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33 posts from September 2013

September 10, 2013

BOYES TO PANTHERS: Veteran Winger on Tryout ... Tim Thomas Next?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers officially announced veteran forward Brad Boyes will be in camp on a professional tryout.

Boyes, 31, scored 10 goals in 48 games for the Islanders last season and had three assists in New York's playoff series against the Penguins.

Word was the Islanders wanted Boyes back and offered him a tryout as well.

Looks like Boyes and his agent thought Florida looked like a better opportunity. And why not? If Boyes looks good -- and the guy has shown he can score in the past -- he should make this team and earn a one-year deal.

Boyes has scored 168 goals with 407 points in 606 games over nine seasons with San Jose (well, one of those 606 games was with the Sharks), Boston, St. Louis, Buffalo and the Islanders.

Boyes scored 76 goals over two seasons from 2007-09 with St. Louis.

-- TSN's Bob McKenzie just tweeted that the Panthers are one of the teams who have officially invited former Bruins Stanley Cup goalie Tim Thomas to camp.

Thomas, who spent the 2011-12 season mired in controversy, didn't play last season as his contract was traded to the Islanders to help them stay above the salary cap floor.

We'll see what happens here.

Jacob Markstrom told me today that he's prepared for this training camp like any other -- although this obviously isn't any other camp for Markstrom.

-- Goalie Rob Madore, who played well for the Panthers in last weekend's rookie tournament, also earned a training camp invite.

Florida will be missing goalie Scott Clemmensen (knee) for approximately three weeks.

-- Jed Ortmeyer, who played part of last year in San Antonio, is also in camp and was at Tuesday's workout.

Brad Boyes/Dave Sandford, Getty images

Tim Thomas/Harry How, Getty Images

BOYES TO PANTHERS: Veteran Winger on Tryout ... Tim Thomas Next?

BOYES TO PANTHERS: Veteran Winger on Tryout ... Tim Thomas Next?

BACK TO SCHOOL: Panthers Report to Training Camp on Wednesday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Summer officially came to a close for the Florida Panthers on Tuesday morning as the team held its final informal workout.

Wednesday may as well constitute the team's first day of school.

The Panthers report for the start of training camp Wednesday morning with physicals and meetings with the front office and coaching staff at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Florida's first on-ice practice is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. The Panthers are expecting close to 60 players in camp with the team split into separate groups.

One team will likely stick together and play Nashville in the preseason opener in Sunrise on Monday afternoon with the other group playing the Predators in the double-header nightcap.

Florida will play five more exhibition games before the season officially kicks off Oct. 3 in Dallas.

The Panthers are ready to kick things off and put last year's nightmare behind them. Florida finished last in the 30-team league for the first time in franchise history during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

"Personally, I'm excited to be starting out fresh with a whole new season,'' said forward Tomas Fleischmann, Florida's leading scorer in 2013. "We have a lot of young guys who look pretty good on the ice. It's going to be good to get the camp started.

"Everyone has been here for a couple of weeks already and I think that really shows how much everyone wants to do a better job than last year. It starts now.''

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Wednesday will be the progress of Florida's injured players from last season.

The Panthers had an array of injuries last season with a number of players requiring surgery.

Although players such as Kris Versteeg (knee surgery in March) and Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery in April) have been skating, they haven't been cleared by Florida's medical staff.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov spent all but about two weeks in South Florida this summer after having shoulder surgery. Kulikov says he's been skating for about six weeks but he also needs to be cleared by the Panthers.

"I honestly can't wait. This has been a long summer and I have worked myself into great shape,'' Kulikov said on Tuesday. "I'm excited for training camp to start, for the games to start. I'm seeing the doctor [Wednesday] and we'll see. I feel good but we'll see where I'm at.''

Other players who had offseason work done reportedly include Drew Shore (wrist) and rookie of the year Jonathan Huberdeau (abdominal).

Huberdeau at least used his long offseason to good use. For the first time in a long time, Huberdeau was able to concentrate on off-ice activity and add some bulk to his lanky 6-foot-1 frame. Huberdeau says he put on 10 pounds of what looks like nothing but muscle.

"This has been my longest summer since I started playing hockey,'' Huberdeau said.

"I think everyone worked hard, is rested and healthy. We're all looking forward to get camp started. I used the summer to get stronger. With my injury, I slowed things down but I rehabbed well and did other things. I feel good. I'm ready for the season.''


Wednesday: Report to camp, physicals, 9 a.m. (BB&T Center)

Thursday: First practice, 9 a.m.; Group 2, 10:30 a.m. (Coral Springs Iceplex)

Friday: Practice starts at 9 a.m. (Iceplex)

Saturday: Practice starts at 9 a.m. (Iceplex)

Sunday: Practice starts at 9 a.m.; scrimmage at 9:30 a.m. (Iceplex)

Monday: Preseason doubleheader vs. Nashville, 2:30/7 p.m. (BB&T Center)

Tuesday: Practice starts at 10:30 a.m. (Iceplex)

Wednesday: Practice starts at 9 a.m. (Iceplex); preseason game at Dallas, 8 p.m.

(*) All workouts at the Coral Springs Iceplex are free and open to the public. Starting times subject to change.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Panthers Report to Training Camp on Wednesday

September 08, 2013

CLEMMENSEN HAS SURGERY: Backup Goalie to Miss First Few Weeks of Camp

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

It appears 25-year-old goalie Rob Madore will get an invitation to Panthers training camp after a combination of a solid showing in prospect camp as well as Florida's lack of depth at the position.

General manager Dale Tallon said Sunday that Scott Clemmensen had minor knee surgery last week and will miss the first three weeks of camp. The Panthers have their first practice Thursday morning in Coral Springs.

Clemmensen is projected to be the backup to 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom when the season starts. Tallon said Clemmensen should be back for the season opener Oct. 3 in Dallas. Michael Houser, 20, is currently second on Florida's depth chart with Clemmensen out.

"He earned it. He's a great kid who works hard,'' Tallon said of Madore, who has spent the past two seasons playing for various minor league teams after finishing at the University of Vermont.

With Houser playing the entire 60 minutes, Florida dropped the finale of its three-game prospect tournament 2-1 to the Lightning on Sunday afternoon.

The Panthers (1-2) took a 1-0 lead on Nick Bjugstad's fourth goal of the tournament but saw Nikita Kucherov score twice to give Tampa Bay its second win of the weekend.

September 06, 2013

CATS GET CRUSHED: Big Third Period Lifts Preds to 8-4 Win in Prospect Game

Predators 8, Panthers 4: Nashville lit up goalie Mack Shields (on a tryout from Calgary of the Western Hockey League) by scoring six goals on 10 shots in the third period to roll past the host Panthers.

Rob Madore, Florida's starting goalie, gave up two goals off 12 shots before handing things over.

Florida went into the third period holding a 3-2 lead thanks to goals from Logan Shaw, John McFarland and Josh McFadden. The Panthers' fourth and final goal came from Chris Clapperton in the third.

Madore, like Shields, is on a try-out after playing for Evansville and Florida of the ECHL as well as Charlotte of the AHL last year.

Scorers for Nashville: Miika Salomaki, Josh Shalla, Filip Forsberg, Mike Moffat, Pat Cehlin, Vinny Saponari, Tommy Veilleux and Zach Budish.

Preds' top rookie Seth Jones also played but didn't score a goal. He did look very good out there however, although there was a scary moment when he took a knee from Liam Heelis and hit the ice. Jones was back and, well, no worries.

Aleksander Barkov, whom Florida took over Jones with the second overall pick a few months back, watched part of the game from the upper deck of the Iceplex.

PROSPECTS CAMP: Game 1 -- Boston 5, Lightning 5


-- Bruins 5, Lightning 5: Tampa Bay scored twice (Dan Milan and Tanner Richard) in the final 3:17 to salvage the tie. Boston took a 5-3 advantage in the third period off back-to-back goals from Maxime Villemare.


All games are held at the Saveology.com Iceplex at 3299 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs. Admission to games requires a ticket -- which is free upon registration at floridapanthers.com/trainingcamp

Saturday: Nashville vs. Tampa Bay, noon; Boston vs. Florida, 4

Sunday: Boston vs. Nashville, noon; Tampa Bay vs. Florida, 4

BATTLE FOR POSITION: Panthers Offering Opportunity for Some

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Opportunity may be the word most often tossed around the Panthers during training camp as there is plenty of it.

Although general manager Dale Tallon announced his team will be trending younger this coming season, a number of free agent veterans signed with the Panthers trying to score one of those roster vacancies.

Sure, most eyes will be trained on talented youngsters such as Nick Bjugstad and Alex Petrovic as they fight to a position on the team.

Yet they will be battling the likes of Bobby Butler, Matt Gilroy, Mike Mottau, Steve Pinizzotto and Jesse Winchester -- veterans who have NHL experience on their side.

Although those players come armed with two-way contracts -- which on other teams may as well be a one-way ticket to the minors -- there is opportunity here in Florida to keep their NHL dream alive.

The journey for these players officially starts Thursday when training camp opens in Coral Springs.

"I'm here to earn a spot and I can do that by working hard and playing within myself,'' said Winchester, a forward who has played in 233 NHL games over the course of four seasons with Ottawa.

"I have to focus on what I bring to help this team win. I have to earn my keep. I've been around and there shouldn't be any nervousness. I just have to compete and help the team in any way I can. I'm looking forward to competing and playing the game I love.''

Winchester hasn't played in the NHL since a concussion ended his 2011-12 season with Ottawa. He spent last season playing in Finland for Helsinki's Jokerit.

Pinizzotto and Mottau have also fought various injuries over the past few years and found positions tight within their former organizations. Pinizzotto, 29, says he is completely healthy after having rotator cuff and groin surgeries in the recent past.

"I chose Florida because of the situation,'' said Pinizzotto, who played all 12 of his NHL games for Vancouver last year after missing the entire 2011-12 season.

"I have to bring what has brought me to this. I think the opportunity is the biggest thing for me. This is a performance-based industry and if you don't play well, you won't be here. It's a business. You have to help the team.''

A player who could make the Panthers out of camp basically out of default is Mottau and/or Gilroy.

Both have NHL experience, something most of Florida's other defensemen do not.

With Ed Jovanovski questionable after having major hip surgery in the spring, Florida has just four defenseman on its roster who have played in more than 100 NHL games. Petrovic's chances to make the team look good with Colby Robak also jockeying for a spot.

For Mottau, 35, coming to the Panthers is a chance to show he still has what it takes to play in the NHL. Mottau played for San Antonio and Toronto last year in the AHL and hasn't played in the NHL since finishing 2012 with the Bruins.

"I'm trying to come in and provide value where it's needed,'' said Mottau, who has played in 313 NHL games over the course of eight seasons with New Jersey, the Islanders and Boston. Mottau was also a Boston College teammate of Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen.

"I've been around a little bit and know what I need to be successful. It just depends what they're looking for. I'll have some competition on the backend and am here to push some guys and hopefully make my way onto the team. The positive is coming into camp competing for a spot. I'm excited to be here getting ready for camp.''

September 05, 2013

ONE GUDBRANSON, TWO GUDBRANSON: Panthers Invite Alex Gudbranson to Prospect Camp

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers had Gudbranson back on defense Thursday although it wasn't their young standout getting physical in the corners.

Instead of Erik Gudbranson throwing his body around at Thursday's prospect workout it was free agent invitee Alex Gudbranson.

The younger brother of the Panthers' Erik, Alex Gudbranson worked out at Detroit's development camp earlier this summer before getting an invite from the Panthers.

Alex Gudbranson will return to his junior team in Sault St. Marie in the coming weeks and hopes to impress some teams -- the Panthers included -- after not being selected at the June draft.

"Growing up with [Erik], you have to be tough after all the tussles we were in,'' said Alex, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Tuesday.

"We both want to win. If you come into my corner, I want the puck more than you do. He has more experience than I do, but I'm looking to learn. Hopefully I can stay here as long as I can and show my stuff. I want to be here in the future.''

Alex Gudbranson is wearing No. 88 during Florida's prospect tournament this weekend -- double the No. 44 Erik wears for the Panthers.

VINCENT TROCHECK: Confidence Isn't a Problem

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

There is little doubt Vincent Trocheck plays with extreme confidence.

After all, the 20-year-old rookie did something pretty special last year as he was the Ontario junior Hockey League's top player after leading the league in scoring by putting up 50 goals.

Will Trocheck's conviction in his own ability be enough to earn him a spot on the Panthers' roster in a few weeks?

No, but if he shows even a touch of the scoring prowess he did while in junior, a Florida team starving for goals may give Trocheck a serious look.

"We told them there is equal opportunity here,'' general manager Dale Tallon said before Florida's prospect camp opened on Thursday morning.

"We don't care about their age. I want them to feel like they have a fair opportunity to make our team, to make the big club. That starts now.''

Trocheck and the rest of the Panthers gathered in Coral Springs received the message sent from Tallon, yet it's too early to determine whether any of them will do anything about it.

Florida's main training camp hits the ice on Thursday.

"Vinny is a player, a hockey player who is a highly competitive guy,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers' director of amateur scouting.

"He leads by example and doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to his production. He feels he can produce at any level. His drive combined with his high skill level bodes well for his future.''

The Panthers, despite publicly announcing the roster will trend younger this season, still have a number of locks and only a handful of openings.

Trocheck, a third-round pick in 2011, wants one of them.

Working throughout the offseason in his native Pittsburgh with other NHL players helped the 5-foot-11 forward put on some muscle and improved his core strength.

Whether that's enough to help him be on the ice when the Panthers open the season in Dallas -- or play in their home opener on Oct. 11 against his hometown Penguins -- remains to be seen.

"I'm coming here to make the team but I know it's going to be a battle. There are a lot of talented players here,'' Trocheck said. "It's going to be good competition and it's going to be fun.''

Peter Horachek is the coach of Florida's minor league affiliate in San Antonio and would likely benefit from having Trocheck in the American Hockey League this season.

The Panthers have been reticent to rush young players under Tallon and it's very likely Trocheck could start the season in Texas. Trocheck, however, should not be thinking that way.

"He lead the [OHL] in scoring, led the playoffs in scoring and is a very skilled guy,'' said Horachek, who spent the past decade as an assistant in Nashville.

"He's a very confident young man who wants to win. I think that will help him. He believes in his abilities, believes he can play in the NHL. That's what young guys need. It's a big step and a process. Whatever the timeframe is, he's going to play in the NHL.''


-- On scoring 50 goals for the Plymouth Whalers last year:

"It was an honor to be able to say I scored 50 goals. I wasn't really focused on it during the year, but it was a bonus. I had a lot of guys around me to help. I have the puck and I'll definitely hold on to the 50th puck for a while.''

-- On the opportunity in Florida:

"They've had meetings with us and they've told us to come here and expect to make this team. What's a guy like me to do? I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it. If you do, great. If you don't, keep working until you do.''

-- The confidence in scoring:

"Being able to put up those kind of numbers, seeing my goals increase each year, definitely helps with my confidence. I know I can put up points. It's going to be more difficult at this level.''

PHOTO BY KELSEY HINDS/Special to On Frozen Pond

VINCENT TROCHECK: Confidence Isn't a Problem

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Fun day out in Coral Springs as a nice crowd was on hand to watch some of Florida's youngsters skate in the opening morning of prospect camp.

Those who stuck around got to watch about two dozen of the veteran players take to the ice for a spirited workout. Even Kris Versteeg was out there -- read about it a few posts down.

The rest of the week's schedule will be listed below.

Brian Skrudland and Bryan McCabe were part of the on-ice staff with the youngsters with San Antonio coaches Peter Horachek and Chuck Weber.

"There's a lot of bodies - big bodies - and this is about assessing them,'' Horachek said.

"They're going to play against some of the top prospects from the other teams. But until they make the transition to the next camp, the main camp, that's when you really tell. But it's good to see them playing. They played at a really good pace. It's good to see.''

-- Aleksander Barkov participated in drills and looked good out there. Barkov, who had shoulder surgery in the spring, will not play in the three rookie games against the Bruins, Lightning and Preds.

Word from Alain Poupart from NHL.com is that Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin WILL be participating in those games at the Iceplex.

-- Jacob Markstrom was on the ice with the Panthers and has retaken the No. 25 he made his NHL debut in.

Markstrom had been wearing No. 35 after Jerred Smithson took the other number.

Right now, rookie Michael Houser, 20, is officially Florida's third-string goalie.

Dov Grumet-Morris is here and will be in training camp -- but he has an AHL contract at the moment.

-- Shawn Matthias is now occupying the locker stall which once belonged to Stephen Weiss.

-- Florida's locker room is packed tight, with Eric Selleck taking up residence in the middle of the room. His stall is basically a fold up chair.

-- Kevin Dineen joined most of the Florida front office and scouting staff in watching Thursday's rookie workout.



Admission to tournament games are free.

All on-ice activities are held at the Saveology.com Iceplex at 3299 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs.

Admission to games requires a ticket -- which is free upon registration at floridapanthers.com/trainingcamp

Games will be held on the middle sheet of ice at the Iceplex. The stadium ice sheet is under construction.

Veteran practices are open and do not require a registration.


Informal veteran practice, 11 a.m.

Prospect tournament: Tampa Bay vs. Boston, 2 p.m.; Nashville vs. Florida, 6


Prospect tournament: Nashville vs. Tampa Bay, noon; Boston vs. Florida, 4


Prospect tournament: Boston vs. Nashville, noon; Tampa Bay vs. Florida, 4


Informal veteran practice: 8:45 a.m.


Informal veteran practice


No public activity; players report to training camp


Florida Panthers practice, 9 a.m.

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

NEWS, NOTES: Rookie Camp, Day 1

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

For those wondering what is the quickest way to get your Panthers fix during rookie camp, training camp and the rest of the season, well, it's probably a quick follow on Twitter.

It's just easier for me to tap out some quick news or musings on my phone than it is to file a post here.

Now, there will be plenty of posts here and they will, I hope, be more detailed and have more details than the tweets I send out.

But if you need to know and you need to know now, give me a follow @GeorgeRichards

Here's a sample of what was on my twitter feed today for the opening of the rookie camp.

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

FUN WITH TWITTER: It's Free and it's @GeorgeRichards

KRIS VERSTEEG: Working for Opening Night

For quick news, notes and photos updated throughout the day during training camp and the season, please follow me on TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Kris Versteeg was on the ice with the rest of the veteran throng in Coral Springs on Thursday as he works his way back from having major surgery on his right knee last year.

Versteeg told us last spring that he didn't expect to be ready until November; since he's been skating for the past month, it appears the timeline has been moved up a notch.

"It's a long process but my goal is to be ready for the start of the season,'' Versteeg said.

"I guess we'll see how training camp goes. I don't want to go into a regular season game without knowing what training camp is like. I think I'll be there for most of it. That's my goal.''

As for him saying November...

"That was about three weeks after surgery,'' Versteeg said. "I had no idea on timelines or what exactly the progression of the ligament is. That was an annoying time for me mentally because you put in so much work and don't see anything happening.

"Then around months four and five, you see it all coming together. The past three months have been very positive for me. That's why I think things have changed.''

That would be huge for the Panthers. Dale Tallon told us yesterday that everyone is ahead of schedule on the rehab scale. We'll see how things progress when physicals are taken next week.

Ed Jovanovski was out there today as well.

PHOTO/JOE RIMKUS JR., Miami Herald Staff

KRIS VERSTEEG: Working for Opening Night

September 04, 2013


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

As you can see by the photo below, the Panthers new scoreboard is taking shape.

The frame is complete and the LED wraps on the top and bottom of the scoreboard are being put in place.

Word is the scoreboard should be structurally complete come Sunday with ice being put down in the arena by next week.

The Panthers will hold their rookie camp and start of training camp in Coral Springs with the first scheduled event in the Sunrise arena not scheduled until Sept. 16.

So while there is still work to be done, there is still time for it to be done.

Welcome back Panther fans....


IT'S HOCKEY TIME: Panthers Rookies Hit Ice on Thursday ... Barkov, Huberdeau Not Participating in Tournament

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

For the first time in months, the hockey side of the BB&T Center was abuzz on Wednesday morning.

Fresh-faced youngsters mixed with a few of the older guys as the Florida Panthers got back to business. There were physicals to be taken, portraits to be shot.

On Thursday, the action moves to the ice.

Although recent high draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov aren't participating, the Panthers' prospect camp opens Thursday with the opportunity for some to take a big step toward making the opening night lineup.

Florida's prospects -- those who aren't playing college hockey -- will hold an open workout Thursday at 9 a.m. at the team facility in Coral Springs.

Teams consisting of prospects from Tampa Bay, Nashville and Boston will take on the Panthers in a tournament starting Friday and running through Sunday evening.

"This is our fourth year of drafts,'' general manager Dale Tallon said.

"We have a lot of players in college who aren't here so we're not getting a true feel for what we have as far as depth. But we're deeper than we have been in a long time. We've accumulated a lot of big players at all positions over the past four years. We keep adding pieces to the puzzle as we move forward.''

With the Panthers' roster trending younger this coming season, a handful of players participating in this weekend's camp have a real shot at making the team come October.

Of course, just playing well this weekend doesn't mean anything if the performance isn't there when training camp opens this time next week.

Center Nick Bjugstad, who played in 11 games with the Panthers last year after leaving the University of Minnesota, knows getting off to a good start will help his chances of sticking with the big club come October.

Other players hoping to make a good impression before training camp starts include Alex Petrovic, Quinton Howden and Vince Trocheck.

"These are an important couple of weeks,'' said Bjugstad, a 6-foot-6 center who could find himself playing for San Antonio of the AHL at some point this season.

"I have to prove myself, for sure. There's a lot of good talent in this organization. I think I've done a lot this summer to prove myself. Hopefully I'm ready. We'll see.''

Florida's top two young players won't be on the ice during the tournament so not to risk injury.

Barkov, the second overall pick from the June draft, has been cleared for contact after having shoulder surgery in the spring.

The Panthers don't want anything to happen to Barkov, however, as he will be counted on when the season starts.

Tampa Bay's Jonathan Drouin and Nashville's Seth Jones -- whom Florida passed over at the draft to take Barkov -- aren't expected to play in the tournament either. Barkov will likely see Drouin in Tampa during the preseason and Jones during Florida's visit to Music City in November.

"Yeah, of course I would like to play against them, but I had the shoulder surgery,'' said Barkov, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Monday by eating birthday cake and bar-b-que.

"I have to go slow. If I get an injury at the rookie camp, it's not a good thing. We have to go slow with this.''

Huberdeau had hip surgery soon after the 2013 season ended and won't participate either. Huberdeau won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie last year and will also be counted on to carry a significant offensive load.

"He'll be ready for training camp,'' Tallon said.


Admission to Thursday's practice as well as tournament games are free. All on-ice activities are held at the Saveology.com Iceplex at 3299 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs. Admission to games requires a ticket -- which is free upon registration at floridapanthers.com/trainingcamp

Thursday: Panthers rookie practice, 9 a.m.
Friday: Tampa Bay vs. Boston, 2 p.m.; Nashville vs. Florida, 6
Saturday: Nashville vs. Tampa Bay, noon; Boston vs. Florida, 4
Sunday: Boston vs. Nashville, noon; Tampa Bay vs. Florida, 4

IT'S HOCKEY TIME: Panthers Rookies Hit Ice on Thursday ... Barkov, Huberdeau Not Participating in Tournament