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2 posts from October 3, 2013

October 03, 2013

PANTHERS WIN THRILLER IN DALLAS: Thomas Strong as Cats Top Stars 4-2

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

DALLAS -- Tim Thomas said his custom painted mask won't be ready for another few weeks so he has been playing in a plain white model it looks like he just purchased from the local pro shop.

Hey, whatever works.


If Thomas continues to get the results like he did Thursday night, the Panthers wouldn't care if he wore a Halloween mask in games.

Thomas did everything his new team hoped he would Thursday in making 25 saves to lead Florida to a 4-2 opening night win over the Stars at AmericanAirlines Center.

"I said after the first, 'how good is Thomas?'," Florida's Scottie Upshall said afterward. "He makes the saves, catches the puck. He's the backbone of this team.''

Florida, which has won its past three season openers under coach Kevin Dineen, looks for its second win in 2013-14 on Saturday when their four-game road trip continues in St. Louis. The trip continues with stops in Philadelphia and Tampa before the home opener Oct. 11 against Pittsburgh.

The Panthers trailed 2-1 midway through the third period when Aleksander Barkov got his first NHL goal when he continued to play a puck through traffic at the foot of the goal. Barkov was able to seize control of the puck, spin and slip it through a large crowd of players from both teams.

Barkov, the second overall pick of a draft held four months ago, was credited with his initial NHL goal on his third NHL shot.

"That was a huge goal for us,'' Thomas said. "The character these guys are showing is awesome. This was a very important game for us to win. Guys made the sacrifices.''

Florida took its second and final lead of the night when Marcel Goc fired a sweet feed from linemate Tomas Fleischmann past Kari Lehtonen with 4:55 left. Goc's goal came on the Panthers' 37th shot of the night and came not long after Erik Gudbranson blocked a point-blank shot by going down to the ice.

"My ribs hurt when I saw that shot,'' Dineen said. "That's a sign of what we're trying to establish here: You are playing for the team. There's no better example than that one.''

Goc got his second goal of the night with 1:19 left in the game when he picked off a loose puck and fired it into an empty net.

A five-time All-Star and two-time winner of the league's top goalie award, Thomas was sharp and kept Florida in Thursday's game. Both of Dallas' goals came when Thomas was down on the ice and out of position to make a stop.

Dallas broke a 1-1 tie with 12:28 left in the third off a shorthanded rush. Thomas stopped the initial shot from Antoine Roussel but the rebound was knocked into the net by Brenden Dillon off Dallas' 25th shot of the night.

Thomas kept the Panthers going after a slow start in which Dallas was skating circles around its opposition following a rousing opening ceremony.

Florida didn't get its first shot of the night off until Shawn Matthias had a great scoring chance stopped by Kari Lehtonen almost eight minutes into the game.

"I try to stop every puck,''Thomas said. "I don't look at it as keeping my team in it. My job is to stop them all.''

The Panthers showed signs of life a few minutes later when defenseman Mike Weaver jumped Roussel for messing with Thomas.

During Weaver's fight, Dmitry Kulikov and Ryan Garbutt slugged it out. By starting a second fight, both players were thrown out meaning the Panthers played one defenseman down.

Scott Gomez, who signed with the Panthers after a short stint in San Jose, scored Florida's first goal of the season when he popped a loose puck off a Scottie Upshall shot over Lehtonen's head and into the net with 2:19 left in the first.

Thomas, who led Boston to the Stanley Cup championship in 2011, continued to look sharp and kept the Stars off the board until he got wrapped up with new teammate Tom Gilbert.

Thomas was playing the right post before he and Gilbert collided. Thomas unsuccessfully dove at Alex Chaisson's shot which went into a vacated net 7:25 into the second.


SCOTT CLEMMENSEN TO SAN ANTONIO: Length of Stay in Minors Not Known for Panthers Goalie

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

DALLAS -- Scott Clemmensen skated onto the ice with his teammates for Thursday's morning skate but watched most of the workout from the bench.

When Clemmensen rejoins his team is not known.

Clemmensen is currently on the injured list after having minor knee surgery last week. Clemmensen cleared waivers at 11 a.m. local time and coach Kevin Dineen said Clemmensen would stay behind in Texas to get a rehabilitation stint with Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Dineen said the plan is for Clemmensen to get not only a few starts with the Rampage but also full practice time, something he hasn't been able to do with two other goalies with the Panthers.

Clemmensen, who began practicing with the Panthers this week, should get his first start since last April on Saturday when the Rampage play host to the Rockford, Ill., Icehogs.

"He's going to get a game this weekend and one next weekend as well,'' Dineen said. "He's also going to get five days of practice and have the net to himself.

"Getting into games is really important for his rehabilitation. He's been fully cleared to play. That's where he's going to start and we'll revaluate the situation. For the short term, he passed through waivers and he's going to get to play some hockey in San Antonio.''

Whether Clemmensen stays in San Antonio after his allotted rehab time will be determined later.

After signing Tim Thomas last week, the Panthers helped their depth at the position but also created a glut with either Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom needing to go to San Antonio.

Markstrom, 23, is considered Florida's goalie-in-waiting and one of the reason general manager Dale Tallon said he brought Thomas in was to help mentor Markstrom. Markstrom took over the starting role in Florida last season when Jose Theodore was injured in March.

If Clemmensen is sent to the minors, Florida will continue to pay his NHL salary of $1.3 million. Clemmensen hasn't played in the minors since 2009.

"To me this is a good thing,'' Dineen said of Clemmensen going to San Antonio. "It's no fun for Scott to have to go down, but at the end of it, we have stability in goal. You can't have enough of that.

"As of next Monday, our management staff will sit down and talk about what's best for our team. We expect our goaltending to be a strength this year. But this is all talk. Let's play and let things sort themselves out.''


Travis Viola, the youngest of owner Vinnie Viola's three sons, officially joined the team's front office Thursday as Vice President of Hockey Operations and Special Projects.

The 25-year-old Viola, whom his dad credited with getting him involved in buying an NHL team, is a graduate of Fordham University and lives in South Florida.