for 4:14 of the third.

Fleischmann got four shifts for 3:28 and had a great scoring chance in the third period but couldn't connect off a pass from Weiss while in front of the net. 

Weiss missed two games last month with a rib injury but he said that hasn't effected his play. Dineen refused to comment on whether he thought Weiss was still battling with the injury. 

For Weiss, who hasn't gone this long without a goal since going scoreless in 12 straight during the 2006-07 season, it's obvious this stretch is wearing on him.

The smile Weiss had been carrying around in the first couple of months of the season hasn't been spotted in weeks.

In the first 25 games they played together, the three combined for an average of 1.32 goals and almost two assists per game. In the past 17 games they have averaged less than a goal and assist per night. 

“You just keep your head down and keep going,'' Weiss said. “Whatever you want to call it, we heard it loud and clear. We have to be better on both ends of the puck. We need to start chipping in again.''

-- Goalie Jose Theodore and forwards Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille and Scottie Upshall all took part in the workout although Dineen said it's too early to tell if any of them would be available for Monday's game against the Bruins.

The Panthers will practice Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. Admission is free.

Fun With #FlaPanthers Goalie Masks, Part XII: Jose Theodore

Panthers goalie Jose Theodore was rocking a new mask on Saturday although he says he's not decided whether it will be his new game mask or not.

IMG_0565Theodore, who broke out the 'Bikini Cat' mask during training camp, said he has had gargoyles on his old masks because he liked the idea of the legend that gargoyles 'defended the city.' 

On his new mask, Theodore brings the idea back -- with a tropical take: Tiki carvings defending sand castles. With palm trees and stuff.

IMG_0566 IMG_0567 IMG_0568 IMG_0569 IMG_0570It looks pretty cool.

Here you go.

January 13, 2012

Panthers Get Lost in Pittsburgh Flood 4-1 ... Jovo: 'That was a Debacle'

It would be easy to blame Scott Clemmensen for Florida's loss on Friday considering Pittsburgh's first two goals came in fairly easy fashion.

Yes, Clemmensen should shoulder some of the responsibility for an ugly 4-1 loss to the banged-up Penguins in front of an announced 18,658 at BankAtlantic Center. Yet the Panthers have no one to blame but themselves – and should be thanking Clemmensen the game didn't get completely out of hand earlier.

“That was a debacle from the get-go,'' defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “We got outplayed, outworked. It was obvious. There was no push back and our goalie kept us in it. We had no answer for them.''

Clemmensen stopped the first 20 shots he faced before Pittsburgh got on the board as his teammates did little to nothing until they were down three goals.

Florida got a Michal Repik goal in the third and a few golden chances after that, yet dug too big a hole against Marc-Andre Fluery and a Pittsburgh team that had lost six straight.

Pittsburgh outshot the Panthers 41-26 and had 26 more shot chances (shots, missed shots, blocked shots) in the game.

“We didn't have their intensity level,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “They came in ready to do whatever it took to win. We were looking for an easier way to win the game.''

As far as the Panthers lead in the Southeast goes, well, it could be gone before they play Boston on Monday night. Washington, which beat the Penguins Wednesday and Tampa Bay on Friday, is now two points back. And the Capitals play host to the struggling Hurricanes on Sunday.

The eight point cushion Florida enjoyed in December seems a lifetime ago.

If the Panthers weren't leading the division, their 50 points would put them tied for fifth place in the east instead of their current spot of third. Florida has lost seven of 10. The Penguins remain tied in points with Washington for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

“You learn from games, good or bad,'' Clemmensen said. “It's going to be tight as it is every year. That's what makes a difference between playoff teams and teams that don't make it. Good teams find a way to win and find a way out of bad spots. This team has played consistent hockey for the most part. It's not time to hit the panic button. That just wasn't our best game. We'll move on. We have played better and expect to play better.''

Florida, which had three days between games, looked slow and surprised by Pittsburgh's tenacious play.

Pittsburgh didn't score in the opening period, but had 28 shot attempts to Florida's 11. That trend continued in the second as the Penguins again took the game to the Panthers and picked up a pair of goals to go into the second break up 2-0.

Clemmensen would definitely like the first goal back as he should have been credited for the second assist after playing the puck outside the crease and inadvertently feeding it to Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke, who in turn, passed it to Steve Sullivan. He deposited the puck into an empty net as Clemmensen couldn't get back.

With less than 45 seconds left in the period, Evgeni Malkin carried the puck in with Chris Kunitz on his right for a two-on-one rush. Malkin shot the puck himself with Clemmensen making the save. The puck, however, bounced to the back boards where Malkin pulled it in and backhanded a shot to the net. The puck found its way past Clemmensen and it was 2-0. Tyler Kennedy made it 3-0 on Pittsburgh's initial shot of the third and that was about that.

Aside from Repik's goal, Tomas Fleischmann whiffed on a shot in front of the net with 7:28 left. That would have given Florida life at 3-2. Instead, Pittsburgh's James Neal made it 4-1 with 4:17 remaining.

The trio of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg – who was benched and played just two shifts in the third – haven't scored in four straight games. Weiss, who appears to still be slowed from a rib injury suffered last month, hasn't scored in 14 games.

-- The Panthers appear to be getting much healthier these days, leaving Dineen with some decisions to make as early as next week. Sean Bergenheim, Jose Theodore, Jack Skille and Scottie Upshall all participated in Friday's morning skate. Theodore (knee) is expected to be back in net Monday against the Bruins.

-- For the first time since leaving Miami Arena for Sunrise in 1998, the Panthers will be on the ice in Miami-Dade County on Saturday. The Panthers will hold a practice at Kendall Ice Arena at 11:30 a.m. Admission is free.

Panthers Going Back to Miami: Cats to Practice in Dade County for First Time since Leaving Miami Arena in 1998

MiamiarenafinalsWhen the Panthers packed up and left Miami Arena to the Heat in 1998 for new digs up in a sleepy burgh called 'Sunrise,' who would have thought it would take them this long to go back?

On Saturday, the Panthers will skate on Dade County ice for the first time since losing 7-3 to the Flyers on April 16, 1998.

SunriseHow long ago was that? The Panthers leading scorers in 1997-98 were Ray Whitney, Dave Gagner and Robert Svehla. John Vanbiesbrouck appeared in 60 games that season.

It's all going down at Kendall Ice Arena.

The players have been told to be there by 11 a.m. tomorrow so practice should begin before the scheduled noon starting time. 

The practice at the 'southernmost' rink in the U.S. is free and open to the public. 

If you are going, I would get there early. 


Earlier this season, the team was mobbed by a large crowd in Pembroke Pines. 

It's good to see the Panthers spreading the hockey around South Florida. Last year, they returned to their old rink in Lighthouse Point. This year, they're practicing in Pembroke Pines and Kendall. 

Next year, it appears that they will hold at least one practice in Lake Worth.

The more, the merrier. 


Your Florida Panthers/Pittsburgh Penguins Friday Afternoon Notebook

IMG_0554Good times at today's morning skate as a large number of media visited the Billboard.

Wonder what was going on?

(Did an unscientific poll inside the Penguins locker room. Of the four local English network channels in South Florida, only one Ch10wasn't represented. No, I'm not going to say who.)

Fun moment, talking about the Pens here, was when the team came out. Every player had a 'C' made up in tape on their right chest; well, one player had the Russian 'K.' 

Then Sidney comes out -- you know, the Pens official captain -- and doesn't have a C on his jersey. 

Nice show of support by the Penguins as it appears some have anonymously questioned his resolve of late.

Give me a break. Don't mess with concussions.

-- The Panthers locker room is packed, so much so, backup goalie Brian Foster's 'locker stall' is a folding IMG_0556chair in the middle of the locker room. His name plate sits on the ground.

He doesn't seem to mind. Good dude this Brian Foster guy.

By the way, Sean Bergenheim has the third goalie stall.

-- Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall, Jose Theodore and Jack Skille all practiced today and Kevin Dineen seemed to be excited talking about them possibility of them returning by next week.

Dineen said Theodore wouldn't dress tonight against Pittsburgh but could be back by Monday. 

So there you are.



Fun With Florida Panthers Goalie Masks, Part XI: Brian Foster

IMG_0557Some of you have emailed me requesting pictures of Brian Foster's mask.

OK, no one has.

But I know many of you were thinking about it.

IMG_0561IMG_0560 IMG_0558 IMG_0559So here you go.

You're welcome!

OnFrozenFilm: #Pens Sidney Crosby Speaks in Sunrise


January 12, 2012

Florida Panthers Thursday Notebook: The Penguins Ain't Who They Used to Be ... Jose Theodore Skates, Doubtful for Friday


The Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of the Stanley Cup as recently as 2009, visit the Panthers Friday night a vastly different team.

Superstar center Sidney Crosby hasn’t played since Dec. 5 after suffering another concussion and the Penguins have lost six in a row after losing 1-0 in Washington on Wednesday. 

The Penguins are also without top defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and standout center Jordan Staal (knee).

Pittsburgh has scored just six goals during their skid and would not make the playoffs if the season ended with the current positioning.

Of course, to the Panthers, that all makes the Penguins a very dangerous team. Coach Kevin Dineen is rightfully wary of All-Star center Evgeni Malkin and whatever Penguins are healthy.

“They are a dangerous team,” the Panthers coach said. “They are a little bit wounded, but that is an animal you have to be aware of.”

Dineen said he hopes Crosby – who is set to practice Friday but is not expected to play for a while – returns soon.

“As a fan myself, you want to see the top players,” Dineen said. “It’s an advantage for us strategically (that Crosby is out), but for the good of the game and our fans, I’d love to see him play.”

-- Panthers goalie Jose Theodore (knee) skated Thursday but is a “remote possibility” for Friday’s game. Backup Scott Clemmensen is expected to start for the fifth time in the past six games.

-- General Manger Dale Tallon said he is never satisfied, but he is happy with his team’s first half.

“Fifty points at the halfway point is a good position,’’ he said. “Our coaching staff has done a remarkable job with 13 new faces and a lot of injuries. Our guys have come up from the minors and helped us with seven forwards out of the lineup through most of this. It looks like we’re going to get healthy in the next couple weeks.”

-- Panthers winger Scottie Upshall, who hasn’t played since Nov. 10, skated Thursday but has not yet been cleared for contact. 


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

TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Penguins lead 36-31-4

The game: Florida’s win over Pittsburgh in November snapped a five-game losing streak to the Pens. Both teams have a win in the series this season. Pittsburgh, without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal because of injuries, has struggled lately. Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in Washington was Pittsburgh’s sixth straight. 


Florida Panthers Brian Campbell Lands on NHL All-Star Squad


Brian Campbell has felt the sting of critics. He was called overpaid then traded away – in what was essentially a salary dump - by the team he helped win the Stanley Cup.

All of that makes what is happening now even sweeter for the Panthers defenseman.

Campbell, tied for third in the league with 30 assists, became an NHL All-Star again on Thursday.

It is his fourth invitation, but he left little doubt this is the biggest validation he has received.

“The first [All-Star Game] was really special, but this one is probably the best for myself,” said the 32-year-old Campbell. “I feel I’ve been written off a bit by some people.”

This year’s All-Star Weekend, set for the last weekend of the month, will be held in Ottawa for the first time. That adds meaning to Campbell as well since he played his junior hockey there.

Campbell, though, said he enjoys the All-Star experience no matter the location. He goes as a hockey player – and also as a fan. 

“My first time, I raided the store and spent a lot of money on jerseys,” he said of his initial All-Star appearance in 2007. “I brought my own camera and took pictures with [NHL stars Sidney] Crosby and [Martin] Brodeur. 

“I like to collect stuff. Sometimes you use different sticks each period. That way, you have a few sticks you’ve used in an All-Star Game.”

Campbell, who is fifth in the NHL this season in average minutes per game with 26.17, has played in all 42 of the Panthers’ games. He’s become an indispensable part of the team since arriving in Florida just prior to the 2011 NHL Draft. 

Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon, who signed Campbell in Chicago in 2008 to an eight-year, $56.8 million free-agent contract, brought him to Florida as the Blackhawks needed to shed salary this past summer.

The move has worked out for both. Florida got Campbell and Chicago moved salary.

“Dale has shown a lot of confidence in me,” said Campbell, who is tied for the league lead with 19 power-play points. “That translates into that I need to have a lot of confidence in myself. 

“Dale is an honest person. He told me what it was going to be like here, and everything has been true. You want to work hard for your teammates and your coaches, but we all want to work extremely hard for Dale to show him the reason why we’re here.”

Tallon said he believes Campbell would be an asset to any team.

“I know how much he cares,” Tallon said. “We brought him in to Chicago, and they won, and we want to do the same thing here.”

Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen said Campbell has “lived up to expectations” as the team’s first All-Star since Jay Bouwmeester in 2009.The Panthers haven’t had more than one All-Star in a season since 2000, and some felt that streak might end this year.

Brian Stubits of CBS Sports mentioned Panthers winger Kris Versteeg as among the biggest snubs, and Tallon also praised center Stephen Weiss, winger Tomas Fleischmann and defenseman Jason Garrison as players deserving of consideration. Garrison leads all defensemen with 11 goals.

“We had a lot of candidates,” Tallon said.

Speaking specifically of Weiss, Tallon expressed confidence he will make future All-Star Games.

“He hasn’t reached his prime yet,” Tallon said of the 28-year-old Weiss. “He has been our glue here all year. We will keep surrounding him with better players as we move forward.”  

January 11, 2012

NHL All-Star Reserves Announced Thursday: Which Florida Panthers Are Going?

OttawapuckPanthers coach Kevin Dineen said he felt the Florida Panthers should be "well represented" at the All-Star Game later this month.

But will they?

In a story on NHL.com, On Frozen Pond pal Corey Masisak put together his list of the players he feels will be in Ottawa.

The only Panthers selection: Brian Campbell.

I do feel that Corey is right in that Campbell will get the call. But there are other Panthers who deserve a ring as well. 

How about Kris Versteeg? Jason 'The G-52 Bomber' Garrison? 

I would have thought Stephen Weiss would have made it because of the value he carries to the Panthers, but his recent dry spell -- he hasn't scored since getting two against Washington on Dec. 5 -- is probably going to be his undoing.

OttawawinterOf course, missing Ottawa at the end of January is a nice consolation prize.

The NHL will announce the rest of the roster -- six players have already been selected -- tomorrow.

PS: I also think Erik Gudbranson is a lock to be one of the rookie selections being from Ottawa and all. 

Canucks Obviously Still Dislike Bruins: Zdeno Chara Cup Celebration Covers Torn off Record Books in Florida

ThejerkAt one point during the Panthers game against the Canucks on Monday, the arena's crack in-house entertainment crew used a clip from the Steve Martin classic 'The Jerk.'

It was the scene where Navin Johnson is being shot at while working at the gas station.

"He hates these cans!" Navin exclaims.

Well, the sniper in the movie had nothing against those cans* of oil.

But someone in the Florida Panthers press box sure did hate those pictures of Boston's Zdeno Charra on the cover of the 2011-12 NHL Official Guide and Record Book.

1The Canucks were in town. They lost in seven games to the Bruins last year before beating them 4-3 in an emotional and physical game on Saturday.


The Panthers aren't blaming anyone for the defacement of the books but something went down.

Originally there was one torn book in the press box. Sometime before the game, a PR staffer noticed the torn covers. So they were replaced. And torn again. Finally, a few more were brought out but Dale Tallon took one, then a radio guy.

Total books ruined: Three. Guess things could be worse. The Panthers have not said what will come of the books. I hear the Hockey Hall of Fame has called for them. The Boston Bruins have also expressed interest in displaying them. OK, made that paragraph up.


I tweeted (@OnFrozenPond) about this after the game and wasn't planning on writing anything about it. But today, the original tweet was noticed by Eric Wilbur (@GlobeEricWilbur) of the Boston Globe so now it's up and all over the

Our good pal Puck Daddy mentioned it on his site Tuesday.

So I thought I should explain what happened.

Have a great day.

(*) -- To some of our younger readers, yes, motor oil once came in cans. If you don't believe me, watch 'Tommy Boy.' 

Only in the NHL: Florida Panthers Get Help in Net from FAU Goalie Coach Erik Bentley ... Working with Cats is 'Dream Come True.'

FauhockeyThere are few opportunities in professional sports in which a person is basically pulled off the street and asked to help out.

The Heat don’t exactly hit up local gyms to find someone to help guard LeBron James in practice, nor do the Dolphins call up former high school football players and offer them the chance to come to Davie and work with the offensive line.

Hockey, as is the case quite often, is a little different than other sports.

The Panthers, for instance, sometimes need a goalie to help out in practice when one of their regulars are hurt or given the day off. Since having someone man the nets is a pretty important – and potentially dangerous -- aspect of the game, it’s imperative to have someone who knows what they are doing. A warm body just won’t cut it.

When the Panthers are home and need someone quick, they have a guy.

“It’s a very rare opportunity and I’m just happy to do it,’’ said Erik Bentley, a 26-year-old from Margate who is the Panthers unofficial third goalie. “I grew up here so to be out here working with the team is very rare. I didn’t grow up in a hockey town up north. I just really worked hard, know people and took advantage of that.’’

Bentley, who owns two automotive shops in Pompano Beach, knows a little bit about goaltending. Bentley took up the game as a youngster and played hockey as a teenager while at Coral Springs High and North Broward Prep before moving on to prep school in New England. 

Along the way, Bentley met current Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas and the two hit it off. So, it’s only natural that Tallas leans on Bentley whenever the Panthers need an emergency fill-in.

BentleycincyLast year, when the Panthers minor league team in Cincinnati needed a goalie, Tallas suggested the Cyclones sign Bentley.

“In the minors, you use firefighters who play in their local leagues,’’ Tallas said. “You have to have a goalie out here. For him, it’s a dream come true. He’s playing against the best players in the world. And the guys treat him well because he comes out here and does a professional job. But it’s a unique situation, for sure.’’

When the Panthers were in New York last season, Scott Clemmensen decided at the last minute that he couldn’t take part in the morning skate at Madison Square Garden because of a knee injury. The Panthers thought they would have to go through the skate with one open net, but then Marty Reasoner heard about the problem.

He also had a guy.

Adam Reasoner, a bond trader working on Wall Street, told his boss he was needed up at the Garden to help out his older brother’s team. Adam Reasoner, who played goalie at Boston College, grabbed his gear, jumped in a cab and made it in time for practice. He was back at work before the end of the lunch hour.


“This is definitely something unique to hockey,’’ Clemmensen said. “If you are missing a forward or defenseman, you can play short. But you need two goalies. And it’s tough finding them in South Florida. It’s good to have Erik come out and help us. You always wonder what it’s like for them to face NHL players. I see it day in and day out. But I remember the days when you wondered ‘how would I stack up against those guys.’ It’s a neat story.’’

So, aside from working with professional hockey players, does Bentley get out of helping the Panthers. Not much. The team would give him tickets – if he asked for them. One perk is the equipment. The Panthers gave Bentley a set of Tomas Vokoun’s old pads. He uses one of Clemmensen’s old sticks.

Bentley, who played club hockey at FAU and still helps coach the team, says working out with the pros is its own reward. But he knows being there for the Panthers in practice could help him realize his dream of dressing in a real NHL game.

It has happened before. Last year, the Minnesota Wild used 51-year-old men’s league goalie Paul Deutsch for warmups before its game against Nashville. Deutsch would have backed up Josh Harding during the game – NHL rules say two goalies must be dressed for each game – but Matt Hackett’s plane made it in time for the game. 

In 2008, the Capitals needed the services of Brett Leonhardt for a game against Ottawa. Leonhardt worked for the team’s website and had been their emergency practice goalie before being thrown into backup duty – coincidentally because current Panthers goalie Jose Theodore got hurt.

“If something were to happen and they couldn’t get anyone here in time for a game, well, they know I’ll do it,’’ Bentley said with a laugh outside BankAtlantic Center on Monday. “Just to dress for an NHL game, wow. Of course, I don’t want anyone to get hurt. But, things happen. And I’ll be here in 20 minutes. Maybe 15.’’

Bentley is also a good luck charm for the Panthers.

“Every time I’ve come out here they've won.’’ he said before Florida topped Vancouver 2-1.

-- Jacob Markstrom, whom Bentley replaced at Florida’s morning skate on Monday, tweeted that all “went well” during his knee surgery on Wednesday. Markstrom is expected to miss the next three to four weeks.

“I can’t wait to get back in the net,’’ Markstrom wrote.


January 10, 2012

Florida Panthers Jacob Markstrom to have Knee Surgery on Wednesday

MarkstromIt was only a few weeks ago that the Panthers were losing forwards to the injury list on a nightly basis.

Now it's goalies.

Jacob Markstrom is the latest injured Florida netminder, injuring a surgically repaired knee during a practice session in Coral Springs last Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Panthers announced Markstrom would undergo minor knee surgery Wednesday in Miami. Coach Kevin Dineen all but confirmed Markstrom injured his meniscus. Scott Clemmensen had similar surgery – also done by Dr. John Uribe in Miami – during training camp. Clemmensen missed about a month. 

“It's very similar to Clemmensen,'' Dineen said. “That's a good case scenario and obviously when there's damage in there you have options. It's minor surgery and will give him the ability to play again this season. The MRI didn't show what an examination [on the knee] did. That's where we're at.''

Panthers starter Jose Theodore suffered a minor knee injury during Florida's 3-2 win over Montreal when he fell awkwardly after being run over by Mike Blunden and teammate Dmitry Kulikov. Theodore left the game but returned to the ice on Tuesday, skating on his own before Florida's spirited practice at BankAtlantic Center. 

The Panthers have the day off, but Dineen said Theodore will work out. Could Theodore be ready to play against Pittsburgh on Friday?

“We'll see where he is on Thursday,'' Dineen said. “He had three save drills [Tuesday] and get in four on Wednesday. Then up to five.''

Markstrom appeared to be in decent spirits on Tuesday although he did have a serious talk with Dineen in the tunnel near the team bench following practice. Wearing a red Panthers sweatshirt and shorts in the locker room, Markstrom said knowing he'll be back this season was a relief. Last February, Markstrom had season ending surgery on the knee. 

“You always want to play and we'll see what happens after Wednesday,'' Markstrom said. “You can't look back and be sad. You have to look ahead and come back as soon as possible.

"There was a situation [in practice] where I felt it right away. You never think in your mind that you'll need surgery. It was it is. I'm looking ahead. You have to find the good things. I'll get this done and be back without rushing it.''

-- Forward Tomas Kopecky didn't skate on Tuesday but did workout at the arena. Dineen said it was just a “maintenance day.'' Defenseman Erik Gudbranson dressed with the forwards for the practice.

-- Dineen said there was no update on Scottie Upshall, who traveled to Philadelphia to be seen by a sports hernia specialist. Upshall is skating again after being out since November.

“It has progressed the past few weeks,'' Upshall said after Monday's practice. “I want to be good to go when I come back, be effective and contribute. We need healthy bodies in the lineup.''

-- The Panthers are taking Wednesday off but will return to their training facility in Coral Springs on Thursday morning.

Florida will skate on ice in Miami-Dade County for the first time since leaving Miami Arena in 1998 on Saturday. The Panthers have scheduled a noon workout at Kendall Ice Arena after practicing in Pompano Beach last season and Pembroke Pines back in October. 

All Panthers practices are free and open to the public.

January 09, 2012

Panthers Get Much Needed 2-1 Win over West Leading Florida Canucks ... Clemmensen First Star with 25 Saves; Luongo stops 20

With the second half of the season underway, the days of the Panthers playing to make a statement are over.

Yet with Monday's win over the defending Western Conference champions, they did just that. 

Florida used a strong second period and great goaltending from Scott Clemmensen in the third to upend visiting Vancouver 2-1 at BankAtlantic Center.

The Canucks were coming off an emotional 4-3 win against the defending Cup champs in Boston but couldn't solve Clemmensen and the Panthers.

The Panthers had dropped six of their previous eight games.

“It feels awesome, actually,'' said Mikael Samuelsson, traded to the Panthers from Vancouver in October. “I'm not taking anything away from our win, but I don't think they played their best game of the year. But I absolutely don't care about that. We won. I'm happy. I'll take it any day.''

The Canucks, who lead the west and are one point back of the Rangers for most points in the league, jumped to a 1-0 lead when Dale Weise and Manny Malhotra broke loose on a 2-on-1 with Malhotra slipping a pass ahead of Erik Gudbranson. Weise put it past Clemmensen on Vancouver's opening shot of the night 3:11 in.

Clemmensen stopped Vancouver's following 25 shots. “Not too shabby,'' coach Kevin Dineen said after Clemmensen earned first star of the game honors.

“They are a good team; they know how to win,'' Clemmensen said. “The guys in this room really responded well.''

The Panthers dominated the second period as it was one of Florida's most complete 20 minute offerings of the season. Florida outshot the Canucks 14-2 in the second with Vancouver not getting off a shot for the final 14-plus minutes of the period.

Florida tied the score five minutes into the second when Dmitry Kulikov's slap shot off a big rebound from former Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo banged off the side boards. Less than five minutes later, Marcel Goc scored off a loose puck on the power play.

“It wasn't pretty, wasn't fancy but it worked,'' Goc said. “We're playing some of the top teams in the standings right now so we want to do well and stay with the pack and keep pace.''

Clemmensen was the story of the third as he rejected all 14 shots offered including a nice save with 8:35 left as Ryan Kesler and Cody Hodgson broke free for a 2-on-1. Luongo only faced two shots in the third although Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg had a great 2-on-1 opportunity with 2:20 remaining.

Pittsburgh and Boston are the next top teams to visit Sunrise.

“I really liked our second, kept a strong pace of play and created opportunities,'' Dineen said. “It doesn't get any easier but it's nice to have some time between games.''

() Goalie Jacob Markstrom is scheduled to have his injured knee examined by local surgeon Dr. John Uribe in Miami on Tuesday after suffering what Dineen now says is a potentially substantial knee injury during Saturday's practice.

With Markstrom out, Brian Foster was recalled for the second time in a week. Unlike last week, where Foster was summoned just for practice, he suited up for his first NHL game but did not play. Florida is also without starter Jose Theodore, although he could start practicing soon.

Markstrom had his 2010-11 season cut short in the minors when he needed knee surgery in February.

“Unfortunately it's not great news but we'll know more [Tuesday],'' Dineen said after the game. “It's going to be a little while before he's back in the swing of things.''

() Scottie Upshall joined his teammates for the morning skate Monday and then was off to Philadelphia to be seen by noted sports hernia Dr. William Meyers. Upshall, who has been out since Nov. 10, says he feels good and hopes to be cleared by Meyers.

“It has progressed the past few weeks,'' Upshall said. I want to be good to go when I come back, be effective and contribute. We need healthy bodies in the lineup.''

() Only one of the three players involved in the Oct. 22 trade between Florida and Vancouver played on Monday as David Booth is out with a knee injury and Marco Sturm is out with a concussion and hasn't skated since being hurt Dec. 20. 

"This is the game I'd do anything to play and it's really tough not to,'' Booth said after Sunday's skate in Sunrise. "I'd probably get hurt if I played.'' 


Monday's Florida Panthers Notebook: Canucks Kicks off Big Stretch for Cats

The Florida Panthers open up a tough stretch of games tonight with the defending President Trophy/Western Conference champs in town.

The Panthers went through a light skate today with a handful of players not taking part.

The Canucks had a very light skate with only a handful of players taking part.

After tonight, the Panthers are off until the Penguins come to town on Friday. Then the defending Cup champs are here next Monday.

Then three games in Colorado, Chicago and Winnipeg.

-- Brian Foster has been recalled from San Antonio as Jacob Markstrom tweaked his surgically repaired knee on Saturday.

Kevin Dineen says the team is hopeful it's nothing serious. Dr. John Uribe is going check him out tonight at the arena.

So, Scott Clemmensen is in versus one Roberto Luongo.

-- Scottie Upshall worked out with the team today and is going up to Philly to be checked out by noted sports hernia expert Dr. William Meyers. 

Upshall says his hip/groin/sports hernia/core injury is feeling better and thinks that if he's cleared to play by Meyers, he's well on his way to being back.

January 08, 2012

Florida Panthers Head Into Second Half of Season ... What Went Right? What Went Wrong?

CelebrationThe Panthers have passed the midway point of this season and go into Monday's home game against Vancouver atop their division this late in a season for the first time since 2000.

Stephen Weiss has been with the franchise since being the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft held in Sunrise. 

He's seen some bad hockey over this past decade, and Weissdrafthas seen many of his friends leave the organization – mostly through trades. Weiss has also witnessed the organization change direction time and again.

This past summer, general manager Dale Tallon went on a shopping spree and made wholesale changes. 

On opening night against the Islanders, Florida had 14 different players dressed than opened the 2010-11 season in Edmonton. The team has meshed quicker than anyone figured they could and a lot of credit goes to first-year coach Kevin Dineen.

“We're making strides. It was a good first half,'' he FLAtallonsaid. “With all the uncertainty at the beginning of the year, it was a great start. We just need to keep going and not take our foot off the gas.''

Florida ended the first half of the season 20-13-8 and have been atop the Southeast Division since November 19.

The Panthers had an eight point lead in the division not too long ago, but their cushion has been pared away. Winnipeg goes into Monday just three points back. Washington, which lost Saturday in San Jose, is four points back.

The Panthers have lost three of their past four games and six of the past eight. They know this upcoming stretch is vitally important to them making the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Florida's postseason drought of 11 years and 10 seasons is longest in NHL history.

They're ready for it to end. Now.

Panthershootoutwin“We need this to be a big month for us,'' Weiss said. “There are no excuses. Our guys have really come together and have bought into the system. There is such a care level for this team and wanting to get things turned around here. These guys may be new here, but they want to stop the trend of what's gone on. That's good to see.''


() The Top Trio: The line of Weiss centering FLAfleischnewcomers Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg was a instant hit as the three all spent time – together – in the league's top 20 in scoring. Weiss was last year's top scorer – tied for 99th in the league. 

() Scoring from the Back: Florida's defensemen have scored at a rapid clip with Brian Campbell tied for third in the league FLAdmenwith 30 assists and Jason Garrison's career-high 11 goals leading all NHL d-men. 

() Goalie: When Tomas Vokoun bolted for free agency, the Panthers quickly landed Jose Theodore. He came with a lot of question marks but has relished the chance to be a starter again and has thrived. Theodore, Scott Clemmensen and rookie Jacob Markstrom have given the Panthers a chance to win almost every night.


() Road Weary: Early on, it looked like the Panthers loved the road and had the most road wins in the league. But that has changed of late as Florida has lost six straight away from Sunrise.

() Overtime Woes: The Panthers have never been good in shootouts and that's been the case again this year. Florida has won just two of six shootout games and are 3-8 in overtime games this season.

() Battle Scars: The Panthers had seven forwards on the injured list at one point. Florida currently has FLAtheofive hurt players – including Theodore – and has lost 158 man games to injury.


() Tough Teams: If the Panthers are indeed an elite team in the Eastern Conference, well, they'll have plenty of chances to prove it. Starting Monday, the Panthers play some of the top teams in the league as Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Boston come to Sunrise. Florida has four games left against each of their main southeast challengers in Washington and Winnipeg.

() Top Line: As good as Weiss, Fleischmann and Versteeg have been, they have hit a wall. In the first 25 games they played together, the three combined for an average of 1.32 goals and almost two assists per game. In the past 15 games – Weiss missed two with a rib injury – they have averaged less than a goal and assist per night. 

() Buyers: For the first time in years, the Panthers are expected to be buyers at the trade deadline next month. Although Tallon isn't expected to go crazy, at least he won't be dumping salary like last year. Of course, Tallon's actions last February helped get the Panthers where they are today.


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

BallardTV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560

The series: Vancouver leads 11-5-6

The game: The defending Western Conference champs have the second-most points in the league (55) after Saturday's impressive 4-3 win at Boston. Former Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo is expected to start, although David Booth – traded to Vancouver on Oct. 22 – will miss the game with a knee injury. Florida's Jacob Markstrom missed Sunday's practice with a minor knee injury so Scott Clemmensen is expected to start for the Panthers. 

OnFrozenFilm: Chris Higgins Back in Sunrise

Florida Panthers Sunday Notebook: Jacob Markstrom Tweaks Knee, Misses Practice ... Other Injury Updates ... Welcome Back, Canucks

LuongoIt's a great day for football. It's also a nice day for hockey.

Too bad we have to wait until tomorrow.

The Panthers worked out for the second straight day on Sunday, with FAU assistant coach Erik Bentley working in one of the nets with Scott Clemmensen in the other.


Well, it appears Jacob Markstrom tweaked the knee he had surgery on last year during Saturday's workout. Coach Kevin Dineen said it wasn't anything serious and he didn't expect Markstrom to miss Monday's game against the Florida Canucks.

We'll see.

-- Jack Skille (shoulder) and Sean Bergenheim (groin) didn't practice with the team but went out on the ice afterward and worked with Robb Tallas and Dineen.

Skille was shooting the puck with some power, so perhaps his shoulder may not need surgery after all. Again, we'll see.

Dineen confirmed that Marco Sturm hasn't skated since suffering a concussion while on the bench last month. 

-- Speaking of the Canucks, they worked out at the Billboard on Sunday afternoon before boarding their bus and driving up to Boca Raton for a lunch at Pizza Time. 

Roberto Luongo and David Booth didn't take the bus; both drove their personal cars to the arena. Don't know if Booth had the old Z28 out there, but what Luongo is rolling in is quite sweet indeed.

MbenzLets just say it cost more than Booth's old Chevy. And it doesn't have furry seat covers either. 

I have put up video from Booth, Luongo and Chris Higgins regarding their Canucks and their former Panthers. Will get video from Keith Ballard tomorrow.

All had good things to say about the Panthers turning a corner here and it's safe to say they all want the Panthers to succeed -- save for on Monday night. 

-- Booth will not play on Monday because he says his knee just isn't there yet. As usual, Booth was the last off the ice. Some things don't change. 

-- Speaking of former Panthers, the Canucks recalled Mike Duco on Sunday.