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2 posts from October 6, 2013

October 06, 2013

20 YEARS OF HOCKEY IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Mellanby Proud of Contribution to Panthers ... Sunday is Anniversary of Inaugural Game

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

ST. LOUIS -- Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Panthers' first game, one that ended with a 4-4 tie at Chicago Stadium against the Blackhawks.

Scott Mellanby, who scored the first goal in franchise history on Oct. 6, 1993, watched Saturday's game from the press box as did former Panthers coach Duane Sutter.

Others with ties to that first game who were in St. Louis include television analyst Billy Lindsay and assistant coach Craig Ramsay.

The Panthers will honor some of their top players with commemorative bobble heads.

Mellanby, Florida's captain from 1997-2001, will be among them. Mellanby killed the rat in the Miami Arena locker room that started the rubber rat craze in Florida's run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.

"It's nice to be honored but it sure makes you feel old. I can't believe it has been 20 years,'' Mellanby, now the director of player personnel with the Montreal Canadiens, said last month. "This was a big part of my career, a big part of my life. I got married just before I came here, I had children born here.

"I would like to see the team be back in the playoffs on a regular basis. We were proud of what we did here. I'll always have a soft spot for the Panthers. I think I was a big part of the franchise at one time.''

As far as the Rat Trick goes:

"It's funny. I still have people come up to me and ask about it,'' Mellanby said. "As soon as someone goes 'are you the guy who...' I know what they're going to ask. I had a charity event at my house in St. Louis and I have the display from the Miami Arena wall in my house. People who came for the dinner saw it my basement and heard the story and got a kick out of it.

"It's still a source of great stories and is interesting to people. It's neat to see people still embracing the rats. It's a part of our past that people still enjoy. It's fun.''


SULLEN IN ST. LOUIS: Panthers Try to Forget Saturday, Not Repeat Last Season ... Clemmensen Returns with Rampage

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

ST. LOUIS -- The Panthers took a field trip to the Rams-Jaguars game on Sunday afternoon. At first glance it would appear to be a punishment for Saturday's lopsided loss.

No, coach Kevin Dineen planned the outing soon after the schedule came out -- long before Saturday's 7-0 loss to the Blues and before he probably realized how bad Jacksonville would be.

"They're a Florida team so we're going to cheer for them,'' Dineen said on Saturday morning. "It didn't set up well for us to see the Cardinals on Friday because of [practice].''

Sunday's off day in St. Louis was planned as a way for the Panthers to hang out with each other in more of a social setting, a team-building effort for a group which opens its season with four games away from home.

Dineen said the team could have flown home after Saturday's game and then traveled to Philadelphia on Monday but he decided to keep the road trip on the road.

"I felt going to a football game would be a nice way to just spend some time together,'' Dineen said. "We talked about spending some time away before the season started, but with nine days to start the season, we thought we should find something on the road trip.''

For Dineen and his Panthers, Sunday also served as a day to kind of forget about Saturday's ugliness.

The Panthers probably won't be able to put the loss to the Blues behind them so quickly -- and may look back at last year as a warning not to let things get away so early in the season. Florida was feeling good about itself after winning its opener, as it did last season.

Like last year, that opening night win was followed up by a road rout. What the Panthers do now is up to them. Last year's team lost five straight after beating Carolina in the opener. Florida tries to end its losing ways Tuesday against the host Flyers. The team will practice Monday afternoon in Philadelphia.

"We can't let this happen again,'' Jonathan Huberdeau said. "We have to recharge our batteries. We're only two games in so we can forget this and be ready when the puck drops on the next one.''

Dineen also said he wouldn't dispose of the video from Saturday's loss, one in which the Panthers went 0-for-7 on the power play and were outshot (34-19) and throughly outplayed.

"We all have to take ownership in this one,'' Dineen said. "It was a butt kicking.We have to move on, get ready for the next one. We have a lot of games left on this trip. We have to be better. I'm not fooling myself or these guys. They are smart guys. They know what the difference in the game was.''

For some players, Sunday's trip to the Edward Jones Dome was their first live NFL experience. Huberdeau and others took in their first game last month at the Dolphins' season opener.

"I know the rules because I've played football on video games,'' said rookie Aleksander Barkov, who grew up in Finland before moving to Florida. "It's a little different than European football. We don't see this kind of football much. I think it will be fun.''

-- Scott Clemmensen played in his first game since last April Saturday as he made 24 saves in leading San Antonio of the AHL to a 3-1 victory over the Rockford, Ill, Icehogs.

Clemmensen had knee surgery last month and is technically in San Antonio on a rehab assignment. Since he passed through waivers without being claimed, the Panthers could keep him there longer is they so wished.

"I'm here to play some games and get my game in order,'' Clemmensen told the San Antonio Express-News.

"For me this is my training camp. My goal is to prepare myself and get my body healthy. After that, who knows?"