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

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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