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September 16, 2013

PANTHERS SWEEP PREDS: Florida Wins Preseason Doubleheader in Sunrise

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers played a lot of hockey on Monday yet needed a little extra time to finish off a preseason sweep of Nashville at the BB&T Center.

In Game 1, Florida got a 6-3 win thanks in part to two-goal games from Erik Gudbranson and Scottie Upshall.

Later that night, Tomas Fleischmann's goal with 46.2 seconds left in overtime served as the winner as the Panthers won 3-2.

In the opener, the Panthers scored five unanswered goals kicked off by back-to-back markers from Gudbranson within a four-minute span in the second.

Florida, playing in a nearly empty arena, trailed 3-1 in the opening period before Gudbranson's first goal with 5:46 left in the second brought Florida within one. After that, Brad Boyes -- in camp on a pro tryout -- scored for the Panthers' first lead.

Upshall, who scored Florida's first goal, got his second of the game with 6:37 left before Quinton Howden closed out the scoring 2:16 later.

Rob Madore, who earned a tryout after a good showing at prospect camp against the Predators, stopped all five shots faced in the third. Goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, who plays for Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio, gave up three goals on 16 shots.

Florida outshot Nashville 41-21 in the opener.

"Once we tied it up, we continued to push and that was huge,'' Gudbranson said.

In the second game, Florida trailed 2-1 in the second period but tied it when Tomas Kopecky took a feed from rookie Aleksander Barkov and threw it at goalie Cody Reichard on a power play chance. The puck hit Reichard's skate and bounded into the net.

Barkov, the second overall pick, had a chance to win Game 2 but hit the post with less than two minutes left in overtime. Fleischmann, who played on a line with Barkov, scored the winner not long afterward.

Florida was outshot 30-27 in the second game with Michael Houser getting the win in relief of Jacob Markstrom.

-- Assistant general manager Mike Santos said that Florida has offered a PTO to former Minnesota and Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert.

The Panthers would like to have Gilbert in camp before the team leaves for Texas on Wednesday. Gilbert has played in 447 games over parts of seven NHL seasons.

-- Rookie forward Vince Trocheck picked up a pair of assists and was named third star of the first game.

PANTHERS UPCOMING SCHEDULE*
Tuesday: Practice, 10:30 a.m. (Iceplex)
Wednesday: Practice, 9 a.m. (Iceplex); preseason game at Dallas, 8 p.m.
Thursday: Practice in San Antonio, TBA
Friday: Preseason game vs. Stars, AT&T Center (San Antonio), 8 p.m.
Saturday: Preseason game at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Off
(*) All workouts at the Coral Springs Iceplex are free and open to the public. Starting times subject to change.

PANTHERS GOALIE JOB WIDE OPEN: Tim Thomas Joins Panthers, Will Battle Markstrom

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers landed one of the biggest names in goaltending on Monday when former Boston All-Star Tim Thomas agreed to a tryout with the team.

Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie in 2009 and '11, will be on the ice with the Panthers for practice Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs.

Because he is in on a professional tryout (PTO), Thomas does not have a contract with the Panthers. If Florida likes what it sees from Thomas, it has the right to offer him a deal for the 2013-14 season. The Panthers have plenty of room under the salary cap.

The 39-year-old led Boston to the Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and was named MVP of those playoffs.

"All I know is he won a Stanley Cup .-.-. and was a big reason for it,'' general manager Dale Tallon said after Thomas officially agreed to join the Panthers.

"We need goaltending and need someone get to where we need to go. Right now, it's Tim Thomas. He's going to get an opportunity. He's in good shape and is eager to go. He's very strong mentally and physically.''

Thomas, 39, looked around the league for a new home after leaving Boston following the 2011-12 season. Thomas left the Bruins after a controversial season and sat out last year's lockout-shortened season despite having a year left on his contract.

The Bruins traded Thomas' rights to the Islanders who kept the contract on the books -- without paying Thomas -- to stay above the salary cap floor. That allowed Thomas' final year to expire and make him a free agent.

With Scott Clemmensen out for the first few weeks of camp after having minor knee surgery, the Panthers made it clear they were looking for goaltending. In Thomas, Florida gets one of hockey's most decorated netminders of recent years.

Thomas could play in his first game with the Panthers either Wednesday at Dallas or Friday against the Stars in San Antonio.

"This is good. The guy is a proven winner,'' said Brad Boyes, who is also in Florida camp on a PTO and played with Thomas from 2005-07 in Boston.

"He's one guy out of every goalie I've played with who is the hardest worker. He doesn't let guys score on him. It's impressive. A guy with his stature coming in here is big.''

A number of Florida players worked out before Monday's exhibition double-header against visiting Nashville when news of Thomas' impending arrival spread.

Brian Campbell, who played with Thomas during the lockout of 2004-05 in Finland, said it would be hard to find a player who worked harder than Thomas does.

Thomas, who played collegiately at Vermont, didn't become a full-time NHL starter until he was 31. Thomas spent almost a decade toiling the North American minor leagues as well as playing in Finland and Sweden yet never gave up on his dream to make it to the NHL.

In parts of eight NHL seasons -- all with the Bruins -- Thomas has played in 378 games, going 196-121-45 in stopping 92 percent of shots faced. Thomas is also 29-21 in 50 postseason starts, stopping 93 percent of his shots.

"I enjoyed my time playing with Tim,'' Campbell said. "He's a great goalie, a great battler and a great person. Him coming here is a bonus for us. We feel we have two strong goaltenders here but if you can add a piece like this, it's not going to hurt you.''

The Panthers are a little more crowded in net and may have to make a tough decision in the coming weeks.

If Clemmensen comes back from his knee surgery before camp ends -- and Thomas looks good enough to keep -- the Panthers would have to choose between sending Clemmensen (who will make $1.2 million this year) or 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom to the minors.

Markstrom could keep the starting he held after being called up from the Panthers last season.

"Competition is great and the more you have internally for spots, the better off you will be,'' Tallon said. "It's wide open. May the best man win.''

Said Boyes: "He's very competitive and wants to win. He'll want to be in there and play. He's going to be a guy who pushes other guys. As a goalie, he'll give us a chance to win. That's huge. You win in this league with goaltending.''

Thomas made headlines in 2012 when he refused to join his teammates at the White House, citing differences of opinion with President Barack Obama.

Thomas' play slipped a bit after that as rumors of him not participating in the team event didn't sit well in the Boston locker room and it was reportedly a distraction.

"Everyone has their opinions and that doesn't hurt anyone,'' Campbell said. "The whole White House thing, well, maybe you would like him to go but he cares about his country. If that's his biggest fault, well, lets move past it. He strong views about everything not just politics.''

TIM THOMAS TO PANTHERS: Florida Nets Veteran Goalie, Will Join Team on Tuesday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers landed one of the biggest names in goaltending on Monday as Tim Thomas agreed to come to camp on a tryout basis.

Thomas, honored as the league's top goalie in 2009 and '11, will join the Panthers for Tuesday's practice at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs on a professional tryout.

The 39-year-old led Boston to the Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and was named MVP of the playoffs that spring.

"No one works harder than he does,'' said Florida defenseman Brian Campbell, who played with Thomas in Finland during the 2004-05 lockout season.

"I enjoyed my time playing with Tim. He's a great goalie, a great battler and a great person. Him coming here is a bonus for us. We feel we have two strong goaltenders here but if you can add a piece like this, it's not going to hurt you.''

Thomas made headlines in 2012 when he refused to join his teammates at the White House, citing differences of opinion with President Barack Obama. Thomas' play slipped a bit after that as rumors of him not participating in the team event didn't sit well in the Boston locker room.

Thomas took last season off with the Bruins trading his contract to the New York Islanders. The Islanders used Thomas' $5 million cap hit to stay above the salary cap floor.

"I don't know why he didn't play last year,'' Campbell said. "Timmie has strong political views and I think that's great. I've learned a lot from him. You can ask him questions about things.

"Everyone has their opinions and that doesn't hurt anyone. The whole White House thing, well, maybe you would like him to go but he cares about his country. If that's his biggest fault, well, lets move past it. He strong views about everything not just politics.''

If Thomas earns a spot on the Panthers, Florida would have to find a place for Jacob Markstrom or Scott Clemmensen. Markstrom could stay up with the Panthers -- and even remain the starter.

If that's the case, Florida would try and trade Clemmensen or send him to the minor leagues. Clemmensen will be paid $1.2 million regardless of where he plays this season. Clemmensen is expected to miss the next couple of weeks after having minor knee surgery.