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4 posts from November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013

PANTHERS FIGHT BACK, LOSE AGAIN: Wild Get Goal with 8:22 Remaining, Beat Panthers 3-2

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Panthers fell behind by two first period goals on Friday, putting themselves in a familiar position.

Despite fighting back in the third, Florida found itself with a familiar fate: Another loss.

Minnesota's Charlie Coyle scored with 8:22 left to give Minnesota its lead back and a 3-2 win at Xcel Energy Center. The win was Minnesota's ninth in 12 games at Xcel and its third straight overall.

The Panthers have lost 10 of the past 11 games.

"It seems like it's the same picture over and over,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "We fight our way back into the game. .-.-. We're trying to get it out of our system.''

The Panthers trailed 2-0 going into the third but got goals from Tomas Kopecky -- his first of the season -- and Jonathan Huberdeau to tie things up.

Both players had been in a prolonged slump. Kopecky hadn't scored a game all season; Huberdeau shut out in his past 12.

"We're both happy to score, it's been a while,'' Huberdeau said. "We need to stop giving up the early lead. Everyone can see that we can play against the best teams. We need to play a full 60 minutes.''

Tim Thomas, making his fourth consecutive start, gave up two goals on eight shots in the opening period before the Panthers got on the board 3:31 into the third.

-- Center Nick Bjugstad had dozens of friends and family members attend his first pro game near his hometown.

Bjugstad was Minnesota's Mr. Hockey as a prep star in 2010 and spent three years at the University of Minnesota before leaving to sign with the Panthers. He got a loud ovation when announced for his assist on Hubderdau's goal.

After showering and getting dressed, Bjugstad waded back into the stands to greet his cheering section as seen in the above picture.

 

MASKED MAN: Tim Thomas' New Bucket


 

 

VERSTEEG SPEAKS: Happy to Be Back in Chicago

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MINNEAPOLIS: Kris Versteeg spoke after practicing with the Blackhawks today. These quotes are courtesy of our pal Tracey Myers from Comcast Sports Chicago.

You can, and I would say should, follow Tracey on Twitter @tramyersCSN

ON EXPECTING THE TRADE: Shocked. I didn't really know what was going to happen. Florida, we were struggling a little bit and you heard that there might be something going on. But obviously when Dale called me last night and told me I was coming back here, obviously put a smile on my face. And I'm very excited about coming back here.
WATCHING HAWKS WIN AGAIN IN 2013: It was tough. You're watching an old team win the Stanley Cup. Obviously, I'd be lying to say I wasn't jealous. It's something I was a part of in 2010 and it was a very special experience for myself, and to see them go through that again, you know you're very excited for your friends that were on the team and the organization that you did it with in 2010, but obviously you're a little jealous because you'd like to be there, too, and helping. But you're with your team. And whatever team you're with, you've got to help to the best of your abilities. But now, it'd be very nice to do it again here. I'm just excited about the opportunities going forward and trying to fit into this team.
ON FINDING OUT ABOUT THE TRADE: I was just having dinner with a friend in Minnesota and I kept missing the call. It was about 45 minutes later I finally called Dale back. You know, when you see two missed calls and a couple of voicemails, you figure something's up, so right away he told me he traded me and obviously it was to here. It's still a lot to process. I've had so much good times here and you almost put that all in the rear view mirror because you never thought you'd come back. Now I'm back here and it's now about getting back to playing hockey and trying to put my best foot forward every night to try to help the team in whatever way I can.

 

VERSTEEG IS GONE: Panthers Move On Without Winger, Play Wild Friday Night

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MINNEAPOLIS -- Florida GM Dale Tallon spoke on a conference call Friday morning addressing the big deal he made with Chicago late Thursday night.

In case you all missed it: Florida sent Kris Versteeg back to Chicago for youngsters Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.

Hayes will wear No. 12 and is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Wild. Olsen will start with AHL San Antonio. Hayes, who arrived in Minneapolis before Friday's morning skate from Grand Rapids, Mich., was on a line with Shawn Matthias and Sean Bergenheim/Krys Barch.

"We know there are going to be moves as the team moves forward in getting better in a lot of areas,'' coach Peter Horachek said after the skate. "When the team isn't performing well, changes will be made. We needed a change. We're ready to move forward in what is best for our team.''

Versteeg, who had a limited no-trade in his contract, left Minneapolis early Friday morning and was on a third line in his return practice with the Blackhakws.

"I'm not happy with the situation our team is in as far as wins and losses,'' Tallon opened. "The effort has been better lately. We're going to continue to be aggressive and make changes that are important for our franchise moving forward keeping our focus on the future.

"We're excited about where we're headed, the foundation being built. We added two young pieces to an already deep foundation of players and prospects. This is a step in the right direction for the Florida Panthers.''

To make the deal, Florida will eat half of Versteeg's contract over the course of the next two-plus seasons. Versteeg's cap hit is $4.4 million and will be split by the two teams.

With so many teams close to the salary cap ceiling, the only way Florida could move Versteeg was to take on some of his money. The Panthers are no where near the cap ceiling.

"In this day and age it's tough - especially midway through or early in a season - to make moves,'' Tallon said. "You have to be aggressive, have to be creative. Now with the new CBA we can take money back. That will help future moves.''

The Panthers signed Versteeg to a four-year deal before the 2012 lockout. Versteeg was limited to 10 games last year because of two injuries -- most notably a major knee injury suffered against the Lightning.

Versteeg had two goals so far this season and was seeing his playing time diminish both under Kevin Dineen and Horachek.

"His play was inconsistent,'' Tallon said. "I think he was trying to do too much, trying to carry the burden of the big contract. He tried to do too much and wasn't consistent enough. This was based on performance only.''

Said Horachek: "It's more than just scoring goals. His play wasn't consistent. He wasn't at the top of his game and hadn't played well all year I don't think. We know what he's done in the past, he's been a good, talented player. The team has to make what it thinks are the best choices.''

Versteeg, meanwhile, is absolutely thrilled to be back in Chicago playing in a city and for a team he loved. Versteeg didn't want to leave the Blackhawks after they won the Stanley Cup in 2010 but was a salary cap victim.

Of course, with Florida picking up half of his salary for this and the following two seasons, he's a little more affordable.

Versteeg went on WGN radio in Chicago this morning and not only said he hoped former Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell would eventually follow him to the Second City, but that other teammates sounded a little jealous in their text messages to him.

Campbell said he never mentioned to Versteeg that he wanted to be in Chicago.

"I'm right where I want to be,'' Campbell said.

As far as waking up went, Versteeg thought the trade might have been a dream. He told reporters in Chicago that he was having dinner in Minneapolis and didn't answer his phone when Tallon initially called. He knew something was up when he checked the phone and saw Tallon called a few times -- and had left a couple of voice mails.

"I didn't really know what was going to happen,'' Versteeg said. "Florida, we were struggling a little bit and you heard that there might be something going on. But obviously when Dale called me last night and told me I was coming back here, obviously put a smile on my face. And I'm very excited about coming back here. .-.-.

"It's still a lot to process. I've had so much good times here and you almost put that all in the rear view mirror because you never thought you'd come back. Now I'm back here and it's now about getting back to playing hockey and trying to put my best foot forward every night to try to help the team in whatever way I can.''

Hayes, 23, has played in 43 career NHL games with Chicago, scoring six goals with seven assists. Olsen, 22 has played in 28 career games with Chicago. He has one assist.

"We added two big kids,'' Tallon said. "We want to big, we want to be strong. We want to be tougher. Those are the things we need to improve on. We added size and diversity to our lineup.''

PHOTO COURTESY OF KELSEY HINDS