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PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Final Preseason Game Looms as Roster Is Finalized

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Preseason games are nothing but meaningless exhibitions, right?

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen seems to think otherwise.

When asked what he was looking to get out of Saturday's preseason finale against the visiting Lightning at BB&T Center, Dineen's focus was clear.

"I'm looking for a win,'' said Dineen, whose team has dropped its past four preseason games -- including two straight in overtime to the Lightning.

"I've liked some snapshots in every single game but I was really disappointed in that game [Thursday]. We played well, had some good moments. But there are differences between just going out there and working toward the regular season and finding that winning mentality. That's something we're going to demand. That was a winnable game and we didn't do it. We want to finish strong.''

As in the NFL, the final preseason game is one last shot for a number of players on the bubble to show they belong on the opening day roster. Unlike in football, a good number of starters will play the entirety of Saturday's game.

As far as roster battles go, a few spots have already been lost. On Friday, the Panthers sent forward Quinton Howden to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio and placed forward Bobby Butler on waivers. If Butler passes through, as expected, he will be assigned to San Antonio as well.

With the moves, Florida now has 27 players on its roster with at least four moves to be made by next week. The Panthers are expected to place defenseman Ed Jovanovski, goalie Scott Clemmensen, center Nick Bjugstad and winger Sean Bergenheim on the injured list -- meaning theoretically Florida's 23-man roster is set.

Only there will be plenty of players coming across the waiver wire in the coming days and the Panthers may do a little shopping over the weekend.

"We're going to take a look and see what's available,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "We're going to pursue whatever is out there that will make us a better team. I'm looking everywhere. We want to get better.''

-- Goalie Tim Thomas said he felt good after playing 30-plus minutes on Thursday night in Estero. Thomas gave up one goal on 10 shots against the Lightning. It was Thomas' first game action since a Boston playoff loss to Washington on April 25, 2012.

Thomas is expected to play Saturday as well.

-- Forward Brad Boyes, Thomas' one-time teammate in Boston, said he hopes to have a deal with the team done in the coming days. Tallon said something would likely be completed by the weekend.

Boyes, who has 407 points in 606 NHL games, is in camp on a try out.


When, where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

Radio: WQAM-560

The game: The Panthers and Lightning meet for the third time in a week with Tampa Bay winning the first two in overtime. Florida is 2-1-3 in the preseason; the Lightning has won five of six.