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BANGED-UP PANTHERS ROLL: Cats, Without Weiss and Others, Top Winnipeg 4-1 ... Markstrom Strong in Net

PANTHERS 4, JETS 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When general manager Dale Tallon met with the media Tuesday morning to update the Panthers' injury situation, he did so from memory.

Impressive, considering the list seems to be growing by the hour.

Tallon left the biggest news until last: Stephen Weiss, the franchise's all-time leader in games played, will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

The Panthers may have eight regulars on the shelf but they played a complete game on Tuesday as they ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Winnipeg at BB&T Center.

"Things are just day-to-day for us,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's the way the season has been. Every day, you have a long-term plan, but you throw some audibles in there. Getting a hard-earned win like this gives you breath for a day. That's a good thing.''

Tallon's bombshell regarding Weiss came hours before rookie Jacob Markstrom took over as Florida's starting goaltender for what the franchise hopes is a very long time.

Markstrom, 23, made 30 saves in his third start of the season and 11th of his brief NHL career. Tuesday's game came with an asterisk, however, as it was his first after being anointed Florida's starter. Markstrom said he didn't treat Tuesday's game differently than any other.

"I'm just going out to play and have as much fun as possible, play as well as I can,' said Markstrom, who has surrendered seven goals in three starts.

Pegged as Florida's 'goalie of the future' since being the 31st overall pick in 2008, the Markstrom Era began a little sooner than the Panthers had hoped. Jose Theodore tore a groin muscle early in Saturday's loss at Carolina and is out indefinitely.

"We were hoping to hold off, but lets go,'' Tallon said Tuesday morning. "Lets see if he can do it. I'm very confident he can.''

Said coach Kevin Dineen: "It's time to stop talking about potential and get to the real deal.''

Markstrom played well in net and got goal support from all over: Tomas Kopecky, Shawn Matthias, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Santorelli all scored.

Huberdeau, Florida's rookie of the year candidate, scored his team-leading 11th goal as he became the first in franchise history to score on two penalty shots in the same season. Huberdeau also became the first rookie to do it in over a decade.

"I'm just trying to create my chance and that led to the penalty shot,'' Huberdeau said. "If there was an assist, give it to Peter Mueller. He set me up on both of them.''

Markstrom's first game as Florida's starter may have been in its first of many without Weiss.

After more than a decade since joining the team and becoming the face of the franchise, Weiss' final game with the Panthers may have been Sunday's forgettable 3-2 loss to Carolina.

A pending free agent, Weiss says he needs wrist surgery after undergoing similar surgery in 2009.

Weiss, in his 11th season, was having his worst statistical season since his rookie season in 2002-03 when he had one goal in his first 32 games as he had one goal on just 19 shots.

"It has not been easy,'' Tallon said. "This was not good news to start the day. But that's part of hockey, part of this condensed season. It's opportunity for others to show their worth.''

It was obvious there was something wrong with Weiss with teammates saying he had trouble gripping the stick. Weiss, who turns 30 on April 3, came into Tuesday's game ranked tied for 736th -- dead last -- in the NHL with a minus-13 rating.

"If he's not able to shoot on the power play then it renders him ineffective,'' Dineen said. "We saw a different player in the past. It obviously affected his game.''

Florida is also down three regular defensemen in Dmitry Kulikov (out a month), Mike Weaver (four-to-six weeks) and Ed Jovanovski (10 days at least). Weiss is one of four forwards out. The others: Sean Bergenheim (season), Kris Versteeg (day-to-day) and Scottie Upshall (week).

Jon Rheault, 26, was the latest to be called up and made his NHL debut Tuesday. He was one of eight in Florida's lineup who had played in the minors this season.

"Give me 18 players and I'm ready to go,'' Dineen said. "You can't worry about or control things until guys are back. The players here know what our situation is now.''

Comments

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Sucks we won't be able to get anythign for Weiss now...just terrible luck.

I just don't see Weiss leaving. He has had plenty of opportunities in the past to move but always decided to stay.
When Tallon arrived and questioned everyone's commitment, Weiss told him he wanted to stay with the Panthers. That incidentally, was when Horton decided to bolt.
I don't think anyone would like to see Weiss leave as he is a role model and deeply rooted in this community and organization.

Free agency is not his style and he seems to have the same outlook on things as Shane Doan in Phoenix.

My bet is on Tallon signing him to a long contract this spring.

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