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2 posts from October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013

PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: Dineen Not Blaming Schedule for Slow Start ... Crabb Sent to AHL

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE -- The schedule makers may not have been kind to the Panthers, not with sending the team on a four game road trip to start the year nor hold their belated home opener on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

Coach Kevin Dineen is dealing with the schedule the Panthers have been dealt, knowing that his team will "have time to breathe" soon enough. Just not right now.

Florida's home opener Friday marked the team's third game in four nights. Dineen will give his team Saturday off with the Los Angeles Kings here Sunday afternoon.

Although this four game road trip was the longest to kick off a Panthers season, it isn't the longest of the season. Florida will play a five-game road trip next month.

"You see the schedule in July so you know what's coming,'' Dineen said. "You look for the tough stretches and we understood this would be one of them. It's part of it, that's sports. You're in buildings where they have their openers and you get one eventually.''

On the flip side of that, the Panthers will be home for two weeks after returning from Nashville. Florida's six-game homestand, which runs from Thursday until Nov. 1 is longest of the season.

The Panthers also have three five-game homestands this season -- including to end the regular season. So, things will work out.

"We jumped right into the thick of it,'' Dineen said. "There's a lot of action in a short time but that's fun. Sleep in the summer.''


The Panthers sent forward Joey Crabb to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Friday, just a day after he played in his first game of the season.

Crabb, 30, has a one-way contract with the Panthers meaning he will be paid his NHL salary ($600,000) while in the minors. Crabb was waived at the end of training camp but wasn't claimed. Crabb is signed through next season.

"He didn't have a good camp, but [the demotion] wasn't based on just one thing,'' Dineen said. "The message I send him is that this isn't a closed door. He needs to go down and get his game in order so he can help this organization.''

-- Dineen said that Nick Bjugstad, out since suffering a concussion Sept. 8 in a prospects game, continues to skate. Bjugstad would need to participate in a few full practices before he could be cleared to play.

The Panthers' next full workout will come Monday morning in Coral Springs.


PANTHERS TAKE OPENER: Florida Drops Penguins 6-3 thanks to Huberdeau, Barkov & Co.

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE -- Jonathan Huberdeau wasn't even crawling when the Panthers played their first home game back in 1993. Aleksander Barkov, well, who knows where he was back then. The Panthers' newest hotshot wasn't born until 1995.

The Panthers are glad those two were around Friday for the team's 20th home opener. It wouldn't have been much of a party without them.

Florida's two youngest guns scored within 66 seconds of each other in the second to help the Panthers snap a three game losing streak with a 6-3 win at BB&T Center. The Penguins had been 3-0.

"That was a great team we played against,'' said the 18-year-old Barkov, whose second goal of the season gave the Panthers a two goal lead. "It was kind of funny to see all the things from 1993."

Said Huberdeau: "I'm following the team. We're both 20 and it's real nice. I think you see the potential within this organization.''

The Panthers, which celebrated highlights of the previous 19 years on their new $4.2 million scoreboard throughout the game, looked like a team that forgot all about Thursday's nightmare in Tampa.

In fact, the Panthers looked like a completely different team. Instead of the squad which was dominated in a 7-2 loss to their cross-state rival Lightning, the Panthers came out flying and took the initial lead for just the second time this season.

The Panthers led the mighty Penguins -- which now employs former Florida coach/GM Jacques Martin as an assistant coach -- for much of the night.

"We've been riding a roller coaster and that's a bad way to be in an 82-game season,'' Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "We fessed up to some of the deficiencies we've had knowing we has a bullish team coming in. That's an impressive team and it was an entertaining game.

"It was a nice way to start the season for our fanbase, to see a game with that kind of tempo. We're happy with the result.''

Florida took a 1-0 lead less than two minutes in when Brad Boyes scored his third goal of the season after Tomas Fleischmann picked off the puck as the Pens were trying to skate out of their own end.

The Penguins tied it off Evgeni Malkin's goal a few minutes later before the two teams again traded goals; Florida got one from Kris Versteeg at 9:10 of the first and the Pens answered with Craig Adams at 16:49.

The second period was a fun one for the Panthers as they took advantage of a rare (for them, at least this year) 5-on-3 power play chance as Paul Martin and Joe Vitale took penalties not long apart.

Florida scored its first on the power play when Huberdeau knocked a loose puck past goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Just over a minute later, Barkov fired a shot toward the net and the puck hit Martin's leg and found its way into the net.

The Panthers had been 1-for-18 on the power play coming into Friday's game, a big reason they had lost three of their first four.

"I've never scored a goal from behind the net in my life,'' Barkov said. "It was a lucky goal.''

Pittsburgh saved starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for Saturday's game in Tampa. Zatkoff, a rookie making his NHL debut, gave up six goals on 30 shots -- including third period scores to Tomas Fleischmann and Boyes.

Zatkoff is backing up Fleury as former Panthers' goalie and current South Florida resident Tomas Vokoun recovers from blood clots.

Markstrom, making his second straight start since Tim Thomas tweaked his groin, made 36 saves.

"You have to play at a high level to win in this league,'' Markstrom said. "It's always nice to have a couple goal lead. It calms me down a little bit.''