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

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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


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Santorelli on the top line just shows how far from rebuilding this team really is. They are closer to picking in the top 5 in the draft next year than making any kind of run. They had their luck last year, this year they will be lucky to win 24 games.

24 wins is almost a guaranteed playoff berth... not exactly a bold claim you're making there.

Santorelli was only on the top line cause Versteeg was out. He wouldn't even be on the team if we weren't missing Versteeg, Goc or Bergenheim right now.

When you build through the draft it takes time to fill an NHL roster with those players. What's old, tired and wrong is the "Tallon should build the team with high priced free agents" sentiment that these couch potatoe GM's whine about in every other post. Not all of the draft picks work out for any GM and not every pick is a #1 overall let alone beig a first or second rounder. If it were that easy, couch potatoe GM's would be NHL GM's.

Florida is still a few seasons away, Tallon makes no bones about that. Whether they make the playoffs or not this season or next doesnt change the plan nor make it any less valid ... strong drafting, supplemented with free agent signings. Many if not most of the players on the roster are stop-gap players. The lack of organizational depth consisting of talent to contribute at the NHL level will continue until the drafted players are ready to play at the pro level. Thankfully, Tallon will continue to build the team this way despite the desires of the arm chair GM's. Considering that Floridas prospects are considered amount the top 2 of all NHL teams by most reputable sources says that Tallon and the Panthers are on the right path. That it takes time is just the way it is. Seems like, atleast for 1 night, 19,000 + fans are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

To be fair to Kulikov, had he headed to the States before they had a contract in principal, it would have weakened his bargaining position. That said, if he got into NYC on thursday and didnt return to Sunrise until Saturday morning, I understand Dineen being PO'd as well. "Jet lag" can linger past a couple of days but Kulikov doesnt appear to have done his part to get back to sunrise asap.

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