« January 22, 2013 | Main | January 24, 2013 »

2 posts from January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

PANTHERS WEDNESDAY NOTEBOOK: Panthers Top Line Struggles Without Versteeg ... Sens in Town

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

A big topic of conversation before the season started was whether the Panthers top line could repeat its contributions of last season.

With Kris Versteeg out the first four games (he could return off the IR for Saturday's game against the Flyers), Florida's top line has not done much of anything.

Center Stephen Weiss and left winger Tomas Fleischmann have started each of the first three games with different right ringers. In the opener it was Mike Santorelli with Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky following suit.

Weiss said having different players isn't an excuse to he and Fleischmann's slow start. Weiss had an assist in the opener but nothing since; Fleischmann assisted on Kopecky's goal Tuesday and also had one in the opener.

"This is the NHL. These are world-class players and it's easy to play with all these guys,'' Weiss said. "Verteeg is a great hockey player and [Fleischmann] and myself miss him for sure. But life goes on and we have to make it work without him.''

-- The Panthers did not make an official roster move Wednesday to replace defenseman Michael Caruso who broke his arm early in Tuesday's loss. Caruso, 24, was playing in his second career NHL game when he got hurt.

Kevin Dineen said the Panthers aren't expected to have Erik Gudbranson back until sometime next month. Gudbranson had surgery in September after injuring his shoulder wakeboarding near his hometown of Ottawa.

Even with Caruso out, Florida still has seven defenseman. Tyson Strachan or Keaton Ellerby are expected to be scratched Thursday.

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Ottawa leads 40-26-3
The game: The Senators continue to have Florida's number as Ottawa won its sixth straight on home ice against the Panthers 4-0 on Monday night. The Senators have also won 10 of the previous 11 meetings between the two. Craig Anderson, who picked up his 20th shutout on Monday, starts again for Ottawa. Florida's Jose Theodore stopped 32 of his first 34 shots faced before giving up two late ones in Monday's loss. The Sens are 2-0 this season and haven't played since Monday; the Panthers are playing their fourth game in six nights.

BACK IN QUEBEC: Jonathan Huberdeau Relished Chance to Play at Home; Panthers Excited he Makes South Florida Home Now

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MONTREAL -- Jonathan Huberdeau grew up about 25 miles away from where the Canadiens play yet didn't get to see many games in person.

Tickets are hard to get in Montreal as games are always sold out and prices on the secondary market are extremely high.

So, believe it or not, Huberdeau attended more Florida Panthers home games as a kid than Canadiens games in Montreal.

The Saint-Jerome, Quebec, native and his family spent time snowbirding in South Florida -- and being hockey fans, they found their way to the arena in Sunrise to check out whomever was in town. Sometimes it was the Canadiens.

"We were always there for Christmas,'' Huberdeau said.

On Tuesday, the Panthers' rookie winger had a pretty good view of things at the Bell Center as he played in his third NHL game on ice he was well accustomed to seeing -- from television, anyway.

"I grew up watching the Canadiens, so to play here is really cool,'' Huberdeau said after Florida's 4-1 loss in Montreal on Tuesday.

Huberdeau's parents brought their Winnebago down to South Florida as they've followed their son's progress through training camp and watched his NHL debut last weekend at the BB&T Center.

Instead of driving north like they usually do, they flew to see Jonathan's second game against Ottawa and then Tuesday's game against the Canadiens. Huberdeau said he had a lot of ticket requests for friends and family for both games as Ottawa is about a two hour drive from Montreal.

"They've done a lot of traveling and have supported me a lot,'' Jonathan said. "I thank them a lot for that. It's big for them.''

Said coach Kevin Dineen: "Any French player born in Quebec is excited about that first game in Montreal. And it is for his family as well. They get to see the road taken, the path to here, it's special.''

The Panthers have high hopes for the third pick in 2011 as Huberdeau made a brilliant splash in his debut by scoring a goal on his first shot before assisting on two more goals.

Tuesday, Huberdeau had a great scoring chance get snuffed out by Montreal goalie Carey Price. Hubderdeau gets his second chance at the Senators Thursday night as Ottawa visits Sunrise for the first time this season.

Dineen started Huberdeau on Florida's second forward line with veterans Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev. He says the organization's decision to have him miss last season and spend another season with his junior team in New Brunswick was the right one as Huberdeau matured as well as got a little bigger and stronger.

"I'm always stepping on the scale hoping it's going one way and when Jonathan steps on it I hope it goes the other,'' Dineen said.

"With Jonathan, the difference between an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old is huge. You see a difference in maturity and he had that extra year to develop as a person and a player. He wasn't part of that important first step of us making the playoffs, but he's going to be with us for a long, long time.''

BACK IN QUEBEC: Jonathan Huberdeau Relished Chance to Play at Home; Panthers Excited he Makes South Florida Home Now

BACK IN QUEBEC: Jonathan Huberdeau Relished Chance to Play at Home; Panthers Excited he Makes South Florida Home Now

BACK IN QUEBEC: Jonathan Huberdeau Relished Chance to Play at Home; Panthers Excited he Makes South Florida Home Now