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PANTHERS FRIDAY NOTES: Stephen Weiss Set to Return as Scottie Upshall Hits IR ... Buffalo is 'Super' to Panthers ... 'Book Not Closed' on Santorelli

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The Panthers merry-go-round of injured players continued Friday as it has since training camp opened.

Florida, which snapped its five-game losing streak Thursday night, will likely have center Stephen Weiss back on the top line Sunday at Buffalo after he missed three games with a groin injury.

Scottie Upshall, however, is going on injured reserve after he twisted his ankle while falling awkwardly during a fight in the third period Thursday.

Upshall, who was helped off the ice, could be out for a month. He was seen at the team training facility on crutches. Upshall was hurt fighting James Wright -- a winger who was waived by the Panthers during training camp and claimed by the Jets.

"He twisted his ankle, it's pretty tender right now, so it's at least a few weeks perhaps a month away,'' coach Kevin Dineen said.

Weiss' return is most welcomed as the Panthers will have their top line intact for the first time this season.

"That gives you options,'' Dineen said. "It's not just the players you're missing, but the players we have are playing out of position to try and fit the square peg into the round hole. This gives us more continuity.''

As Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann started the season, Kris Versteeg got hurt in the final practice of training camp. Versteeg returned Tuesday and scored his first goal Thursday.

"I would love to come back and try and help out, for sure,'' Weiss said. "It's not totally up to me but I got through practice and I'm going on the road. I'm looking to be back as soon as possible.''

Florida is currently without injured defensemen Ed Jovanovski (knee) and Erik Gudbranson (on rehab assignment in minors) as well as wingers Sean Bergenheim and Upshall.

-- Alex Kovalev, who scored the game-winning goal Thursday, missed Friday's practice with what Dineen called a touch of the flu.

-- The Panthers embark on their first real road trip of the season Saturday as the team will visit four cities in a week. The team will spend a lot of time in Buffalo as it will stay over after Sunday's afternoon game.

Defenseman Brian Campbell, who played for the Sabres, has a friend opening up his restaurant -- which is usually closed on Sunday -- so the team can watch the Super Bowl.

"It's always good to do stuff with the guys,'' Campbell said. "Hopefully we get two points and then enjoy ourselves. We need to string some wins together to get into .500 and then move from there.''

The Panthers will then stay in Buffalo and practice there Monday afternoon before flying to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Tuesday. The Panthers will also visit Philadelphia and Washington on the trip. Florida is 0-3-0 on the road this season.

"The Super Bowl has worked into our travel. All the planes are booked Sunday and Monday morning,'' Dineen said.

-- Dineen said "the book isn't closed" on center Mike Santorelli despite his demotion to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Santorelli, in the final season of a two-year deal with the Panthers, will be paid his full NHL salary (lockout approximate of $960,000 this season) while in the minors.

Santorelli had been Florida's healthy scratch in three of six games. He started the season on Florida's top line (a day after clearing waivers) when Versteeg was hurt but quickly slipped down the lineup.

"I believe Santo is a top six player and his skill set is as a higher-end skilled forward,'' Dineen said. "Right now we don't have that fit for him. So he needs to either diversify his game or get a major dose of confidence. I hope some time in the American League will give him that jolt of ice time he needs to turn things around.''

Santorelli was given his first multi-year, one-way contract after scoring 20 goals for the Panthers in 2010-11. He scored nine goals last year.

Comments

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Santorelli's one of those guys on the edge of...maybe not stardom, but someone who can be a vital, standout part of a team. Just know he's gonna breakout.

Drew Shore will never see the AHL again. He is a top 6 forward. now.

I agree with Minter94. Not sure what Santorelli's problem is, but I know he can play so much better than he has been. I'm hoping that he'll get enough ice time playing with the Rampage to work through the problem and regain his confidence.

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