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57 posts from January 2013

January 12, 2013


The Panthers have invited 32 players to camp what with Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim expected to miss the start of things (at least) with injuries.

Among those not on the list: Dmitry Kulikov.

Also, no on-ice practice for the Panthers on Sunday. Physicals and stuff only.

First practice is at the Iceplex on Monday at 10 a.m.


4 - Keaton Ellerby
9 - Stephen Weiss
11 - Jonathan Huberdeau
12 - Jack Skille
13 - Mike Santorelli
14 - Tomas Fleischmann
17 - Filip Kuba
18 - Shawn Matthias
19 - Scottie Upshall
20 - Sean Bergenheim
22 - George Parros
23 - Tyson Strachan
25 - Jerred Smithson
27 - Alex Kovalev
30 - Scott Clemmensen
32 - Kris Versteeg
35 - Jacob Markstrom
40 - Marek Svatos
41 - James Wright
42 - Quinton Howden
43 - Mike Weaver
44 - Erik Gudbranson
50 - Drew Shore
51 - Brian Campbell
52 - Jon Rheault
55 - Ed Jovanovski
57 - Marcel Goc
60 - Jose Theodore
62 - Michael Caruso
72 - Alexander Petrovic
82 - Tomas Kopecky
88 - Peter Mueller


Florida Panthers
Day Date Time ET Local Visiting Home
Sat 1/19/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM CAR FLA
Mon 1/21/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM FLA OTT
Tue 1/22/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM FLA MTL
Thu 1/24/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM OTT FLA
Sat 1/26/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM PHI FLA
Tue 1/29/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM FLA TBL
Thu 1/31/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM WPG FLA
Sun 2/3/13 3:00 PM 3:00 PM FLA BUF
Tue 2/5/13 8:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA WPG
Thu 2/7/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA PHI
Sat 2/9/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA WSH
Tue 2/12/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM WSH FLA
Thu 2/14/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM MTL FLA
Sat 2/16/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM TBL FLA
Mon 2/18/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM TOR FLA
Thu 2/21/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA PHI
Fri 2/22/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA PIT
Sun 2/24/13 3:00 PM 3:00 PM BOS FLA
Tue 2/26/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM PIT FLA
Thu 2/28/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM BUF FLA
Sat 3/2/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA CAR
Sun 3/3/13 6:00 PM 6:00 PM CAR FLA
Tue 3/5/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM WPG FLA
Thu 3/7/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA WSH
Fri 3/8/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM WPG FLA
Sun 3/10/13 6:00 PM 6:00 PM MTL FLA
Tue 3/12/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM TBL FLA
Thu 3/14/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA BOS
Sat 3/16/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM NYI FLA
Tue 3/19/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA CAR
Thu 3/21/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA NYR
Sat 3/23/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA NJD
Sun 3/24/13 5:00 PM 5:00 PM FLA NYI
Tue 3/26/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA TOR
Thu 3/28/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM BUF FLA
Sat 3/30/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM NJD FLA
Tue 4/2/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM FLA TBL
Sat 4/6/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM WSH FLA
Sun 4/7/13 6:00 PM 6:00 PM OTT FLA
Thu 4/11/13 8:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA WPG
Sat 4/13/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM PIT FLA
Tue 4/16/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA NYI
Thu 4/18/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA NYR
Sat 4/20/13 1:00 PM 1:00 PM FLA NJD
Sun 4/21/13 3:00 PM 3:00 PM FLA BOS
Tue 4/23/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM NYR FLA
Thu 4/25/13 7:30 PM 7:30 PM TOR FLA
Sat 4/27/13 7:00 PM 7:00 PM FLA TBL

TIME FOR CAMP: #FlaPanthers Set to Kick Off 2013 on Sunday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Coaches and players love to espouse whatever success or failure happens early on in a hockey season can be overcome or overtaken.

"It's a marathon,'' they'll say, "not a sprint.''

No one will say that this year.

When the Panthers -- and the other 29 teams in the NHL -- report for the start of training camp on Sunday morning, they may as well be wearing a pair of Usain Bolt's used Pumas.

This thing is going to go fast.

"It's going to go by very, very quickly,'' said Panthers goalie Jose Theodore.

"It seems like forever since we've been here, but at the same time, it feels like yesterday. All those months are gone. And the season is going to be like that. It's great to go back to work. You can feel the intensity picking up around here.''

With the NHL lockout lasting four-plus months, there isn't much of a season left as the league will play 48 games instead of its usual 82.

Teams will open the 2012-13 season on Saturday -- a week before the All-Star break was originally scheduled for. That celebration, which was to be held in Columbus, was cancelled months ago.

Even preseason games have been shelved this year.

"Experience is going to play a big role,'' Theodore said. "We have a lot of veterans so we should be OK. Preseason is good to have, but it's not the real thing. What you are going to see is five very intense days of practice and we're going to be ready to play.''

The Panthers will hold physicals at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs Sunday morning with the possibility for a short practice at noon.

The team is expected to hold a training camp with workouts and scrimmages from Monday through Friday starting at 10 each morning.

Florida kicks off its 48-game slate Saturday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise against visiting Carolina.

"We're going to be asking a lot of these guys in a shortened season,'' said coach Kevin Dineen, who played for Hartford during the previous 48-game season in 1994.

"Every game is going to have a playoff-like atmosphere. You're going to hear that a lot and that's because it's true. Things are going to come fast and furious. Everyone talks about how important that start is. I believe that. It's going to be a very entertaining season.''

When the Panthers opened camp last year, there were more new faces than old. General manager Dale Tallon revamped Florida's roster and had a new coach and system after firing Pete DeBoer and brining in Dineen.

One advantage the Panthers have in this shotgun season is their familiarity with one another. Florida will have a few new faces -- Peter Mueller, George Parros, Filip Kuba -- but the core of last year's Southeast Division champions returns.

"We have most of our team back and the additions we made were great,'' center Shawn Matthias said. "I think we have a really good team here. We're all excited to get going. It's going to be a sprint from start to finish.''

Florida's top line of Stephen Weiss with Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg returns intact. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau will be added to the forward mix this season, likely playing on Florida's second line.

The Panthers bring back both goalies from last year and will replace Jason Garrison (Vancouver) on the blueline with Kuba (Ottawa).

Florida will have a handful of roster battles with rookie Jonathan Huberdeau a lock to make it.

Veterans Alex Kovalev and Marek Svatos are in on a try-out and may find openings with forwards Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim expected to miss the start of the season with undisclosed injuries.

Dineen will likely carry the full 23 players on his roster to make it easier to substitute players during the many upcoming back-to-back sets of games.

"We're going to have a real quick transition,'' said Brian Campbell, Florida's lone All-Star selection last season after coming over from Chicago.

"With a short training camp, having the same players and coaches is an advantage for us. We know the system. We know what to expect, nothing is new.''

What to Look For

-- When, Where: Sunday-Friday; Saveology.com Iceplex, Coral Springs
-- Directions: The Iceplex is located one-half mile east of the Sawgrass Expressway off Sample Road and Sportsplex Drive.
-- Times* -- Sunday: Possible workout at 11:30 a.m.; Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.
-- Season Opener: Saturday vs. Carolina; BB&T Center, Sunrise, 7:30 p.m.
-- Admission: Free
-- Key returnees: C Stephen Weiss, RW Kris Versteeg, LW Tomas Fleischmann, G Jose Theodore, D Brian Campbell, D Erik Gudbranson
-- Key additions: D Filip Kuba (Ottawa), RW George Parros (Anaheim), C Jonathan Huberdeau (rookie)
-- Fighting for a spot: RW Alex Kovalev, RW Marek Svatos, C Quinton Howden
(*) For updated daily schedules, check the Herald's hockey blog 'On Frozen Pond' at MiamiHerald.com/sports/hockey

January 11, 2013

ENFORCING THE BOARD ROOM: George Parros Trades NHLPA Post for Spot with Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

George Parros skated in South Florida on Friday for the first time since signing with the Panthers last July.

Parros has been a little busy.

The 33-year-old enforcer best known for his full black mustache was part of the National Hockey League Players' Association negotiating committee that helped end the lockout.

Alongside players like Shane Doan, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, Parros sat at the bargaining table with union boss Donald Fehr working toward a deal.

Parros, a Princeton graduate with a degree in economics, said Friday that this "was a long, frustrating summer" but he would go back in a minute if he was needed.

The league and the NHLPA agreed on a 10-year deal last Sunday at 5 a.m. The pact is expected to be approved by the 740-member association by Saturday allowing training camps to open up around the league on Sunday.

"I'm just glad this is behind us so we can get back on the ice,'' said Parros, who will be starting his eighth NHL season after playing the past seven years in Anaheim.

"It's going to be a quick season here, a short camp. There's not a lot of time to gel. But I'm certainly looking forward to the fresh start and a great season here.''

Parros joins a long list of recent Panthers enforcers that include the likes of heavies Wade Belak, Steve MacIntyre, Darcy Hordichuk, Matt Bradley and Krys Barch.

Only the Panthers hope Parros can be strong not only with his fists but with his stick as well.

In 413 games, Parros has 17 goals and 16 assists. He recorded a career-high 10 points in 74 games with the Ducks in 2008-09.

"It's great having him on the team because you always know his presence is there,'' said Peter Mueller, who played against Parros while with Phoenix and Colorado.

"He's a player with skill and that's good to have when he's out there on shifts. In a short season like this, not every enforcer is going to go looking for fights. So it's nice he can play at a high level and make things happen. He's a smart player. He doesn't just run around and start stuff. He can put the puck in the net.''

Coach Kevin Dineen knows Parros from Anaheim training camps and the Ducks' Stanley Cup run back when Dineen was a coach in the Ducks minor league system.

"He brings characteristics every team needs like leadership and a quality of character we want around our players,'' Dineen said Friday morning.

"He understands the nature of the game and how he can bring his best to a team. We need some depth in our lineup and will need some secondary scoring. I expect him to understand his role and try and expand it.''

Parros played with a handful of his new teammates in the past although his entire career has been played in the Western Conference. With a shortened 48-game season, the Panthers will not leave the Eastern Conference this season.

Parros said he isn't worried about making that adjustment from west to east.

"It'll be interesting,'' he said. "We'll see what happens. It may take some adjustment.''

-- Parros joined Mike Santorelli and Keaton Ellerby as the latest members of the Panthers to make it to South Florida and hit the ice with their teammates.

The only veteran regulars who have yet to report -- not including those playing for Florida's AHL team in San Antonio -- is defensemen Filip Kuba and Dmitry Kulikov. Kuba has been working out in the Tampa Bay area; Kulikov is a restricted free agent.

-- The Panthers will have one final unofficial workout Saturday at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs at 10:30 a.m. Saturday's practice, which is open to the public, is expected to have a light turnout with training camp opening on Sunday.

January 10, 2013

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Svatos Ready to Roll ... Gusbranson Skates, Still Suspended ... Tallon Works on Kulikov ... Kostitsyn Not Coming

After working out in Denver during the lockout, winger Marek Svatos is in South Florida as he prepares to try and make the Panthers. Svatos, like 39-year-old Alex Kovalev will be in camp without a contract.

"I've struggled in the past with some injuries and that's why I took last year off,'' said Svatos, who scored 85 goals from 2005-09 but just 11 in his past two seasons.

"I'm glad I'm here and I'm going to try my best right now. I'm healthy right now. I don't have much time to show off so it's going to be hard and physical.''

-- GM Dale Tallon said that he reached out to the agent for former Canadiens and Nashville winger Andrei Kostitsyn but hadn't heard a response.

Kostitsyn signed a one-year deal with Chelyabinsk Traktor in the KHL and told sportbox.ru he would stay there through the end of the season.

-- Tallon said defenseman Erik Gudbranson continues to be suspended by the team after injuring his shoulder while wakeboarding over the summer in Canada.

"He will be until he's cleared to play,'' Tallon said. "You live and learn. He's a young guy and that's part of life. It'll make him stronger.''

Gudbranson needed surgery but is working out with his teammates and will be evaluated by the team's medical staff on Sunday.

-- Dmitry Kulikov is one of a half dozen Florida regulars who hasn't practiced locally in the past few days. Kulikov spent the lockout in Russia and is said to be on his way back. He has business to attend to as he remains an unsigned restricted free agent.

The Panthers cannot sign Kulikov until the CBA is ratified.

"We're still talking,'' Tallon said. "We want him in our lineup and we're doing everything in our power to get him here. We've talked to his agent the past three days. We're on top of it.''

-- The Panthers will have another unofficial practice Friday at 10 a.m. The workouts are held at the Coral Springs Iceplex and are free and open to the public.

PANTHERS GET GOING: Quick Start Crucial for Return to Playoffs

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Thursday was a relaxing day around the Panthers training facility. As players skated around running drills, general manager Dale Tallon cracked jokes.

Coach Kevin Dineen, wearing jeans and deck shoes, casually sipped on a cup of coffee as he made small talk.

These days of leisure are almost over for the Panthers. Florida has just a handful of practices between the start of training camp until its season opener Jan. 19. The Panthers are expected to play eight games within the first two weeks.

"We've been together as a staff, but when you see all your players here, you feel complete,'' said Dineen, whose team plans to have its first practice either Sunday or Monday.

"The focus is on the games. Training camp is important, but it's to build up to what looks like a very busy first week for us. It looks like the first week or two will be busy and that's how it's going to be all season. We'll just have to build in and make some decisions on the fly.''

When the 2013 season starts, it will be a mad dash to the finish from Day 1. Like the other 29 teams in the league, the Panthers only have 48 games to prove themselves.

Florida was one of 16 to make it to the postseason last year as it earned 59 points in the first 48 games.

"We need a good start with only 48 games,'' Tallon said. "We'll be prepared to go.''

Last year, it took 92 points to make the Eastern Conference playoffs -- which works out to 54 points in a 48-game season.

Florida had the equivalent of 55 points last year.

"You have to work hard before camp because things are going to come quick,'' Brian Campbell said. "A good start is going to be real important because you are starting the season almost midway through a season.

"Things change quick. You want to get in front early so you're not playing playoff hockey with 20 games left. It's going to be a quick, fun ride.''

Tallon and Dineen were allowed to watch their first on-ice workout since the lockout began in September on Thursday as the Panthers returned to the Saveology.com Iceplex.

Although the players wore their Panthers practice jerseys and used their locker room at the facility, Dineen and his coaches weren't allowed to run practice. Once the NHL players' association officially ratifies the new collective bargaining agreement on Saturday, it's game on.

"You don't realize how much you miss it until you really see them out there,'' Tallon said. "It's nice to see everyone out there smiling and happy to be here. Lets move on. This is the greatest game in the world so lets enjoy it.''


Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen talks to the gathered media on Thursday...



Dale Tallon speaks to the media on Thursday...


January 09, 2013

LOCKOUT ENDS: Florida Panthers Ready to Get Back to Work ... Gary Bettman Apologizes

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The NHL's Board of Governors unanimously approved the labor peace brought with a new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday afternoon.

Although the players' association hasn't voted to ratify the CBA yet, the NHL lockout is over.

The players are expected to overwhelmingly approve the new pact via electronic vote by Saturday with training camps opening throughout the league on Sunday.

"We're ready to go. It's time,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "It will be good to get everyone back together, back in the swing of things.''

The locked out Panthers held their final workout at the Glacier Ice Arena on Wednesday morning with their gear picked up by two of the team's equipment managers not long afterward.

Those Panthers who are in town -- and there aren't many left who aren't -- will hold another informal workout on Thursday. This time, however, they will do so in the comfort of the team's modern facility in Coral Springs.

There was hope training camp would open either Friday or Saturday, but the logistics of getting the complicated CBA ratified by both sides in such a short amount of time proved too much.

The Panthers are expected to have unofficial practices at the Coral Springs Iceplex on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with physicals coming on Sunday.

The first official practice is Monday with the season opener on Jan. 19.

The league plans for a 48-game schedule with all games played within the conference. Teams will play two divisional opponents four times this season and the other two three times; the other 30 games come from playing the other 10 conference teams twice.

"We're going to have to be ready quick because we're going to have a lot of games in a short amount of time,'' Brian Campbell said. "We'll have to get a lot done.''

"You are going to have to find your legs fast,'' winger Kris Versteeg said.

Like the other 29 teams in the league, the Panthers training camp is going to be short with about five practices expected before the opener.

Dineen said Wednesday that he expects as many as 30 players to be in training camp fighting for 23 opening night roster spots.

As many as five players will come from Florida's AHL team in San Antonio including third-string goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Dineen said Jose Theodore is Florida's starting goalie with Scott Clemmensen backing up. Jonathan Huberdeau, the third pick in 2011, has been called up from his junior team in Quebec.

"My experience with these guys is we will be ready,'' Dineen said. "I'm really looking forward to Sunday.''

-- Following the ratification of the CBA, commissioner Gary Bettman apologized for the lengthy lockout -- the third under his watch since 1994. Bettman said he has heard the unrest, adding "we have a lot of work to do to gain back your support.''

Said Bettman: "To the players, who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts; to our partners who support the league financially and personally; and most importantly to our fans who love and have missed NHL hockey: I am sorry.

"I know an explanation or apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months. But I owe you an apology nonetheless.''

In November, Versteeg told a radio station in Calgary that he thought Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had been "looting this game for far too long" and, like cancer, needed to be cut out.

"When I speak at times, it comes from emotions,'' Versteeg said Wednesday. "In the end, I'm happy to see us on the ice because of the work from the NHLPA and NHL went through to get it done. When Gary and [NHLPA boss] Don Fehr came out of that room they looked like two tired, tired men. They did what they did to get it done.''

-- Defenseman Erik Gudbranson said he visited Dr. John Uribe at Doctors Hospital in Miami on Tuesday and got good news regarding his surgically repaired shoulder. Gudbranson said he is allowed more physical play although team doctors will determine how much after Sunday's physicals.

LOCKOUT ENDS: Florida Panthers Ready to Get Back to Work ... Gary Bettman Apologizes

LOCKOUT ENDS: Florida Panthers Ready to Get Back to Work ... Gary Bettman Apologizes

LOCKOUT ENDS: Florida Panthers Ready to Get Back to Work ... Gary Bettman Apologizes

LOCKOUT ENDS: Florida Panthers Ready to Get Back to Work ... Gary Bettman Apologizes


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Those of you who were at Panthers practice on Wednesday morning and said 'hey look. George Parros is here' shouldn't feel too bad.

It wasn't Parros, of course, but Kris Versteeg.

"He looks like he's out of a 1970s movie,'' one player commented. You can guess what kind of movie the player was referring to.

Versteeg said he started growing the mustache in support of pal Brandon Davidson who is battling testicular cancer.

"He's doing good right now,'' Versteeg said.

Of course, he's taken plenty of ribbing for it.

"It's given the guys a lot more laughs than anything,'' he said.

Davidson is a defenseman for the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and is from Versteeg's hometown in Alberta.

"It's for a friend," Versteeg said. "He's going through chemo so I said I'll keep it for a little longer while he's going through it. It's tough times for him. You try to do stuff for your friends.

"I've known him for a long time and he's a good kid. We hang out in the summer time. I just want to help him in any way I can.''

As far as Parros goes...

"I don't want him to think I'm trying to steal his thunder when he gets here.''




January 08, 2013

TUESDAY WORKOUT NOTES: #FlaPanthers Making Way Back to the Sunny South

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Pompano Panthers were back on the ice at Glacier on Tuesday morning.

The players will practice there on Wednesday morning as well before packing up and heading back to the Coral Springs Iceplex.

The players are expected to hold a final pre-training camp practice in Coral Springs on Thursday morning.

Wednesday's practice in Lighthouse Point will be at 10 a.m. I expect Thursday's will start as well.

Not a whole lot happened today, but here's what did:

Alex Kovalev joined the group for the first time as he has been invited to try-out for the Panthers at training camp. You can read all about that in the previous post.

Three other new players are back in town and worked out: Erik Gudbranson, Brian Campbell and Jack Skille.

Scottie Upshall flew in Tuesday morning on the California red eye and needed some sleep. He'll be on the ice on Wednesday.

Other players will be coming in the following days. I've been told Dmitry Kulikov will be coming back from Russia. The Panthers still need to sign the restricted free agent.

-- Gudbranson told me he has not been medically cleared for contact after having shoulder surgery in September.

Gudbranson is going to Miami today to get checked out by his surgeon. Hope to have an update on that later today.

-- Jose Theodore was the only goalie on the ice today.

Scott Clemmensen is expected to be back by Thursday although that hasn't been confirmed.

If Florida brings up a third goalie for training camp as I expect, I would think it's Jacob Markstrom.

TUESDAY WORKOUT NOTES: #FlaPanthers Making Way Back to the Sunny South

TUESDAY WORKOUT NOTES: #FlaPanthers Making Way Back to the Sunny South

GETTING A CHANCE: #FlaPanthers Bringing In Veterans Kovalev, Kostitsyn, Svatos on Try Outs

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers have apparently offered training camp try outs to a number of veteran NHL players including 39-year-old Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Marek Svatos.

Kovalev is already in town and worked out with the Pompano Panthers at Glacier on Tuesday.

Also coming in town to join the crew: Erik Gudbranson, Jack Skille and Brian Campbell.

Kovalev has had injury problems and was released from his KHL contract after a knee injury limited him to just 20-plus games last season.

He's been working out in New York during the lockout.

Here's what he had to say after Tuesday's skate:

On his knee injury: "I've recovered. .-.-. It's all behind me. It's been hard work and you know how it goes: The older you get, the harder you have to work.

"That's the most disappointing thing, feeling good and not being able to play anywhere. Finally, the season is about to start and I settle somewhere -- hopefully here -- in the NHL and do my thing.''

Kovalev said he spoke with the Panthers before the 2011-12 season about coming here to play. Apparently Dale Tallon offered a try-out then; it didn't work out for whatever reason.

Kovalev last played with Ottawa and Pittsburgh during the 2010-11 season.

"I came here the year before I went to Russia and had a chance to talk about me coming here,'' he said.

"The situation changed a little bit and I couldn't wait anymore so I went to Russia. I guess the offer still stands and they decided I could come back. I want to get back in the NHL. They're going to give me a chance, see how things go.''

As far as a short training camp goes, Kovalev says he'll be ready.

"I think I have enough experience and I feel great health-wise. I know game shape is different than practice but it doesn't take that long, maybe a week, week and a half and you're in game shape.

"At the beginning everyone will be running around and will be anxious to start the season. Everything else will settle after 10 games or so. We'll all be where we need to be.''

Kovalev said a few teams asked him about coming to camp, but he seems to like the Panthers and Kevin Dineen.

"I like the people in the organization and they changed the coach. I played against him many times. I know what they have done, I saw what they did last year with the changes and making the playoffs. I feel this is a good place for me, a good environment with the organization and the players.''

"No one has promised me anything. They just want me to come in and they are hoping I make the team. I don't know. I can't predict anything. I'm just going to do what I'm able to do and we'll see what happens. They could go with the younger guys or something like that. You never know. It's just good to have the chance to come to camp and hopefully make the team.''

More to come later.

GETTING A CHANCE: #FlaPanthers Bringing In Veterans Kovalev, Kostitsyn, Svatos on Try Outs

January 07, 2013

WANNA BET? NHL Odds for 2013

Courtesy of Bovada.lv

Odds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup

Pittsburgh Penguins 8/1
New York Rangers 17/2
Vancouver Canucks 9/1
Los Angeles Kings 12/1
Philadelphia Flyers 12/1
Chicago Blackhawks 14/1
Boston Bruins 16/1
Detroit Red Wings 16/1
St. Louis Blues 16/1
Minnesota Wild 18/1
San Jose Sharks 20/1
Carolina Hurricanes 22/1
Washington Capitals 22/1
Buffalo Sabres 25/1
Edmonton Oilers 25/1
Nashville Predators 28/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 28/1
Montreal Canadiens 30/1
New Jersey Devils 30/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 30/1
Anaheim Ducks 40/1
Colorado Avalanche 40/1
Dallas Stars 40/1
Florida Panthers 40/1
Ottawa Senators 40/1
Phoenix Coyotes 40/1
Calgary Flames 50/1
Winnipeg Jets 50/1
New York Islanders 66/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 100/1

Odds to win the 2013 NHL Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins 4/1
New York Rangers 19/4
Philadelphia Flyers 7/1
Boston Bruins 15/2
Carolina Hurricanes 11/1
Buffalo Sabres 12/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 12/1
Washington Capitals 12/1
New Jersey Devils 15/1
Montreal Canadiens 16/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 16/1
Florida Panthers 20/1
Ottawa Senators 20/1
Winnipeg Jets 28/1
New York Islanders 33/1

Odds to win the 2013 NHL Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks 9/2
Chicago Blackhawks 6/1
Los Angeles Kings 6/1
St. Louis Blues 7/1
Detroit Red Wings 15/2
Minnesota Wild 9/1
San Jose Sharks 12/1
Edmonton Oilers 14/1
Nashville Predators 14/1
Anaheim Ducks 18/1
Dallas Stars 20/1
Phoenix Coyotes 20/1
Colorado Avalanche 22/1
Calgary Flames 28/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 50/1

A NEW WEEK: #FlaPanthers Ready to Move On, Get Things Going

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

For the past four months, a handful of Florida Panthers have gone back in time, working out at the team's original practice rink in Lighthouse Point.

Although the ice is fine, the conditions at Glacier Ice Arena are threadbare compared to what NHL players have grown accustomed to.

Players had showers but no hot tub or whirlpool to help with minor injuries. They had an equipment manager, but old equipment. Instead of having a host of coaches on ice to keep things moving, the locked out Panthers hired local youth coach Vlad Cheremeta for motivation.

Those days are almost over as the Panthers are readying to move back to their multi-million dollar complex in Coral Springs later this week after the two sides came to an agreement to end the lengthy NHL lockout on Sunday.

"Everyone is excited about getting back to normal, getting back to hockey,'' forward Peter Mueller said. "We're ready to start the season off right. One of the good things about coming down here and spending time here was getting to know so many of the guys. We've built some chemistry and that's nice.''

Mueller never received new equipment from the Panthers before the NHL lockout went into affect on Sept. 16.

His black gloves, leftovers from his days with the Colorado Avalanche, have holes worn through the leather. The chin strap on his Colorado-issued helmet doesn't have much life left in it at all. And the smell coming from those gloves, Mueller says, is indescribable.

"It's going to be nice to finally get decked out in some Florida Panthers gear,'' Mueller said. "It will be nice to finally have some towels when we're done showering.''

Because the new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been signed by ownership nor the players, the Panthers who are in South Florida remain in practice facility limbo.

They packed up their stuff after Monday's workout not knowing where Tuesday's would be.

Even though many NHL players returned to their team's training facilities on Monday -- management from the Wild watched their players go through workouts in Minnesota -- Florida's players will practice at Glacier again on Tuesday.

"I'm more excited to see the trainers every day, crack some jokes with them,'' Tomas Kopecky said. "It's going to be fun to see everyone around the rink, the ushers on game day. We talk to them a lot. You don't appreciate the whole routine during the season until you lose it.''

The NHL's Board of Governors is expected to vote on ratifying the new CBA on Wednesday with the players thought to give their approval around the same time. Once the deal is signed, players will be free to return to their facilities and work with team personnel once more.

The Panthers are expected to open training camp at their $10-million Iceplex in Coral Springs on Friday with physicals and other testing. The first on-ice practice would be Saturday morning.

A 50 or 48-game schedule is expected to be released by the league once the CBA is ratified. The Panthers are said to be opening the 2013 season in Sunrise on Jan. 19.

"This was a long four months, but we've taken care of the business,'' Kopecky said. "Now it's time to play hockey.''


The Panthers invited winger Marek Svatos to training camp according to a Twitter post from agent Rich Evans on Monday afternoon. Florida spokesman Justin Copertino said the team has not offered up camp invitations.

Svatos, 30, didn't play last season because of various injuries. He missed the final few games with Nashville in 2010-11 after suffering a concussion. He scored four goals in 28 games with the Predators and Senators that season. Svatos scored 32 goals with the Avalanche as a rookie in 2005-06 and 26 two seasons later.

-- Stephen Weiss and Ed Jovanovski both said they were happy the lockout was close to being over and hoped fans would be quick to put the labor strife in the past.

"The game is bigger than all this,'' Weiss said. "This will all blow over. It's obviously not a positive thing for our sport right now but this is a great game with great people and players involved. It'll go on. It'll succeed and grow. Hopefully people come and support it because it's a great game.''

Said Jovanovski: "We apologize to the fans as far as how tough this is. We had a pretty successful year for this franchise and got some respectability back. .-.-. I hope they understand there is a business side to every sport. This had to be taken care of.''

A NEW WEEK: #FlaPanthers Ready to Move On, Get Things Going

A NEW WEEK: #FlaPanthers Ready to Move On, Get Things Going

A NEW WEEK: #FlaPanthers Ready to Move On, Get Things Going

January 06, 2013

POST-LOCKOUT: What's Next?

What's Next?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

-- CBA ratification: While commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA director Don Fehr have agreed to a deal, it must be "put on paper" and formally approved by both the owners and the players. That could come as early as Tuesday.

-- Training Camp: A weeklong training camp is expected with a start as early as Saturday. The Panthers will hold their camp at the Coral Springs Iceplex. Players are still, officially, not allowed to use the team facilities.

That will probably change on Tuesday.

Those Panthers who are in town will have a final workout at Glacier Ice Arena in Lighthouse Point/Pompano Beach on Monday at 10 a.m.

Admission is free.

-- The season: The NHL will announce either a 50 or 48-game season as early as Monday. Teams will only play within its conference so the remainder of the 2012-13 schedule will need to be revamped.

-- Playoffs: Will not be affected and will be held under the same format as last season with eight teams from each conference playing three rounds leading up to the Stanley Cup Finals. Each series will remain a best-of-7.

-- Season ticket refunds: The Panthers offered three different options to season ticket holders, with one option refunding money for cancelled games. Right now that's either 15 or 16 regular games lost depending on the length of the new schedule.

-- The Panthers: Florida still needs to re-sign restricted free agent Dmitry Kulikov. The Panthers continue to be mentioned as a possible landing place for Vancouver goalie and Broward resident Roberto Luongo. The Panthers were scheduled to raise their first divisional banner Oct. 16 against the Lightning.

POST-LOCKOUT: What's Next?

LOCKOUT ENDS: #FlaPanthers Ready to Get Back to Work


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The NHL lockout is technically still ongoing.

It will not be for long.

The NHL and its players' association came to an agreement early Sunday morning to end a lockout that is in its fifth month and has lasted over 100 days.

The two sides held a marathon negotiating session that started on Saturday afternoon and ended 16 hours later when a deal was finally reached -- one that salvages at least the '13 part of the 2012-13 season.

An abbreviated schedule of between 52-48 games could be announced Monday.

"Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement,'' NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at Sunday's 6 a.m. press conference held in New York.

"We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon. .-.-. We have a lot of work still to do, but it's good to be at this point.''

Both Bettman and Fehr -- the NHLPA's executive director -- looked exhausted after their lengthy negotiating session which was spurred on by work done Friday by federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.

A veteran negotiator who dealt with the NHL during the 2004-05 lockout as well as labor strife in the NFL and NBA, Beckenbaugh is being credited by players and NHL management for sticking with it and keeping negotiating going. Beckenbaugh shuttled between meetings with the two sides all day Friday and brought them closer to a deal.

The biggest terms of the deal include a pro-rated $70.2 million salary cap this season as players and owners work toward a 50-50 split in league revenues.

The cap drops to $64.3 million next season -- although teams are allowed to buy out two contracts of their choosing following this season and after the 2014-15 campaign.

Costs of those contracts, at two-thirds their worth, will come out of the players' share of revenue but will not count against the team's salary cap. Teams are also prohibited from locking up players to contracts longer than eight years and can't grossly frontload contracts as they could under the old CBA.

There will also be an increase in revenue sharing -- something that benefits the Panthers.

"We'll get back to business as usual just as fast as we can,'' Fehr said. "Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating not us [Bettman]."

Both the NHL and NHLPA are finalizing the new collective bargaining agreement with the league's Board of Governors expected to vote on what was agreed upon Tuesday or Wednesday. The players are expected to hold an electronic vote.

Once the new CBA is ratified, the lockout will end and the business of playing hockey will begin anew.

The Panthers will raise their first Southeast Division championship banner at the home opener against a to-be-determined opponent.

Florida has a four-game homestand already scheduled from Jan. 15-21 -- meaning the BB&T Center is available - allowing the Panthers to open the season at home. Whether they will or not remains to be seen.

The 2012-13 season is expected to begin by Jan. 19; Teams will only play teams within their conference this season to cut down on travel.

The 1994-95 season, Florida's second, was shortened by labor strife as well. The NHL held a 48 game schedule that season. The 2004-05 season was wiped out because of a lockout.

"I'm excited, but there is still a lot of work to do and make sure everything is right,'' Panthers' player rep Mike Weaver said. "We're ready to get back to playing. We have been ready, actually.''

With a shortened season, teams are going to be pressured to get off to a good start.

About 10 members of the Panthers -- as well as former Panthers like Tomas Vokoun, Marco Sturm and Radek Dvorak -- have been practicing in Pompano Beach during the lockout.

Those informal workouts continue at Glacier Ice Arena on Monday with the players likely heading back to the Panthers' facility in Coral Springs on Tuesday.

Players who have been elsewhere in North America -- such as Brian Campbell (Chicago), Scott Clemmensen (Iowa), Kris Versteeg (Alberta), Erik Gudbranson (Ottawa) and Scottie Upshall (Los Angeles) -- will start returning by Monday. Others playing in Europe will take a little longer although most should be back by the weekend.

The Panthers plan to open training camp with physicals as early as Friday with workouts starting Saturday. Training camp is expected to last a week with no preseason games scheduled.

"I'm excited to be back. It's going to be good,'' said Campbell, who flies into Fort Lauderdale on Monday.

"You realize how much you miss the guys, how much you miss being part of a team. We spent the day texting each other on Sunday. We can't wait. But this thing is going to be quick. I'm glad we're a team that knows each other unlike last year. We're going to be fine.''

LOCKOUT ENDS: #FlaPanthers Ready to Get Back to Work

IT'S FINALLY OVER: NHL, NHLPA Reach Deal, Lockout Ends

The NHL and its player association reached a deal on what is being reported as a 10-year deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement effectively ending a lockout that started on Sept. 16.

The deal was brokered after an all-night marathon bargaining session in New York; word came out that the lockout was over around 5 a.m.

A 48 or 50 game season should be announced sometime Sunday.

A start time for a seven or eight day training camp should also be announced.

I was told at Pompano Panthers practice on Friday that they expected to start in Coral Springs on Saturday.

Once the lockout is lifted, players will be allowed back into the complex. I would expect that our Friday practice was the last at Glacier and that players will be back in Coral Springs tomorrow morning -- trading in their NHLPA jerseys for Florida Panthers ones.

I will be tweeting on this and BCS national championship game stuff all morning and afternoon.

For up the minute updates, please follow me on Twitter @GeorgeRichards

See you in Sunrise.