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VIVA KUBA: Filip Kuba Back For More with the Panthers

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Filip Kuba was standing in a hallway in the Panthers training facility Sunday morning when radio voice Randy Moller approached him.

"Did you ever think you would be back here?'' Moller asked. "Sometimes things come full circle. Life is funny that way.''

Kuba smiled and nodded, acknowledging that the last time he was wore a Panthers jersey was quite a long time ago.

Drafted in the eighth round by the Panthers in 1995, Kuba spent four seasons in the organization including 18 games with the Panthers over two seasons from 1998-2000.

Then he was traded to Calgary before being claimed by Minnesota in the expansion draft of 2000 at the age of 23.

Now 36, Kuba has seen quite a bit since the Panthers got rid of him as the defenseman has played in 792 NHL games with Florida, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.

"Obviously, when I got moved it was something I didn't like and was sour about,'' Kuba said after his first practice with the Panthers in 13 years.

"But I got a chance in Minnesota. I really didn't think about what was going on here. I was out west. But the past few years I have been watching.''

The Panthers brought Kuba back in July, signing the Tampa resident to a two-year deal worth $8 million.

Since Kuba was traded away for the lightly-used Rocky Thompson, the team has changed ownership three times -- H. Wayne Huizenga's Boca Resorts group controlled the team in 2000 -- and has had one front office change after another.

Kevin Dineen is the eighth coach the Panthers have had since Kuba left; Dale Tallon is the eighth general manager.

Those rudderless days seem to be behind the Panthers, one reason Kuba was attracted to come back as a free agent. Moller, in fact, is one of the few recognizable faces left from 2000.

"The organization is going in the right direction,'' he said. "That's a big reason why I'm here.''

On Monday, Kuba was paired up with veteran Brian Campbell. Florida signed Kuba to replace Jason Garrison -- who signed with Vancouver a few hours after Kuba came to the Panthers.

Kuba didn't take Garrison's number (the 52 went to Jon Rheault) but did take his locker and a spot opposite the slick passing Campbell.

"We were trying to talk on the bench after shifts, talk about things I like and he likes,'' Campbell said. "It's a challenge, but it was like that last year. .-.-. It's early yet but I have confidence in things. He reminds me of players I've played with in the past. It'll be a little adjustment but we'll be fine.''

Tallon, a strong defenseman in his day, joked that Campbell is so smooth "I could play with him.'' Kuba, Tallon says, won't have a problem fitting in.

"He and Brian looked like they've been playing together all their lives,'' Tallon said. "It looks good.''

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Hinds -- Special to On Frozen Pond

VIVA KUBA: Filip Kuba Back For More with the Panthers