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57 posts from January 2013

January 31, 2013

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Welcome Back Marcel Goc ... Weiss Likely Back Sunday; Jovo Out Through Weekend

JETS NOTES

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Marcel Goc said there is no good time to be injured, but his timing couldn't have been worse.

Goc sprained his ankle playing for his German pro team in the Spengler Cup on Dec. 29; the NHL lockout ended a few weeks later. Goc was suspended without pay by the Panthers for being hurt playing for someone else as he rehabbed the injury.

Thursday, in the seventh game of the season, Goc was in the lineup for the first time.

"It was really bad timing, but you can't predict things,'' said Goc, who played with younger brother Nikolai and former Florida defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the Mannheim Eagles in the German elite league, during the work stoppage.

"I did my rehab, did my work. Now I'm ready to help the team. It's not one guy in or out who will change things. It has to change collectively as a group. We need better support, make better decisions and hold onto the puck.''

Not only did Marcel get to play with Nikolai Goc, he also got to compete against older brother Sasha. On Oct. 14, Marcel's Mannheim team beat Sasha's Hannover squad 4-3 in a shootout.

"Being able to play in a game with my younger brother, against my older brother, was cool,'' Marcel said.

-- Coach Kevin Dineen said the Panthers will be without defenseman Ed Jovanovski through Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Jovanovski was knocked out of Tuesday's game at Tampa when he was hit hard on the knee by B.J. Crombeen; that shot led to Keaton Ellerby jumping Crombeen and taking 19 minutes in penalties.

Dineen said Jovanovski visited Dr. John Uribe on Wednesday and no structural damage was found. Dineen hoped Jovanovski can play Tuesday in Winnipeg.

"He won't play through the weekend,'' Dineen said. "The guy's heart's pretty big, so it's hard to put a number on how many days he'll be out.''

-- Center Stephen Weiss went through a hard skate Thursday morning and should be back Sunday in Buffalo. Dineen said Weiss would have played Thursday if the Panthers didn't hold him out.

Weiss, out with a groin injury, missed his third game Thursday; he missed two all of last season.

-- With Jovanovski out, Tyson Strachan found his way into the lineup for the first time since the opener. It has not been lost on some fans that Strachan is the only member of the Panthers to not suffer a loss this season.

"Hockey fans in general are superstitious, but I do have a good record this year,'' Strachan said with a laugh. "Our job is to be out there and help out. But this is part of hockey.''

-- The Panthers swapped minor league forwards with the Capitals on Tuesday, getting Zach Hamill for Casey Wellman.

Hamill, 24, was the eighth overall pick by Boston in 2007 and has appeared in 20 NHL games. He has 11 goals in 40 games for AHL Hershey this season. The 25-year-old Wellman had seven goals in 37 games for San Antonio.

LAUGHING AT THE END: Panthers End Long Losing Streak with 6-3 Victory over Winnipeg ... Cats Get Five (5!) in Third Period

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

A few hours after their coach called them out for playing a little soft and questioning their effort, the Florida Panthers responded.

The Panthers fell behind twice in the third period Thursday yet battled back to beat visiting Winnipeg 6-3 to snap a five-game losing streak which threatened to end their season just as it was starting.

"We were feeling it,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "We always try to say the right things when we are in the muck. We were in the deep end there. We're still not out of, don't kid ourselves, it's only one win. We're a long way from respectability. But this was a good step.''

With former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen seething in the penalty box for tripping Jarred Smithson, Alex Kovalev's wrist shot from the left circle beat Ondrej Pavelec with 7:23 left for what stood up as the game-winning goal.

The Panthers, tied for fewest goals in the league coming in, added two more in the final minutes to turn a close game into a laugher.

And few teams needed to smile more than the Panthers.

"I can't explain this,'' Kovalev said afterward. "We looked at the standings this morning. Things aren't too far from us despite our losses. Two or three wins and we're back in the playoff race. But today was really important. We did some real good things out there. We improved our game.''

Florida, which scored 10 goals in the opening six games, scored five times in the third period alone on Thursday.

And now the Panthers, at 2-5-0, can now embark on a rough four-game road trip with that large storm cloud removed from their psyche.

"We kept bouncing back,'' Dineen said. "We had some real kick in the tails lately and that was a little bit of the identity we were trying to build on and hadn't seen. We kept the gas pedal down.''

Florida hopes its injured list continues to shrink as top players such as Kris Versteeg and Marcel Goc returned to the lineup in recent days.

Thursday, Versteeg got his first goal in his second game. That tied the score at 2 after Florida had given up a 1-0 lead it held in the second.

"It was nice to be a part of this,'' Versteeg said. "This was a character win as everyone stepped up to be a part of it. It was good to see. We need to build from this.''

Jokinen, who was traded away from the Panthers in 2008 by Jacques Martin, doesn't really recognize this Florida team save for the logo. The only player on the ice who shared time with Jokinen with the Panthers was Shawn Matthias -- and that was for a four-game emergency call-up.

Still, playing in South Florida -- where his family still calls home during the offseason -- is special to Jokinen. On Thursday, he made sure the Panthers remembered him as he charged in on Theodore and scored off a pass from Blake Wheeler to give the Jets a 2-1 lead.

Florida tied things at 2 on Versteeg's goal but the Jets retook the lead on Tobias Enstrom's slap shot on a loose puck in the circle.

The Panthers' anemic offense did some serious damage, however, during a seven minute span in the third as Peter Mueller scored for the third straight night to tie the score at 3.

Just over a minute later, Kovalev scored on Jokinen's tripping penalty to make it 4-3 as the Panthers took just their second lead of the night.

Not long after Kovalev scored his second of the season, rookie Jonathan Huberdeau got his second of the year by driving in on Pavelec and firing; Huberdeau's shot riccocheted off Zach Redmond and into the net for a 5-3 lead with 4:31 remaining.

Both Kovalev and Huberdeau hadn't scored since the opening night win.

Florida ended things with Tomas Kopecky's empty net goal with 1:28 remaining. Kopecky ended with a goal and an assist.

"It was a lucky bounce, but we'll take it,'' Huberdeau said of his goal. "It was a big goal, opened things up. We need to start a winning streak now. We're going to keep moving forward.''

January 29, 2013

LIGHTNING NOTES: Drew Shore, Kris Versteeg Make Their Return in Tampa Bay

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

TAMPA -- Drew Shore said he wasn't sure his demotion back to the minor leagues would be short lived until Monday.

Of course, Shore didn't consider a trip to the American Hockey League All-Star Game anything less than an honor. Either way, Shore's trip back to the AHL was short lived.

"I think I've gotten better each game,'' Shore said from inside the visitors' locker room at the Forum after catching a 7 a.m. Southwest non-stop flight from Rhode Island to Tampa.

"I started off and I thought I was solid. By the third game, I really thought I was creating some offense. It would have been nice to have one or two go in.''

Shore and fellow rookie Quinton Howden after Saturday's loss to the Flyers -- although the Panthers always planned to bring back Shore. The Panthers have been happy with his play in the first three games of his NHL career.

In games against Montreal and Ottawa, Shore had big scoring chances taken away thanks to great goaltending. Saturday, Shore seemed to be the only player in a red sweater doing much of anything as he took five shots on goal and won 10 of 12 faceoffs.

Shore, who had a goal and an assist in Monday's All-Star Game, played in his fourth game Tuesday on a line with Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau.

-- The Panthers had a familiar face back on the ice Saturday as Kris Versteeg made his 2013 season debut.

Due to the lockout and a groin injury that happened a day before the season opener, Versteeg hadn't been in a game situation since Florida's Game 7 loss to New Jersey on April 27.

"I've gone from a coach to a player. It's a bit different,'' said Versteeg, who spent part of the lockout working out at a college in his hometown in Alberta.

"I think it's been nine months since my last game, so it's been a long time. From my surgery to the lockout to being set back another few games, it's been tough a bit mentally. But that's why you are professional. You have to be ready when you are fit to go.''

With Stephen Weiss (groin) out, Florida's first line still hasn't played together this season. On Tuesday, Tomas Kopecky centered Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann at the start.

-- Fleischmann was one of the Panthers impressed with the Lightning's new $5 million scoreboard -- one that resembles the monster at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"This is just for hockey?,'' Fleischmann mused. "Nice.''

-- Mike Santorelli and Tyson Strachan were Tuesday's healthy scratches.

A DOWNWARD SPIRAL: Panthers Lose Fifth Straight, This Time 5-2 to Host Tampa Bay Lightning

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

TAMPA -- A large group of scouts from Western Conference teams took in Tuesday night's game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. They weren't there to watch the host Lightning.

No, they were there to look at Florida's players just in case general manager Dale Tallon decides to start a good old fashioned house cleaning.

They may not have long to wait.

Florida, currently the NHL's worst team, lost its fifth straight Tuesday as the Lightning took a 5-2 victory.

"This is obviously embarrassing, losing five straight,'' defenseman Filip Kuba said. "But it's not the right time to put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves. We have another game, 40-something more left.''

Florida (1-5-0) has dropped five straight in regulation since beating Carolina in its opener on Jan. 19 and its two points in the standings are fewest among the NHL's 30 teams.

In a related statistical note, the Panthers are tied for last in the league by scoring a 10 goals -- all while surrendering a league-high 24.

This run has not been pretty. Since beating Carolina, the Panthers have been outscored 23-5.

Since scoring four goals in the opening period against Carolina, Florida has scored all of six. When asked if the Panthers were better than what they've shown, coach Kevin Dineen said they were. Yet:

"Our record is fairly accurate of how we've played the past games here,'' Dineen said. "I hate to say it, but we deserve to be where we are right now. I like the idea we have people here who, for a lot of us, this is foreign territory. We have to decide how to deal with it -- and we will.''

The Lightning is not only located on the opposite side of the state but on the NHL spectrum as well as it has won five of its opening six games. The Panthers have 42 games left in this abbreviated 2013 season.

The Panthers previous five game loss without getting a single point came from Feb. 1-17, 2010 -- a slide so bad, then-GM Randy Sexton famously compared the Panthers to the Titanic.

Three years later, here they are, sinking fast again after winning the first division title in franchise history last season.

"The feeling in training camp was one of optimism, that we could connect where we were last year,'' Dineen said. "We talked about that [Monday] and said that's the last we're talking about it. It's time to turn the page and move forward. It's time to connect with this group.''

The Panthers showed plenty of life early on, with defenseman Keaton Ellerby taking umbrage with B.J. Crombeen's knee of Ed Jovanovski and took matters into his own hands as the two had a lengthy bout.

Ellerby ended up on the wrong side of that one as he was charged with 19 minutes of penalties -- including two minutes each for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct. He also got a 10 minute misconduct.

By the time Ellerby returned midway through the second, the Panthers trailed 3-1 -- with the Lightning getting its first goal off the power play chance Ellerby's penalty created.

Tampa Bay's first goal -- Steven Stamkos got his 14th in 24 games against the Panthers -- gave the Lightning a short-lived 1-0 lead. Peter Mueller tied the score 15 seconds later when he picked up his own loose rebound and tapped it into the net.

That would be as close as the Panthers got to the streaking Lightning this night.

Tampa Bay worked its lead to 4-1 by the second break as the Panthers had a couple of breakdowns but also some unfortunately nice plays by the high-flying Lightning.

Cory Conacher, the 5-foot-8 winger who went undrafted but had four good years at Canisius, got his third of the season (which would lead the Panthers) by taking a long pass from Victor Hedman and splitting Shawn Matthias and Mike Weaver. Despite being pulled to the ice by Weaver, Conacher beat Jose Theodore to make it 2-1.

Tampa Bay scored twice in the second period. The first came 3:18 into the second when Tom Pyatt redirected a shot from Dana Tyrell past Theodore. With 4:21 left, Tyrell got in front of Tomas Kopecky and chopped at a quick pass from Pyatt.

"This is no fun right now,'' Tomas Kopecky said.

With another loss, Thursday's home date with Winnipeg becomes larger for the Panthers.

If Florida loses Thursday, it would embark on a tough four-city trip (Buffalo, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Washington) riding one of the longest losing streaks in franchise history.

Florida hasn't lost six straight in regulation since dropping seven straight near the end of the 1998-99 season.

How long ago was that? Terry Murray was the coach, Bryan Murray was the general manager and the team's home in Sunrise still had that new-arena smell.

"We're not getting the bounces right now. And we don't deserve them,'' Kopecky said. "Everyone here is fed up. We're not used to this.''

January 27, 2013

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: Panthers Losing Streak Not the End of the Season, Yet

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The first week of the 2013 NHL season is in the books and the Panthers sure would love a do-over.

The good news for the Panthers is that a lot of teams around the league are off to rough starts as well. Few teams have separated themselves from the pack just yet.

Despite winning just one of its opening five games, Florida went into Sunday's off day two points out of a playoff spot.

The Panthers' two points in the standings was ranked 14th in the Eastern Conference -- but they were a win away from being in the top eight.

With 43 games left, there is still plenty of season remaining for Florida to put this horrid start in the rear view. The Panthers are not done yet -- but they need to get things going. This funk they are in is most definitely unbecoming.

"We're fortunate to have two days off to figure things out,'' Peter Mueller said.

"No one wants this, no one wants to go down this route. We need to start rebuilding and do it quickly. In the next 24 hours. This stinks. At some point it's embarrassing. We don't like to lose. We've let things slip away and it's unacceptable.''

The Panthers, who took Sunday off, will be back on the ice Monday morning in Coral Springs for what one can expect to be an intense practice.

Coach Kevin Dineen cut his news conference short following Saturday's 7-1 home loss to the Flyers as he grew tired of tearing down his players.

Before walking away, Dineen said his teams was not playing its system "and were a bunch of individuals.'' Dineen said that message would be heard loud and clear at Monday's practice.

"Right now we're kidding ourselves,'' Dineen said. "I can guarantee you they're going to understand that in the next couple of days.''

The Panthers, aside from the opening night rout of Carolina, have played mostly ugly hockey over the past four games. There have been a few moments in which Florida looked competitive, but those snapshots have been rare.

Florida has been bad in just about every aspect of the game for long stretches of time. Even goaltending, which wasn't a problem in the first four games, faltered on strong Saturday as the Flyers chased Jose Theodore after one and shelled Scott Clemmensen in the final 40 minutes.

The Panthers have been outscored 18-3 during this four game losing streak -- meaning they aren't scoring and they can't stop the opposition either.

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

After starting the season with three power play goals against Carolina, the Panthers have two in the four games since.

The Panthers have scored just one even-strength goal during the losing streak and that was a 4-on-4 situation in which Ed Jovanovski found a wide open Mueller all alone in the Philadelphia zone on Saturday.

Florida's penalty kill also has left something to be desired as the Panthers have allowed their opponents to score on 30 percent of their power play chances in the past four games. In the opener, Florida's penalty kill was 6-for-6.

The Panthers defense also looks haggard and at sometimes non-existant. A number of players look like they are struggling to get their legs back after the long lockout and others have just been knocked out of position.

Can these problems be fixed? Yes. By Tuesday's game against a Tampa Bay team that was 3-1 going into Sunday's game against the Flyers? Dineen and the Panthers sure hope so.

"This thing has to stop with us,'' Mike Weaver said. "We are the answer to it. No one is feeling sorry for us. It's up to us, it's not like we're reinventing the wheel. The NHL is a strong, fast league. You have to battle.''

-- Dineen refuses to blame Florida's injury situation on its bad start, but a few more healthy NHL bodies could give the Panthers a spark.

The Panthers are missing four of their top forwards although three -- Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Marcel Goc -- aren't out long-term with Weiss and Versteeg possible for Tuesday's game. Sean Bergenheim is expected to miss substantial time.

-- With Versteeg, at least, expected to be back Tuesday, the Panthers sent rookies Drew Shore and Quinton Howden back to AHL San Antonio. Both made their NHL debuts in games last week.

Shore, who scored 10 goals for the Rampage, went to Rhode Island to participate in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday night.

The Panthers, by way of San Antonio, also released veteran winger Jon Sim from his professional try-out. Sim, who played for the Panthers in 2005-06, scored six goals in 22 games for the Rampage.

January 26, 2013

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

FLYERS NOTES

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

FLYERS 7, PANTHERS 1

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.

January 24, 2013

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Stephen Weiss Out, Panthers Limping ... Cats Practice Friday in Coral Springs at 11:30

SENS NOTES

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The health of the Panthers struggling offense is relative to the health to their offensive players.

As Florida's injury list grows, its offensive output has shrunk.

The Panthers added another to the injured list Thursday as Stephen Weiss missed the game against Ottawa with what is called a lower body injury.

With Weiss on the shelf, Florida - which scored one goal in its recent two-game road trip to Ottawa and Montreal -- is missing four of its top forwards as well as defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

The extent of Weiss' injury is unknown as he took part in Thursday's morning skate but didn't come out for warmups.

General manager Dale Tallon said Thursday that Weiss -- Florida's top line center -- is day-to-day and doesn't plan on putting him on injured reserve.

"He just came off the ice,'' Tallon said of Weiss at Thursday's morning skate.

Aside from Weiss, Florida is also missing Kris Versteeg and Marcel Goc from the top two lines as well as Sean Bergenheim.

Versteeg (groin) and Goc (ankle) could return in the coming days as both skated before Thursday's workout.

It doesn't appear Bergenheim will be joining the Panthers as quickly.
soon.

Bergenheim, who scored a career-high 17 goals last year, was hurt while playing professionally in his hometown of Helsinki, Finland, early in the lockout.

It was reported that Bergenheim injured his groin in Finland. Because the injury happened in October -- and he returned to South Florida but didn't skate with his teammates -- it is believed to be much more serious than that.

The Panthers aren't commenting on Bergenheim's status because he isn't being treated by the team's medical staff. "I don't know where he is,'' Tallon said.

Because Bergenheim is suspended from the team without pay as he was injured playing for a team other than the Panthers, he can search out his own medical treatment. Goc and Gudbranson are also suspended but signed a waiver agreeing to be treated by the team. Bergenheim has not.

All three players are suspended until cleared to play in games -- not just practice or rehabilitate his injury.

Due to the prorated salary because of games lost to the lockout, Bergenheim was scheduled to make around $1.7 million this season.

Versteeg is eligible to come off the injured list in time for Saturday's game against the Flyers and is expected to fully participate in Florida's practice Friday morning. Versteeg was hurt in Florida's final practice of training camp last Friday at BB&T Center.

-- The Panthers will hold their first full practice since the season started on Friday morning at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs.

The workout starts at 11:30 a.m. and is open to the public.

With the abbreviated schedule, coach Kevin Dineen knew he would be hard pressed to get practices in -- but Florida's accelerated schedule has completely taken those days away.

Thursday's game was Florida's fourth in six days. Wednesday was an off day for the players as they arrived back in South Florida from Canada early that morning.

ANDY DOES IT AGAIN: Senators Drop Panthers 3-1, Florida Loses Third Straight

SENATORS 3, PANTHERS 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When the Panthers game against Philadelphia is done come Saturday night, a little over 10 percent of the season will already be finished.

If Florida doesn't start winning some games, and soon, the 2013 season may be over just as it starts.

The Panthers lost for the third straight time Thursday night, dropping a 3-1 decision to Ottawa at BB&T Center. The Panthers have just two points in the standings courtesy of their rousing 5-1 win over Carolina on opening night.

That game may have just been a few days ago but seems like it happened around the holidays. Florida (1-3-0) lost three straight in regulation once last year; that already happened four games into the abbreviated 2013 season.

"We have to be in desperation mode right now,'' captain Ed Jovanovski said. "We need a win and we need one badly.''

On Thursday -- for the second time in four nights -- former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson kept Florida's sagging offense in check.

Anderson owns the Panthers as he won for the ninth time in 10 decisions against his former team by making 25 saves as Ottawa beat the Panthers for the 11th time in the past 12 meetings.

Despite playing without four of its top offensive forwards, Florida took its first lead in a game since last Saturday's season opener against Carolina in the first period.

Tomas Fleischmann, the only remaining first line player on the ice Thursday, picked up his first of the season when he scored on a power play 8:24 into Florida's second home game of the young season.

Fleischmann was playing on an all new line Thursday as Stephen Weiss joined Kris Versteeg on the sideline. That trio combined for 70 goals and 172 points last season; Fleischmann's goal was the first of the season for either he or Weiss. They had three points through the first three games.

When asked for comment afterward, Fleischmann said he had to go to the medical room and pointed to a bloody spot on his foot. That's just what the Panthers need.

"There's nothing I can do about it,'' coach Kevin Dineen said when asked about the injuries piling up. "I have other options. I have to take the 18 they give me and move forward.''

Goalie Jose Theodore has most definitely been giving the Panthers value on their financial investment this season as he was terrific again Thursday.

Theodore made 41 saves in last weekend's opening win and kept the Panthers in Monday's loss in Ottawa. Thursday, Theodore made 35 saves as Ottawa's third goal went into a vacant net.

"I feel like I'm in midseason form, feel really good,'' said Theodore, 1-2-0 this year. "I'm trying to give my team a chance to win every night.''

Ottawa tied the score three minutes after Fleischmann scored when Chris Phillips scored on a long shot on an extended power play chance. Florida was down two skaters for 1:01 but survived that; Phillips' goal came with 12 seconds left in Scottie Upshall's hooking penalty.

Phillips' goal came on Ottawa's 15th shot of the game as the Senators were outshooting Florida 15-3 at that point.

On Monday, the Senators outshot the Panthers 18-4 in the first period yet only led 1-0 at the break thanks to the play of Theodore. Thursday, Ottawa's shot advantage in the opening period ended up being just 16-7 as the game was tied going into intermission.

The Senators broke the deadlock in the second when defenseman Erik Karlsson -- the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the league's top blueliner -- zipped a shot that found its way over Theodore's shoulder midway through the period.

That goal was set up by a poor crossing pass from Shawn Matthias that was picked off by Karlsson.

Theodore also stopped a penalty shot taken by Guillaume Latendresse with 9:11 left after he was dragged down by Brian Campbell going unopposed to the net.

It could be argued Florida did more offensively in the second and third periods Thursday than it did Monday or Tuesday in Canada. Anderson, however, was spectacular when he needed to be.

Soon after Karlsson's goal, Alex Kovalev -- who was booed every time he touched the puck Monday after two uninspiring seasons in Ottawa -- snapped on a loose puck after Phillips mishandled it in the corner.

Anderson had initially come out of his net to play the puck and got it to Phillips. Anderson jumped back into position to make a spectacular play on Kovalev.

Earlier in the period, Anderson stoned Jonathan Huberdeau from close range after Florida's rookie winger got loose and broke toward the net. Anderson also made a slick glove save on a Peter Mueller shot with 6:04 left.

Anderson is 9-0-1 against the Panthers in 11 career starts. His lone loss to the Panthers came on Dec. 7, 2010, when Florida beat Anderson and the Colorado Avs 4-3 in overtime as Weiss scored off a pass from David Booth 43 seconds into overtime.

Luckily for the Panthers, Ottawa -- and South Florida resident Anderson -- doesn't return until April. Without some wins, Florida's playoff hopes could be gone by then.

"This stings,'' Mueller said. "We all have to dig down a little deeper, bring more to the table.''

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.

THURSDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS
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

January 22, 2013

TWO AND OUT: Canadiens Hand Panthers Second Straight Loss with 4-1 Win

CANADIENS 4, PANTHERS 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MONTREAL -- Rare was the time last season when the Panthers followed up one clunker of a game with another.

No, one reason the Panthers broke their NHL-record playoff drought was their ability to bounce back from defeat and pick up points after a loss.

On Tuesday, Florida simply got bounced.

The Bell Center was rocking like it rarely did last season as the Canadiens won their first game of the season by rolling the Panthers 4-1. The Panthers won all four against the Canadiens last year as the storied franchise finished last in the conference.

Florida was shutout 4-0 in Ottawa on Monday night and fell behind early once again in Montreal.

"This isn't last year. This is a new year,'' Stephen Weiss said. "We can't look at last year and say 'we did this, we did that.' This is a new hockey club and we need to build our own identity and figure out what we need to do to be successful with the players we have in this room.''

The Panthers, 1-0 on home ice after beating Carolina 5-1 in the season opener, plays host to Ottawa on Thursday and the reeling Flyers on Saturday as it tries to get on track in a truncated season.

Last year, the Panthers only lost consecutive games in regulation -- getting no points -- four times. With just 45 games to go, the Panthers can't afford to not get points in too many games.

"We wanted to get some points out of the trip but sometimes you don't always get what you want,'' Weiss said. "We just need to go home, regroup and recover.''

The Panthers opened Tuesday's game much like they played most of Monday's as Montreal dominated puck possession for a good portion of the first period.

Goalie Scott Clemmensen, who made 29 saves, gave up his first goal 3:26 in to Tomas Plekanec.

Later, Montreal scored off a two-man advantage with Brian Campbell and Weiss in the box as Andrei Markov scored offf a long-range slapper.

The Panthers cut the deficit to one in the second period when Tomas Kopecky whipped a wrister from the right circle on Florida's third power play of the night.

Kopecky's goal, Florida's first since Alex Kovalev scored early in the second period of Saturday's win over Carolina, gave the Panthers some short-lived momentum as Montreal scored four minutes later.

With 5:35 left in the second, Alex Galchenyuk made it a 4-1 game as he camped in front of the net and deflected a shot from Brandon Prust. The puck clipped Galchenyuk's stick and squirted over Clemmensen's shoulder and made a home in the back of the net.

Florida had a long power play chance early in the third when Tomas Fleischmann took a punch from Ryan White that earned him an ejection. Fleischmann was called for boarding Josh Gorges and took an unsportsmanlike call as scraps broke out around the ice.

Coach Kevin Dineen took umbrage at Fleischmann -- not known as a physical nor dirty player -- taking a cheap shot from White.

"It was a play when a guy sees who he's going to jump and he took advantage,'' Dineen said. "That's not a very brave play.''

Despite having a five-minute power play -- including 96 seconds in which Florida had a two-man advantage -- the Panthers did next to nothing and went three-plus minutes without registering a single shot.

"That was a sign of how our jump was all night,'' said Scottie Upshall, who had the lone shots of that power play. "We had flashes of energy, drive and battle. We're facing some adversity right off the bat. This was a rebound game for us. We have to start better.''

BIG DEBUT

Drew Shore is the latest highly-touted Florida prospect to make it to the show as the 21-year-old forward made his NHL debut Tuesday.

Shore, a three-year standout at the University of Denver, was summoned from AHL San Antonio late Sunday night and joined the team Monday in Ottawa. Shore thought he was going to play against the Senators but instead sat.

The extra time gave parents David and Sarah time to fly into Montreal to witness the milestone moment. Shore was actually picked by the Panthers in the second round of the 2009 draft by then-GM Randy Sexton in Montreal.

"Ever since you are little and you're shooting pucks, you think about playing in the NHL,'' said Shore, who signed with Florida and spent the end of last season with San Antonio.

-- Captain Ed Jovanovski didn't play Tuesday for rest as Florida played its third game in four nights.

Mike Santorelli was scratched in favor of Shore and Tyson Strachan sat as Mike Caruso -- who made his NHL debut Saturday -- played in his second game. Dineen said Caruso broke his arm during Tuesday's game.

January 21, 2013

SENATOR ANDERSON: Craig Shutouts Panthers 4-0 as Sens Dominate Again

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

OTTAWA -- The fast-skating, hard-hitting Panthers who seemingly scored every time they took aim at the net in Saturday night's season opener must have stayed behind in Sunrise.

Yeah, what a difference 1,300 miles and about 78 degrees makes.

Playing in the deep chill of winter for the first time this young season, the Panthers didn't do much of anything as the Senators dominated all phases of the game to win their home opener 4-0 at Scotiabank Place.

"It's pretty hard when you chase your tail the whole game and that's what we did,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "They dictated the whole pace of play. It was a very disappointing effort.''

Florida, which has lost 10 of the past 11 games to the Senators including six straight in Canada's capital city, boarded a charter bus soon afterward headed east toward Montreal.

The Panthers won all four meetings against the Canadiens last year for the first time in franchise history and face the Habs on Tuesday night.

"That was unacceptable right from the get go,'' captain Ed Jovanovski said. "Lets face it, we were outplayed and they wanted it more. We had no response throughout the game. We had a flash here and there. At least we have a game Tuesday.''

The Panthers looked about as bad in the opening 30 minutes of Monday's game as they did terrific during that same span Saturday against the visiting Hurricanes.

Florida trailed 2-0 after Kyle Turris scored in each of the first two periods --- and were real lucky it wasn't so much worse. The Panthers can thank Jose Theodore for that as Florida was outshot 18-4 in the first.

The Panthers started well enough and had three shots on Craig Anderson six minutes in.

Then the Panthers only took one more shot in the final 14 minutes of the period -- and that was a soft wrister from George Parros that Anderson spied all along.

Florida didn't take a real shot at Anderson for the equivalent of more than a full period as the Panthers went from 5:48 of the first until Tomas Kopecky ripped one at the former Florida goalie at 8:10 of the second.

The Panthers were still down 1-0 at that point but Ottawa took a two goal lead with 7:53 left in the second when Turris charged the net and redirected a slick pass from Guillaume Latendresse past a Florida goalie who never had a chance.

Florida went into the second intermission down 2-0 and being outshot 26-16 as Dineen completely reworked his lineup during the middle 20 minutes.

The Panthers' offensive units looked nothing like they had at the start of the night as Dineen mixed more things than a South Beach bartender on a Friday night.

Things were back to relative normal to start the third as Stephen Weiss lined up for the faceoff with Tomas Fleischmann and Scottie Upshall nearby. It didn't help much as Anderson turned back 15 shots in the third -- and 31 overall -- to get his 20th shutout of his career.

And how much does Anderson love playing the Panthers? A South Florida resident who spent the lockout working out at the team's complex in Coral Springs, Anderson is 8-0-1 against his former team. Monday's win was Anderson's second shutout against the Panthers.

"We haven't had good success in this building for whatever reason,'' Dineen said. "This has not been a good place for us, a good atmosphere for us. This was right up there on the ugly list.''

For Theodore, Monday goes into the books as a loss but he had as much to do with the Panthers losing the game as Ottawa's furry mascot -- it's a lion and not a politician, oddly enough -- did.

Theodore, who will get Tuesday night off as Scott Clemmensen makes his first start of 2013, was credited with 33 saves as he -- and the Panthers -- dropped to 1-1-0 in this young season.

Ottawa blew things out late in the game by scoring twice (Jim O'Brien, Jakob Silfverberg) in the final 2:25.

"We have to get back to what we do best,'' Jovanovski said, "and that's working hard, get the cute out of the game. We have been a resilient group. With so much hockey crammed into a short time, we don't have time to slide. We have to get right back into the win column.''

PANTHERS/SENS PREGAME NOTEBOOK: Versteeg on IR, Drew Shore Up .. And More!

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

OTTAWA -- The Panthers lost top winger Kris Versteeg with what's believed to be a minor groin injury Monday as he was put on injured reserve. Florida recalled Drew Shore from AHL San Antonio to replace him on the roster.

Florida is playing on back-to-back nights in Ottawa and Montreal with a third game coming at home Thursday against the Flyers.

"We want to make sure in case something happens since we're playing three games in four nights,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "We're a little nicked up already. We need an extra body.''

Versteeg had hip surgery soon after the Panthers completed their season last year and rehabbed with the team at the beginning of the lockout.

Once medically cleared, Versteeg was then officially locked out like the rest of the NHL players and he returned to his hometown in Alberta. Tallon said Versteeg's injury wasn't related to the hip but wouldn't elaborate further.

Versteeg was hurt during the Panthers' first practice at the BB&T Center last Friday morning.

Because he was put on the IR list retroactive to that practice, Versteeg is eligible to return Friday. Versteeg tried to warm up at Saturday's morning skate but left that workout about 15 minutes into it.

The 21-year-old Shore is in his first professional season after scoring 50 goals in 123 games at the University of Denver the past three years. Shore has 10 goals and 30 points in 41 games for the Rampage this season.

"He had a good camp, impressed our veteran guys,'' Tallon said. "He can play center or wing. He's a really good kid, a good player.''

With Versteeg out, coach Kevin Dineen put Mike Santorelli up on Florida's first line with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann.

On Monday, Scottie Upshall -- who scored Florida's fourth goal of the first period Saturday -- was up and Santorelli was down on the third line.

-- Both Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver were back in Florida's lineup on Monday after missing Saturday's opener.

Kulikov was out because he said he wasn't ready to go after an exhaustive travel schedule from Russia.

"I feel fantastic,'' Kulikov said. "I'm excited to play and am looking forward to the game.''

Weaver was out because of the league's treatment of concussions. Weaver was hit in the head during a scrimmage last week and wasn't allowed to play.

TUESDAY: PANTHERS AT CANADIENS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Bell Center, Montreal
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Florida leads 34-31-6
The game: The Panthers, who played at Ottawa Monday night, went 4-0 against the Canadiens for the first time in franchise history last season. Montreal, which finished in last place in the Eastern Conference last year, is off to an 0-1 start after losing to visiting Toronto on Saturday.

MONRING SKATE NOTES: Kulikov, Weaver Return ... Theodore v Senators

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MONDAY'S MORNING SKATE

OTTAWA -- The Panthers are done with Monday's morning skate as the Senators gear up for their home opener after dropping the host Jets 4-1 on Saturday night.

The Florida blueline has gotten a little healthier with Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver jumping into the fray.

Brian Campbell-Filip Kuba and Ed Jovanovski-Keaton Ellerby are the other D combos.

Other stuff:

-- Jose Theodore in net going against South Florida resident Craig Anderson.

-- Scottie Upshall takes over the right side on Florida's top line with Kris Versteeg at home with what sounds like a groin problem.

Mike Santorelli has been dropped to the third line.

THE LINES

Fleischmann-Weiss-Upshall
Huberdeau-Mueller-Kovalev
Kopecky-Matthias-Santorelli
Skille-Smithson-Parros

SCRATCHED: Mike Caruso, Tyson Strachan

MONDAY: PANTHERS AT SENATORS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Scotiabank Place, Ottawa
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Sens lead 39-26-3
The game: Both teams are coming off lopsided wins with the Sens winning 4-1 at Winnipeg on Saturday; Florida topped visiting Carolina 5-1. Led by former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson, the Senators have been to the playoffs the past two seasons and have beaten Florida nine of the past 10 times. This is Florida's lone visit to Ottawa this season.

January 19, 2013

A GOOD WAY TO START: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Fans of the Panthers had waited almost nine months to watch their team return to the ice. On Saturday, they were rewarded in high style for the long delay.

The Panthers, who hadn't played since losing in Game 7 of last year's playoffs on April 27, scored four goals in the opening period and rolled to a 5-1 victory over visiting Carolina.

Florida seemed to thrive on the excitement of opening night, one where the franchise's first divisional banner was unveiled in front of a sold out crowd announced of 19,688 at BB&T Center.

The Panthers, a team that was held scoreless in their own 40-minute scrimmage last week, torched Carolina's Cam Ward by scoring four goals off 12 shots in the first. Ward was on the bench to start the second as the Panthers easily beat the Hurricanes for the sixth time in the past seven tries.

"I guess we saved some goals,'' said Brian Campbell, who scored twice on the power play in the first period.

Scoring wasn't a problem for the Panthers on Saturday as newcomers and familiar faces all contributed to the blowout.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida's highly-touted 19-year-old winger, got the party started by scoring off a slick pass from Peter Mueller 3:37 into the season.

Not only did Huberdeau match Stephen Weiss by scoring in his NHL debut, but he did so on his first shot.

"You saw a pretty good snap shot of his skill set,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "That was a pretty impressive debut to say the least.''

Said Huberdeau: "That made me a little less nervous for the rest of the game.''

Huberdeau, the third pick of the 2011 draft, teed off on a pass from the backboard by Mueller -- a former 30-point player who has missed chunks of the past two seasons because of concussions.

Mueller, centering that second line in place of the injured Marcel Goc, was one of three players on that line reached the scoresheet.

Alex Kovalev, the 39-year-old who played in Russia last year, knocked in his 429th career goal in his 1,303rd NHL game off a pass from the fresh-faced Huberdeau in the second to give Florida a 5-0 lead.

Kovalev got the secondary assist on Huberdeau's goal as that line racked up two goals and seven points in its debut.

The Panthers didn't waste much time in making it 2-0 as Campbell walked in on Ward after picking off a Jiri Tlusty clear on a power play.

Campbell, who led the league in ice time last season and was tied for second among d-men in scoring, got his second goal 10 minutes later on an extended Florida power play by whipping a shot from outside the left circle for his first two-goal game since 2005.

Florida continued its power play dominance by getting its third goal of the period with the advantage as Scottie Upshall -- who scored twice in 26 regular season games last season -- scalded one past Ward from the right circle to make it 4-0 with 2:33 left in the first.

With a nice lead, the Panthers defense was actually pressed into service as the Hurricanes came hard at goalie Jose Theodore in the final 40 minutes.

Florida made it 5-0 less than four minutes into the second when Kovalev scored his first NHL goal since 2011. The Hurricanes finally found a way to beat Theodore as Patrick Dwyer scored midway through the second.

Theodore, who won 22 games for the Panthers last season, made 41 stops as he took Game 1 of 2013. Carolina outshot the Panthers 17-9 in the second period but still went into the second break down four goals.

"It was a 5-1 game, but when you break it down, they could have come back,'' Theodore said. "That was my first game since last year. I had to be ready.''

The Panthers were playing a little shorthanded as top-line winger Kris Versteeg left Friday's workout with an apparent groin injury and defenseman Mike Weaver suffered a slight concussion during Wednesday's scoreless scrimmage.

Versteeg was one of the first to pass on to his teammates that Saturday was going to be electric inside the arena. Dineen said the crowd's enthusiasm was most welcomed.

"Kris Versteeg walked in about 30 minutes before the game and said 'it's a madhouse out there','' said Dineen, whose team visits Ottawa Monday in the initial road game of 2013. "That filters down. The players feel the buzz and man, what a turnout we had by the fans. I thought we put on a fairly entertaining show.''

Saturday's Morning Skate Notebook: Kulikov, Versteeg, Weaver OUT; Santorelli, Caruso IN ... Dineen Not Pleased ... Panthers Adding TWO Banners Tonight

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Here are some news and notes from Saturday's morning skate:

First, Kris Versteeg, Mike Weaver and Dmitry Kulikov are out of the lineup.

Versteeg is believed to have pulled something during Friday's practice at the arena. He came out for the skate and left. Mike Santorelli, on the waiver wire yesterday, skates on the top line with Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss.

Weaver (concussion symptoms) skated throughout the session but won't go.

Kulikov seems to be suffering from a severe case of jet lag after flying from Russia to the New York area on Thursday. He took an early flight to Miami yesterday and spent the day in medical testing. He's signed and cleared but says he isn't ready to play.

Kevin Dineen seemed a little perturbed with the situation.

"You have to look at a guy, whether he helps you,'' Dineen said. "Frankly it's disappointing he's not ready to play. There are different ways around it, but he's not playing tonight. He's a guy who's had some time and should be ready to go. He signed a contract yesterday, fortunately passed his physical. He'll play Monday.''

-- Michael Caruso and Jonathan Huberdeau will make their NHL debuts tonight as Caruso joins San Antonio teammate Tyson Strachan on the blue line.

Caruso's dad is flying in from Toronto for the game and Michael couldn't be more thrilled. Caruso's sister, her fiancé as well as a number of his buddies are also headed to South Florida to celebrate this milestone game.

"I was drafted back in '06, played two more years of junior then went to the AHL,'' Caruso said. "It's been a long time coming, a lot of hard work and a lot of time thinking about this moment. I'm just going to try and take it all in.''

-- The second picture is apparently of a '7th Man' banner the team will unfurl before tonight's game.

Not adding any more to that.

Saturday's Morning Skate Notebook: Kulikov, Versteeg, Weaver OUT; Santorelli, Caruso IN ... Dineen Not Pleased ... Panthers Adding TWO Banners Tonight

Saturday's Morning Skate Notebook: Kulikov, Versteeg, Weaver OUT; Santorelli, Caruso IN ... Dineen Not Pleased ... Panthers Adding TWO Banners Tonight

OnFrozenPhone: Dmitry Kulilov

January 18, 2013

NHL OPENING SATURDAY NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers

SATURDAY SEASON OPENER

Who: Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T/BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

Tickets: Close to sold out; visit floridapanthers.com or stubhub.com

Parking: $20 for non-season ticket holders

Giveaway: All fans receive a mini Southeast Division banner

The series: Carolina leads 48-39-11; Florida won 5 of 6 last season

The game: The Panthers needed to beat the Hurricanes in the final game of last season to win the Southeast Division. Florida did so and the banner from that win goes into the rafters during a pregame ceremony. Florida lost D Jason Garrison and RW Mikael Samuelsson to free agency over the summer but, aside from additions like forwards Peter Mueller, Alex Kovalev and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida looks a lot like last year's version. Carolina looked to improve itself by signing Washington's Alexander Semin as well as trading for Jordan Staal. Those two join captain Eric Staal to create perhaps the most dynamic line in the division.

MEET THE 2013 PANTHERS

2013 FLORIDA PANTHERS

FORWARDS

LW SEAN BERGENHEIM, 20
Ht., Wt.: 5-11, 200
Age: 29
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 8/2
Remaining contract*: 3 years @ $2.75 million
Bergenheim will miss the start of the season after getting hurt playing in Finland during the lockout. One of Florida's nice surprises last year with 17 goals in 62 games. Bergenheim is suspended without pay until he is medically cleared to play.

LW TOMAS FLEISCHMANN, 14
Ht., Wt.: 6-1, 192
Age: 28
Hometown: Koprivnice, Czech Republic
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 8/2
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $4.5 million
Florida's leading scorer last year, Fleischmann proved to be durable as he played in all 82 games as well as seven in the playoffs. His 24 goals were a career-high.

C MARCEL GOC, 57
Ht., Wt.: 6-1, 205
Age: 29
Hometown: Calw, Germany
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 8/2
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $1.7 million
A strong puck moving center, Goc will start the season in the injured list after being hurt during the lockout. Florida had him pegged as its No. 2 center after getting 27 assists last year. Goc is suspended without pay until he is medically cleared to play. Goc is expected to be back practicing next week.

LW JONATHAN HUBERDEAU, 11
Ht., Wt.: 6-1, 173
Age: 19
Hometown: St. Jerome, Quebec
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 1/1
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $3.2 million
The third overall pick in 2011, Huberdeau led Florida in scoring last preseason but was sent back to junior. The Panthers expect big things from Huberdeau as he is on their second line.

RW TOMAS KOPECKY, 82
Ht., Wt.: 6-3, 200
Age: 31
Hometown: Ilava, Slovakia
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 7/2
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $3 million
A two-time Cup champ with Detroit and Chicago, Kopecky was durable and dependable for the Panthers last year. Playing in 80 games, Kopecky had 32 points.

RW ALEX KOVALEV, 27
Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 222
Age: 39
Hometown: Togliatti, Russia
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 19/1
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $1 million
A member of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup championship team, Kovalev brings a wealth of experience to the Panthers' second line. Kovalev spent last season in the KHL.

C SHAWN MATTHIAS, 18
Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 213
Age: 24
Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 5/5
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $850,000
Florida's third line center, Matthias had a strong season by scoring a career-high 10 goals as he played in 79 games. Matthias should shoot more with Kopecky up front.

C PETER MUELLER, 88
Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 205
Age: 24
Hometown: Bloomington, Minn.
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 6/1
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $1.7 million
A talented forward, Mueller just needs to stay healthy. Mueller, who is centering Florida's second line, has missed a lot of time with concussions. He has 55 goals in 254 games.

RW GEORGE PARROS, 22
Ht., Wt.: 6-5, 230
Age: 33
Hometown: Washington, Pa.
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 8/1
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $938,000
One of the top enforcers in the league, Parros brings a presence whenever he is on the ice. Parros spent the past six season with the Anaheim Ducks.

C MIKE SANTORELLI, 13
Ht., Wt.: 6-0, 189
Age: 26
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 5/3
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $1.6 million
Santorelli had a disappointing season last year after scoring 20 goals in 2010-11 and getting a two-year deal from the Panthers. Florida plans to use Santorelli as its 13th forward at least for now.

LW JACK SKILLE, 12
Ht., Wt.: 6-1, 205
Age: 25
Hometown: Madison, Wisc.
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 5/3
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $825,000
Skille missed big chunks of last season with shoulder injuries, the final one costing him the final 15 games of the regular season. Skille had four goals in 46 games last year.

C JARRED SMITHSON, 25
Ht., Wt.: 6-3, 210
Age: 33
Hometown: Vernon, British Columbia
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 10/2
Remaining contract: 1 years @ $800,000
Smithson came to the Panthers in a late-season deal with Nashville and scored a goal with two assists in 15 games. The Panthers have him centering their fourth line.

RW SCOTTIE UPSHALL, 19
Ht., Wt.: 6-0, 200
Age: 29
Hometown: Fort McMurray, Alberta
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 8/2
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $3.5 million
A sports hernia cost Upshall all but 26 games last season as he scored a career-low two goals with three assists. Upshall was better once healthy and had a goal with two assists in the playoffs.

LW KRIS VERSTEEG, 32
Ht., Wt.: 5-10, 180
Age: 26
Hometown: Lethbridge, Alberta
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 6/2
Remaining contract: 4 years @ $4.4 million
Versteeg has seemingly found a home with the Panthers as he secured a long-term deal after having a career-high 54 points. Versteeg also scored 23 goals on Florida's top line.

C STEPHEN WEISS, 9
Ht., Wt.: 5-11, 180
Age: 29
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 11/11
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $3.1 million
A free agent after this season, Weiss finally made the playoffs last year as he scored 20 goals with 37 assists. Florida's all-time leader in games played, Weiss had three goals in the postseason.

LW JAMES WRIGHT, 41
Ht., Wt.: 6-4, 200
Age: 22
Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 2/1
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $650,000
A fourth-round pick of the Lightning in 2008, Wright has played in 49 NHL games -- all with Tampa Bay. Florida picked him up in a trade last year and he has five goals with AHL San Antonio this year.

DEFENSE

BRIAN CAMPBELL, 51
Ht., Wt: 5-11, 185
Age: 33
Hometown: Strathroy, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 11/2
Remaining contract: 4 years @ $7.14 million
The first defenseman to win the Lady Byng Trophy since the 1950s, Campbell led the league in ice time with just three penalties. Campbell played in all 89 games and finished second among d-men with 53 points.

MICHAEL CARUSO, 62
Ht., Wt.: 6-2, 190
Age: 24
Hometown: Mississaugua, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 1/1
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $600,000
Now in his sixth season with the Panthers organization, Caruso may get his chance because of injuries on Florida's blueline. Caruso had four points in 32 games at AHL San Antonio.

KEATON ELLERBY, 4
Ht., Wt.: 6-4, 200
Age: 23
Hometown: Strathmore, Alberta
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 4/4
Remaining contract: 1 year at $700,000
Florida's seventh defenseman much of last season, Ellerby could see more playing time this year. As it was, Ellerby played in 40 games last season and notched five assists.

ERIK GUDBRANSON, 44
Ht., Wt.: 6-4, 195
Age: 20
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 2/2
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $900,000
Gudbranson injured his shoulder wakeboarding in over the summer and was suspended by the team during the lockout. Gudbranson had a strong postseason -- and led Florida in hits during the regular season. Gudbranson is practicing with the team and could start the season on a rehab assignment with AHL San Antonio.

DMITRY KULIKOV, 7
Ht., Wt.: 6-1, 183
Age: 22
Hometown: Lipetsk, Russia
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 4/4
Remaining contract: TBA
Kulikov may play in Saturday's opener against the Hurricanes if he gets everything cleared with his contract. Kulikov spent the lockout playing for his youth club in Russia.

ED JOVANOVSKI, 55
Ht., Wt.: 6-3, 218
Age: 36
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 17/6
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $4.15 million
'JovoCop' played in 66 games last season after missing time with a broken hand. Jovanovski had a strong postseason for the Panthers and had seven hits and three blocked shots in Game 2.

FILIP KUBA, 17
Ht., Wt.: 6-4, 226
Age: 36
Hometown: Ostrava, Czech Republic
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 13/3
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $4 million
Kuba played in parts of two seasons with the Panthers -- who drafted him in 1995 -- before trading him in 2000. Kuba is a strong veteran player who will initially be paired with Campbell.

ALEX PETROVIC, 72
Ht., Wt.: 6-4, 206
Age: 20
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 1/1
Remaining contract: 3 years @ $870,000
Petrovic made his pro debut last spring during the AHL playoffs and could see playing time with the Panthers early on this season. Petrovic had 12 points in 35 games with San Antonio.

TYSON STRACHAN, 23
Ht., Wt.: 6-3, 215
Age: 28
Hometown: Melfort, Saskatchewan
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 4/2
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $600,000
Strachan did a good job on a fill-in basis for the Panthers last season to earn a spot on this year's team. Strachan spent the lockout playing in San Antonio.

MIKE WEAVER, 43
Ht., Wt.: 5-9, 186
Age: 34
Hometown: Bramalea, Ontario
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 11/3
Remaining contract: One of the Panthers most dependable defensemen, Weaver played in all 89 games last season. Weaver, whose 16 assists were a career-high, led the team in blocked shots.

GOALIES

SCOTT CLEMMENSEN, 30
Ht., Wt.: 6-3, 205
Age: 35
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 11/4
Remaining contract: 2 years @ $1.2 million
Clemmensen helped the Panthers out numerous times last season -- most especially during the playoffs when he was forced into service. Clemmensen went 14-6-6 and signed a new deal in the summer.

JOSE THEODORE, 60
Ht., Wt.: 5-11, 181
Age: 36
Hometown: Laval, Quebec
NHL seasons/With Panthers: 15/2
Remaining contract: 1 year @ $1.5 million
Theodore had a strong bounce-back year for the Panthers as he notched three shutouts -- not including one in the playoffs against the Devils. Theodore went 22-16-11 with a 2.46 GAA.

(*) Salary numbers are based on cap hits (average over length of contract) and not actual money paid out by the Panthers with exception of rookie (Gudbranson, Huberdeau) contracts which have higher cap hits. Contract money is also based on a full season, not an abbreviated 48-game slate like in 2013.