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2 posts from January 26, 2013

January 26, 2013

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Say Hello to Quinton Howden, Latest to Make NHL Debut ... Weiss, Versteeg Still Out


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers are only five games into this season, yet they lead the league in NHL debuts.

Well, at least it seems that way.

Quinton Howden became the latest Florida player to play in his first NHL game as he joined the fray Saturday against the Flyers.

With Stephen Weiss out of the mix for the second straight game -- and Kris Versteeg still out -- coach Kevin Dineen put in the latest member of Florida's 2010 draft class into the lineup.

Of the three first-round picks in 2010, only center Nick Bjugstad (who stars at the University of Minnesota) hasn't made his NHL debut yet.

"I called my dad right away. He was pretty excited,'' said Howden, who was taken 25th in 2010 with the pick Florida acquired form Vancouver for defenseman Keith Ballard.

"I made sure I called my mom, my brothers and sisters as well. They've always been there for me. This is something I've always dreamed of but I've always had my family's support. This belongs to them as much as it does me.''

Dineen put Howden on a line with Drew Shore (who made his debut Tuesday in Montreal) and Scottie Upshall to start. Shore, in his first professional season, scored XX goals with XX assists in XX games at AHL San Antonio.

Defenseman Michael Caruso and winger Jonathan Huberdeau also made their NHL debuts in the past week.

"His No. 1 asset is his speed,'' Dineen said. "If he can come out and establish that, that it is part of his game, that's a good step. We've been talking about him, now we get to see him in action. He's still a work iin progress but he deserves his shot.''

-- Weiss was out for the third straight day with an undisclosed lower body injury. The top-line center practiced Thursday morning but then informed Dineen later that afternoon he couldn't play against the Senators. Weiss missed two games in all of last season.

Weiss hasn't been himself this season leading to speculation he may have been playing hurt. Weiss, who had 57 points last year, had one assist and wasn't credited with a single shot on goal in Florida's first three games.

"He had been a little tender for a couple days,'' Dineen said. "You always test how you feel and if it's heading in the right direction, I don't think it was. He needed to step back and start feeling healthy.''

-- Versteeg (groin) worked out Saturday and had an extended practice after the morning skate. Florida is not expected to practice Sunday but will Monday before Tuesday's game at Tampa. Versteeg missed his fifth game on Saturday.

"We have to be careful with him because he heart is telling him one thing,'' Dineen said. "We need to get over this hump of early season injuries and make sure guys are prepared to go instead of not firing on all pistons.''

-- Defenseman Mike Caruso will not need surgery on his injured wrist and says he'll be in a cast for the next five to six weeks.

Caruso was injured when he was checked into the boards last Tuesday in Montreal. Caruso said this is his first real injury of his career; it came in his second NHL game.

The good news for Caruso is that the injury came in an NHL game, which means he will be paid NHL money during his rehabilitation.

-- The Panthers scratched center Mike Santorelli and defenseman Tyson Strachan on Saturday.

PUNKED BY PHILLY: #FlaPanthers in Panic Mode after 7-1 Loss ... 4-game Slide Longest Since End of 2010-11


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

It is rare to hear a team publicly admit it's time to panic, acknowledging their their season is spiraling out of control.

Yet this is where we find the Panthers after a humiliating 7-1 home loss to the Flyers on Saturday night.

"You have to panic right now,'' winger Tomas Fleischmann said quietly. "We have to bring everything we have. It's a short season. We have to panic right now.''

The Panthers are most definitely sweating after losing their fourth straight game just five games into the season.

For all the talk of how Florida needed to get off to a hot start in this truncated 48-game schedule, 2013 could hardly have gotten off to a worse start.

"The time is short here and we're obviously not taking advantage of it,'' said coach Kevin Dineen, whose team is off to its worst start in four seasons. "This will be a miserable couple of days for us. This is on our scorecard now. We have to deal with it.''

In 82 games last year, the Panthers didn't lost four straight without picking up at least a single point.

Now, the Panthers go into Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay 1-4-0; with four of their top forwards out with injuries, the defending division champs are currently a shell of their former selves.

Dineen held an short and angry postgame press conference in which he said "injuries had absolutely nothing to do with what happened. We got our tails handed to us in every way.''

Dineen ended his comments by saying blasting his players made little sense at this point. "I hate sitting in one of these things and beating up on your people. It's just stupid,'' he said.

Had it not been for Florida scoring four goals in the opening period of its opening game against the Hurricanes, who knows where the Panthers would be right now.

As it is, things don't look good. At all.

The last time Florida lost four straight without picking up a final point came in the final days of the Pete DeBoer era in 2011 when the Panthers had already given up for dead, their fire sale completed weeks before.

The Panthers had three four-game winless streaks last season but picked up at least one point in all of those slides. This version of the Panthers hasn't sniffed a point in the standings since beating Carolina 5-1 in the opener as they have been outscored 18-3 in the week since.

The previous Florida team to start 1-4-0 was in 2009. That team finished in last place for the first time in franchise history and ended up 11 points out of the playoffs. GM Dale Tallon was brought in to right things not long after it ended.

"We have to stop this quick or it's going to be a miserable couple of months,'' Ed Jovanovski said.

The Flyers, who have now won two straight after starting out 0-3, jumped out with three goals off nine shots in the opening period to chase starter Jose Theodore.

Philadelphia opened the scoring 3:10 into the game when Florida's Dmitry Kulikov and Jack Skille were in the box.

Matt Read made it 2-0 four minutes later by walking in and scoring top shelf on Theodore. That goal was Read's first of three. He scored in the opening seconds of the third to make it 6-1 as a handful of orange-and-black baseball caps hit the ice to celebrate his first career hat trick.

The Flyers' ninth and final shot of the first period came with 1:09 left as Tye McGinn picked up his first NHL goal by redirection a shot from Braydon Coburn. It was a puck Theodore never saw yet the final one he would face this night as Scott Clemmensen took over to start the second.

As was the case in Thursday's loss to the Senators, the Florida offense had a few chances to get things going but strong goaltending -- this time from Ilya Bryzgalov -- kept the Panthers off the board.

Bryzgalov, best known for his big contract and wacky starring role on HBO's 24/7 last year, made a pair of outstanding saves in the second period that would have helped the Panthers get back into the game.

Drew Shore, playing in his third NHL game, had another good scoring chance snuffed out as Bryzgalov robbed him at the foot of the cage. Later, Tomas Fleischmann's power play chance was pulled down by Bryzgalov as he came out to play the puck.

Florida did break through late in the second when Peter Mueller made it a 4-1 game when he took a long pass from Ed Jovanovski at the blue line and charged in, scoring into the top corner.

"That,'' Mueller said, "was short lived.''

Thirty-seven seconds later, Brayden Schenn made it 5-1 moments later after intercepting a clearing pass and sending a puck between Clemmensen's legs with 13 seconds left in the period. If it wasn't over before then .-.-.

"This is not fun,'' Fleischmann said. "This isn't what anyone expected.