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5 posts from January 13, 2013

January 13, 2013

HOPE FOR HUBERDEAU: Panthers Rookie Looking to Make His Mark

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When Jonathan Huberdeau attended the Panthers developmental camp in July, he hoped his days of playing junior hockey were over.

Had there been no NHL lockout, had training camp started on time back in September, they probably were.

Yet on Sept. 16, NHL players found themselves without a home. Huberdeau, Florida's newest hot-shot can't-miss prospect, returned to his junior team in Quebec. Those days of getting his chance with the Panthers were postponed.

Monday, Huberdeau gets his shot.

Fans aren't the only ones excited to see what the talented 19-year-old has to offer.

"I think he's a really good player, a guy who is going to be a star in this league,'' teammate Tomas Kopecky said.

"He has all the skills. He is very skilled, very fast. The first couple of games may take some adjustment around the corners. But he's a very smart hockey player. He'll figure it out.''

Huberdeau, given the No. 11 he starred in for Saint Johns of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will be one of the most highly watched players when the Panthers hit the ice for the first official time in 2013.

The Panthers expect Huberdeau to give them some added scoring as that is what he does. Huberdeau, the third overall pick in 2011, led the Panthers in scoring last preseason before being sent back to Quebec.

Florida isn't expecting the 43 goals he scored for Saint John two years ago in leading the Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup nor the 62 assists he tallied.

The Panthers sure would like a taste of that kind of production, however.

"He's a team-first kind of guy, a real warrior on the ice,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting. "He leads by example and is a character guy. He's excited to be in Florida. This is where he's wanted to be from the start.''

Coach Kevin Dineen was impressed with Huberdeau's game at training camp in 2011 and said it was hard to send him back.

The Panthers decided sending him back was what was best for his long-term development, however, as another year in junior would be good for seasoning and for his physical development.

Dale Tallon wasn't thinking about a lockout that spanned five months, however, when they made that decision.

"He's much stronger on his skates,'' Luce said. "Guys are having a hard time handling him.''

As much as Huberdeau wanted to be with the Panthers last year, he understood why Florida did what it did. Huberdeau will be given the chance to stay with the team for the season if he looks strong in camp and in the first handful of games.

Florida can still send Huberdeau back to finish his final season of junior eligibility -- yet no one thinks they will.

This is an opportunity Huberdeau has been waiting for -- and says he's not going to squander.

"Last year went pretty well for me. I'm going to work even harder and do anything I can to make this team,'' Huberdeau said after taking his camp physical on Sunday.

"I'm here and I'm going to work hard. I want to stay here. I don't want to go back to junior. This is an important week. We have a lot of great veteran players who are going to help me get through it.''

Dineen said Sunday that he would play Huberdeau at left wing although his line mates haven't been determined yet. Don't expect to see Huberdeau mucking it up on the fourth line, however.

The Panthers are looking for him to do some magic with the puck and could line him up with Stephen Weiss or Marcel Goc.

"I will put him in situations where he has opportunity to use his skills and have success in whatever that role may be,'' Dineen said.

"We're enthused to have him come in here. He has some games to really make a statement with his game. We're going to get a good little look at him against NHL talent. We'll go from there.''

#FlaPanthers Sunday Notebook: Dmitry Kulikov Missing from Start of Camp ... Dineen to Name Captain This Week ... Monday's Schedule

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers released their 32-man training camp roster late Saturday night with one glaring omission.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov isn't at camp as he remains an unsigned restricted free agent. Kulikov went to Russia to play for Yaroslavl Lokamotiv, his childhood team, and is reportedly still in his hometown.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon didn't speak to the media on Sunday but said Thursday that he was speaking to Kulikov's agent on a daily basis. Coach Kevin Dineen said he expects Tallon to clarify the issue in the coming days.

Kulikov remains the property of the Panthers as he just completed his third NHL season. Kulikov has three goals and three assists in 22 games for Lokomotiv.

"I'm a big Dmitry fan,'' Dineen said after Florida's start of camp on Sunday morning. "I thought he really did a good job. He's very young in his development. Defensemen take a little time to develop, same as goalies. .-.-. He's really on track and is a player we envision having a long and successful NHL career.''

Kulikov, 22, said before leaving for Russia that he wanted to return to the Panthers and had no desire to play in the KHL. Kulikov, the 14th overall pick in 2009, bought himself out of his contract with Lokomotiv when he was 18 allowing him to start that season as a rookie with the Panthers.

The Panthers will hold their first official practice since last year's playoffs on Monday morning and will likely do so without two of their top defensemen.

Not only is Kulikov expected to be out, but it's not known whether Erik Gudbranson's surgically repaired shoulder has been cleared for practice. Gudbranson said he feels good but wouldn't comment further.

"You are missing two top players for us last year,'' Dineen said. "I'll deal with it and we'll be fine. But am I comfortable with it? No. I want nine quality defensemen. I'm a better coach with those two in the lineup, I just am.''

-- Winger Sean Bergenheim was back at the Panthers' training facility in Coral Springs on Sunday but said he couldn't comment about a potential groin injury suffered while playing in Finland early on in the lockout.

Bergenheim was slowed by a groin injury last year; After working out in South Florida when the lockout began, Bergenheim left for his hometown of Helsinki where he played just two games for HIFK before being hurt on Oct. 2.

"It was great to be able to play in my country, my hometown,'' Bergenheim said.

-- Dineen said he would name a team captain sometime this week. Florida has been without a captain since trading Bryan McCabe to the Rangers in the final stages of the 2010-11 season.

-- The Panthers will hold an intersquad scrimmage at the Saveology.com Iceplex on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Florida will not practice that morning but will hold a workout and the simulated game in the evening.

Dineen said the Panthers would likely call up some players from ECHL Cincinnati to help fill the two teams.

-- Florida called up seven players from AHL San Antonio for the start of training camp although only defenseman Tyson Strachan -- who hasn't played in the past few games -- was present Sunday. The rest of the players were traveling but will practice Monday.

Dineen said that Florida will not open the season carrying three goalies so unless either Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen gets hurt, Jacob Markstrom will be headed back to the Rampage.

PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP
-- When, Where: Monday, 10 a.m.; Saveology.com Iceplex, Coral Springs
-- Admission: Free
-- Directions: The Iceplex is located one-half mile east of the Sawgrass Expressway off Sample Road and Sportsplex Drive.
-- Season Opener: Saturday vs. Carolina; BB&T Center, Sunrise, 7:30 p.m.

#FlaPanthers Sunday Notebook: Dmitry Kulikov Missing from Start of Camp ... Dineen to Name Captain This Week ... Monday's Schedule

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers released their 32-man training camp roster late Saturday night with one glaring omission.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov isn't at camp as he remains an unsigned restricted free agent. Kulikov went to Russia to play for Yaroslavl Lokamotiv, his childhood team, and is reportedly still in his hometown.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon didn't speak to the media on Sunday but said Thursday that he was speaking to Kulikov's agent on a daily basis. Coach Kevin Dineen said he expects Tallon to clarify the issue in the coming days.

Kulikov remains the property of the Panthers as he just completed his third NHL season. Kulikov has three goals and three assists in 22 games for Lokomotiv.

"I'm a big Dmitry fan,'' Dineen said after Florida's start of camp on Sunday morning. "I thought he really did a good job. He's very young in his development. Defensemen take a little time to develop, same as goalies. .-.-. He's really on track and is a player we envision having a long and successful NHL career.''

Kulikov, 22, said before leaving for Russia that he wanted to return to the Panthers and had no desire to play in the KHL. Kulikov, the 14th overall pick in 2009, bought himself out of his contract with Lokomotiv when he was 18 allowing him to start that season as a rookie with the Panthers.

The Panthers will hold their first official practice since last year's playoffs on Monday morning and will likely do so without two of their top defensemen.

Not only is Kulikov expected to be out, but it's not known whether Erik Gudbranson's surgically repaired shoulder has been cleared for practice. Gudbranson said he feels good but wouldn't comment further.

"You are missing two top players for us last year,'' Dineen said. "I'll deal with it and we'll be fine. But am I comfortable with it? No. I want nine quality defensemen. I'm a better coach with those two in the lineup, I just am.''

-- Winger Sean Bergenheim was back at the Panthers' training facility in Coral Springs on Sunday but said he couldn't comment about a potential groin injury suffered while playing in Finland early on in the lockout.

Bergenheim was slowed by a groin injury last year; After working out in South Florida when the lockout began, Bergenheim left for his hometown of Helsinki where he played just two games for HIFK before being hurt on Oct. 2.

"It was great to be able to play in my country, my hometown,'' Bergenheim said.

-- Dineen said he would name a team captain sometime this week. Florida has been without a captain since trading Bryan McCabe to the Rangers in the final stages of the 2010-11 season.

-- The Panthers will hold an intersquad scrimmage at the Saveology.com Iceplex on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Florida will not practice that morning but will hold a workout and the simulated game in the evening.

Dineen said the Panthers would likely call up some players from ECHL Cincinnati to help fill the two teams.

-- Florida called up seven players from AHL San Antonio for the start of training camp although only defenseman Tyson Strachan -- who hasn't played in the past few games -- was present Sunday. The rest of the players were traveling but will practice Monday.

Dineen said that Florida will not open the season carrying three goalies so unless either Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen gets hurt, Jacob Markstrom will be headed back to the Rampage.

PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP
-- When, Where: Monday, 10 a.m.; Saveology.com Iceplex, Coral Springs
-- Admission: Free
-- Directions: The Iceplex is located one-half mile east of the Sawgrass Expressway off Sample Road and Sportsplex Drive.
-- Season Opener: Saturday vs. Carolina; BB&T Center, Sunrise, 7:30 p.m.

ON FROZEN PHONE: Jonathan Huberdeau

TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE: Sunday

Florida Panthers report to Iceplex for physicals.

NO ON-ICE WORKOUT.

Next workout: Monday, 10 a.m.