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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.

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