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42 posts from November 2013

November 15, 2013

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

 

November 14, 2013

VERSTEEG TRADED: Winger Back to Champion Blackhawks

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

MINNEAPOLIS - Dale Tallon said after firing coach Kevin Dineen that more changes were coming.

A big move came late Thursday night.

Tallon sent Kris Versteeg - who scored 23 goals for Florida two seasons ago - back to Chicago in exchange for winger Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.

Versteeg won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010.

Stan Bowman, who replaced Tallon as GM of the Blackhawks, said Florida will pay half of Versteeg's salary which runs through 2016. Versteeg has an annual caphit of $4.4 million which will now be split between Chicago and the Panthers.

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.

“We are pleased to welcome both Jimmy and Dylan to the Panthers,” Tallon said in a statement. “Jimmy is a young, strong, hardworking, versatile forward who brings both size and skill to our team.

"Dylan, a former first round draft pick, is a young, solid defenseman who adds further depth to our blue line. We thank Kris for his contributions to the Panthers, including helping us win the 2011-2012 Southeast Division Championship, and wish him the best of luck in his return to Chicago.”

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.

Versteeg was a healthy scratch by Dineen earlier this season and Versteeg wasn't happy -- saying he should have had more opportunity to play on the power play and penalty kill.

Tallon plans to speak on a conference call Friday at 11 a.m. EST.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KELSEY HINDS

 

November 12, 2013

JUST DUCKY: Panthers Losing Streak Ends at 9, Cats Beat Anaheim 3-2

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Peter Horachek will cherish his first victory as head coach in the NHL -- although probably not as much as the Panthers do.

The Panthers ended their nine-game losing streak with a improbable 3-2 victory over Anaheim at BB&T Center on Tuesday.

The Ducks, despite the loss, still have the best record in the league as they have as many regulation losses (four) as the Panthers have wins (four).

"I wasn't sure it was ever going to end,'' said Shawn Matthias, who started things off with a second period goal.

"It feels good for everyone, we got the coach his first win. That's a good team. We're all happy and ready to move onto the next one.''

The Panthers needed a win Tuesday in the worst way what with another loss putting them in close proximity of the worst losing streak (13 games) in franchise history.

Florida, which hadn't won since beating the Wild 2-1 in a shootout Oct. 19, embarks on a five-game road trip that starts against that same Minnesota team on Friday.

"This is not about me. This is about the team,'' said Horachek, 1-2 since replacing the fired Kevin Dineen last week.

"The team has to learn how to win, to learn what it feels to be winners. They feel pretty good right now. They worked hard and got back in it. They needed to win a game. It had been nine of them. Winning is about the team, not individuals.''

With the way Tuesday started, it looked like Loss No. 10 was inevitable. Anaheim, which had won five straight, took a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds in when Andrew Cogliano froze Tim Thomas with a nice move on the doorstep and scored.

The Ducks then made it 2-0 with just over five minutes left as the Panthers heard about their lack of spark from their new coaching staff at the break.

"We have a lot of work to do,'' Horachek said, "but I'm real proud of the way they responded against a team like that. There was a lot of heart, a lot of effort.''

The Panthers had life when Matthias whipped a backhanded shot past goalie Frederik Andersen late in the second. Scottie Upshall followed suit a minute later to tie the score.

Florida took its first and only lead of the night 4:29 into the third when Brad Boyes followed up a shot from Upshall and knocked it through. The Panthers successfully killed off a late hooking penalty from Upshall as Thomas was strong with 32 saves.

"We're playing better as a group and [Tuesday] was an example of having Tim Thomas in net,'' said Upshall, who has three goals in the past two weeks.

"He's a competitor. He lets in a goal and he gets ticked. He's not letting in any more. He led the way. If we can follow on that, we're going to get chances, score and be in games.''

Thomas said he got into a groove as the night went on and wasn't going to let his teammates down.

"I had a good feeling we were going to win that one,'' Thomas said.

MOTTAU ARRIVES

Veteran defenseman Mike Mottau played in his first NHL game since the end of the 2011-12 season on Tuesday after being recalled from Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Mottau played in place of Matt Gilroy on Tuesday. Ryan Whitney cleared waivers over the weekend and was sent to San Antonio after Sunday's game in New York.

 

November 10, 2013

RANGER DANGER: Panthers Give Solid Effort, Mistakes Costly in 4-3 Loss to Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Panthers haven't played too many complete games as they did Sunday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Yet all it took was a few mistakes early in the third for the Rangers to take a 4-3 win and extend Florida's losing streak to nine.

The Panthers, 0-5-4 since Oct. 19, got a Brian Campbell goal with seven minutes left and made a real run at the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist but it just wasn't enough.

"You're not going to win games when you turn the puck over,'' said coach Peter Horachek, who is 0-2 since taking over for the fired Kevin Dineen on Friday.

"We're not going to get any better until we decide we're not going to manage the puck that way. Those were unforced errors. You can't win games that way. It's unacceptable.''

Dmitry Kulikov was at the center of New York's third period goals.

Kulikov's weak pass toward Erik Gudbranson deep in the Florida zone was picked off by Carl Hagelin and flipped to Brad Richards. Richards teed off on a wristshot that beat Tim Thomas (25 saves) for a 3-2 lead 46 seconds into the third.

Later in the period, Kulikov was called for holding Ryan Callahan with teammate Kris Versteeg already in the box. Florida was down two skaters and the Rangers cashed in with Mats Zuccarello scoring from the right circle.

Thomas spun and went into the baseball swing, smashing his stick up against the cage. Thomas said his frustration didn't have to do with his fairly new teammates but with himself.

Thomas also took out his frustrations by punching New York's J.T. Miller in the face when Miller encroached on Thomas' personal space early in the third. Both Thomas and Miller got penalized for that interaction.

"I was frustrated because I wanted to help us win, turn that corner,'' said Thomas, making his second start in as many days after missing a few weeks with a lower body injury.

"No matter what came my way, I wanted to be the difference in breaking out of this.''

Florida snapped New York's run of giving up two goals or fewer at nine games after Campbell scored his second of the night (and season) when he hustled to chase down a loose puck in the slot and beat Henrik Lundqvist.

Campbell gave Florida its first lead at 2-1 in the second when his long shot from inside the blue line found its way.

"We're giving them the games,'' Campbell said. "We're giving them goals by turning over the puck. Until we all get on the same page and eliminate that, we're not going to have much success.''

Florida trailed 1-0 after Miller scored off a deft passing display at 9:49 of the first with Florida tying it in the final seconds of the period. Rookie Aleksander Barkov, 18, followed up a hard shot from Kris Versteeg to get his fourth of the year.

The Rangers then scored the next three goals to take a lead they would never relinquish. Florida battled hard in the final minutes after Scottie Upshall was knocked backward into the Florida bench on a cheap hit from Chris Kreider.

Florida pulled Thomas and had a 6-on-4 advantage deep in the New York zone yet couldn't find the equalizer.

"We felt we had the momentum, felt we had a chance to tie it up,'' Horachek said. "Teams get on their heels, the puck is bouncing on the bad ice. We wanted to get as much traffic up there as we could.''

MARKSTROM DEMOTED

The Panthers solved their goalie glut by sending Jacob Markstrom to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Markstrom has played 55 games over the past two seasons with the Rampage but none since being recalled last March.

"He has to play and he'll go down there and do that,'' GM Dale Tallon said. "He needs to get some confidence.''

-- Center Scott Gomez has missed three of the past four games after suffering a groin injury.

 

November 08, 2013

CHANGE IN FLORIDA: Kevin Dineen Out, Peter Horachek

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The Panthers decided to fire coach Kevin Dineen late Thursday night and made the move official early Friday morning.

Dineen was told of his fate in a morning meeting with general manager Dale Tallon at the team hotel in Ottawa. Assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay were also fired.

"He was unhappy and I don't blame him,'' Tallon said of his meeting with Dineen.

"He's a fiery guy and a fiery competitor and an emotional coach and I don't blame him for being upset. I didn't expect anything less from him. He's a class guy, hard working guy.

"It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make.

Tallon informed new coach Peter Horachek of his promotion not long after Florida's 4-1 loss at Boston on Thursday night. Horachek, who spent a decade as an assistant at Nashville, had been coaching Florida's minor league team in San Antonio.

The Panthers have lost seven straight, longest since the final weeks of Pete DeBoer's time behind the bench at the end of the 2010-11 season.

DeBoer was fired the day after that season ended and Dineen was hired a few months later.

Horachek, the 20th coach in the franchise's 20th anniversary season, will work on an interim basis. If things go well, he could get the gig full-time.

Original Florida captain Brian Skrudland -- who had been serving as the team's director of player development -- and former Panthers center John Madden (2011-12) replace Murphy and Ramsay.

Madden was in his first year as a pro scout for the Panthers and was in Nashville with the team a few weeks back to work with the centers.

Horachek is expected to lead Florida's practice in Ottawa Friday afternoon and will make his NHL head coaching debut Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Panthers -- winless in their past seven -- take on the host Senators.

Goalie coach Robb Tallas, video coach Jason Cipolla and strength and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite will remain on the staff.

"Kevin, Gord and Craig worked very hard. But for some reason the message was not getting through,'' Tallon said.

"I thank them for their hard work and professionalism. They displayed that on a daily basis. We're all responsible for this record. This marks the first change to start turning this franchise around and become a winning organization.

Dineen, who celebrated his 50th birthday just last week, went 56-63-38 in his two-plus seasons with the Panthers. In his first year, Dineen led Florida to its first Southeast Division title in franchise history and first playoff berth in 12 years.

Florida's second season under Dineen was marred by lockout-shortened and injury-riddled campaign. Florida finished last in the entire league for the first time ever.

This year got off to a rousing start with wins in the season-opener Oct. 3 at Dallas and in the home opener Oct. 11 against Pittsburgh. But Florida has only won one other time -- and that shootout win over Minnesota on Oct. 19 will go down as Dineen's final victory as head coach of the Panthers.

"You hate to see these guys go,'' alternate captain Brian Campbell said Friday afternoon.

In one of his final statements as coach of the Panthers following Thursday's loss in Boston, Dineen said "tomorrow will be a big decision-making day for us."

Dineen was talking specifically about the potential return of goalie Tim Thomas. Apparently the decision to fire him had already been made.

"This is the first of many changes that we're making,'' Tallon said. "There's he old saying: It's easier to fire the coach than 23 players. We're on the phone constantly and we'll make changes as we go.

"Right now I'm dissatisfied with the effort from most of the guys. We need to be better.''

 

DALE TALLON SPEAKS OUT: Firing Kevin Dineen Was Tough but Needed

For more news as it breaks, follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeRichards

DALE TALLON

"After 16 games it was clear we needed a change in our message and philosophy. This was a joint decision not made easily between ownership and hockey ops. It's my responsibility to get our team to play to its maximum potential.

"Vinnie Viola demands excellence at every level within the organization. He's committed to winning and putting a winning product on the ice for our fans.

"Our better players need to start playing better or we'll get better players.

"Kevin, Gord and Craig worked very hard. But for some reason the message was not getting through. I thank them for their hard work and professionalism. They displayed that on a daily basis.

"We're all responsible for this record. This marks the first change to start turning this franchise around and become a winning organization.

-- When was decision made?

"I've been stewing on it for a long time. It's never easy. We don't make rash decisions; make decisions for the future of our franchise based where we're at currently. With many discussions with our ownership group and our hockey ops, we came to the decision and decided this was the best course of action.

"[Thursday] was one straw of many. We're 3-9-4 and that's unacceptable.

-- When did you tell Kevin & Co.

"This morning. First thing this morning.

"He was unhappy and I don't blame him. He's a fiery guy and a fiery competitor and an emotional coach and I don't blame him for being upset. I didn't expect anything less from him. He's a class guy, hard working guy.

"It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make.

-- Will Kevin be retained to work with the team in a different role?

"This was an emotional morning but he'll have the time to sit back and see. He's been offered the opportunity to stay with our organization.

-- This isn't just coaching

"This is the first of many changes that we're making. It's the old saying: It's easier to fire the coach than 23 players. We're on the phone constantly and we'll make changes as we go. We want people who want to be with the Panthers. If they don't want to be, we'll accommodate them.

"Right now I'm dissatisfied with the effort from most of the guys. We need to be better.

-- Have you tried to make trades?

"I've tried extremely hard every day. There have been numerous phone calls with numerous teams. Hopefully something will hit in the near future.

-- About the new coaches

"Peter Horachek was hired to coach our affiliate in San Antonio after a successful run with Nashville. Peter has had success at every level he's coached at. He's going to come in and hopefully turn this thing around. Peter is free to hire another assistant if he wants.

"This is just the beginning of the changes that we need to make. If the players don't respond to this, well, they won't be Panthers for very long.

-- Peter's term

"He's an interim coach. Obviously if he does well, he'll stay. We'll evaluate after the season. We need to get back into the hunt here. I'm not giving up by any means here. We need to do anything we can to get back in the playoff hunt without jeopardizing our future.

-- Was Kevin's job in jeopardy all season?

"[Horachek] was brought in to help our young players and bring success to our farm team.

-- No one thinks of you as a playoff team; why you doing this?

"We always go to training camp trying to make the playoffs. People can evaluate your team from afar, but we still have high hopes.

-- Did you address the team?

"I will at 11:30.

-- Leadership on the Panthers

"We'll address that today at 11:30.

-- Will you change captains?

"No. Jovo will be back in a week-10 days and we miss him. We miss that leadership. That's what he brings to us. That's why we made the playoffs two years ago. We miss him. Hopefully he gets back sooner than later so he can help some of our young guys become leaders as well.

-- Not just wins and losses but environment?

"That's a big part of it. We want them in a winning environment and have them led by players with strong leadership ability and work ethic. I'm not seeing that right now from our so-called better players.

-- Horachek's reaction

"He's excited to get the opportunity. His lifelong goal has been to be a head coach in the NHL. He's coached everywhere. He had success in Nashville. He's a no nonsense guy. He's a good communicator. We'll give him every opportunity to show his wares.

-- Was he told of this last night?

"Yes."

DALE TALLON: Firing Kevin Dineen Was Tough, Team Needs to Turn Things Around

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- Dale Tallon said today that firing Kevin Dineen and his coaching staff was "one of the hardest things I've had to do" and everyone -- including himself -- was responsible for Florida's poor start to this season.

The Panthers have lost seven straight, longest since the final weeks of Pete DeBoer's time behind the bench at the end of the 2010-11 season.

DeBoer was fired the day after that season ended and Dineen was hired months later.

Peter Horachek, former Nashville assistant and San Antonio coach, is coming on in an interim basis. If things go well, he could get the gig full-time.

Former Panthers captain Brian Skrudland -- director of player development -- and former Florida center John Madden replaced Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay as assistant coaches. Madden was in his first year as a pro scout for the Panthers and was in Nashville with the team a few weeks back to work with the centers.

Dineen was told of his firing this morning at the team hotel in downtown Ottawa. Tallon confirmed that Horachek was told of his promotion last night and he is currently traveling to Ottawa. The Panthers practice this afternoon at the University of Ottawa and Horachek is expected to have the whistle.

Dineen, Ramsay and Murphy are said to be leaving Ottawa and I haven't been able to reach them yet.

 

 

KEVIN DINEEN FIRED: Peter Horachek Comes on as New Coach

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The Panthers made an early morning move Friday as coach Kevin Dineen was fired along with assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay.

Goalie coach Robb Tallas, video coach Jason Cipolla and strength and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite will remain on the staff.

Dineen was replaced by Peter Horachek, a former Nashville assistant who has been coaching Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Horachek will be assisted by former Florida center John Madden and former Florida captain Brian Skrudland.

Horachek is on his way to Ottawa and is expected to run this afternoon's practice in advance of his NHL head coaching debut tomorrow afternoon against the Senators.

The Panthers are winless in seven games their longest skid since the end of the 2010-11 season which led to the firing of Pete DeBoer and the hiring of Dineen.

“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” GM Dale Tallon said in a statement.

“We have not met the expectations that we set forth at training camp and it is my responsibility to make the necessary changes to ensure that our club performs at its maximum potential. We thank Kevin, Gord and Craig for their hard work and dedication to our organization and the professionalism that they displayed throughout their tenure.”

FROM THE PANTHERS:

“Peter is a bright hockey mind who brings to our club a wealth of coaching knowledge,” said Tallon. “He is a focused, determined and demanding coach who has experienced great success at all levels of competition. Both Brian and John are proven winners who won multiple Stanley Cups and are individuals that our players know very well. With these additions, we are confident that we have a staff that will work tirelessly to bring continued success to our organization.”

Horachek, 53, becomes Florida’s 12th head coach in franchise history after most recently serving as the head coach of Florida’s American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. Prior to working in San Antonio, Horacheck spent nine seasons with the Nashville Predators (2003-2013), serving his last two years as associate head coach. While working for the Predators, he helped the club advance to the postseason on seven occasions.

Horachek has also served as the head coach for the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals (2002-2003), ECHL’s Trenton Titans (2001-2002) and the International Hockey League’s Orlando Solar Bears (1999-2001), where he won the 2001 Turner Cup.

Skrudland, 50, has spent the last four years as the team’s director of player development. He served as Florida’s first team captain, appearing in 256 games with the Panthers (1993-97), while guiding the club to the 1996 Eastern Conference Championship and the Stanley Cup Finals.

Throughout his 15-year NHL playing career, Skrudland played in 881 career National Hockey League contests for Montreal (1985-93), Calgary (1992-93), Florida (1993-97), NY Rangers (1997-98) and Dallas (1997-2000), registering 343 points (124-219-343) and 1,107 PIM. He won Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (1986) and Dallas Stars (1999).

After his retirement from playing at the age of 36, the Peace River, Alberta, native returned to the Flames organization as an assistant coach for three seasons (2000-2003).

Madden, 40, returned to the Panthers this season as a pro scout after helping the team win the 2011-2012 Southeast Division Championship. Throughout his 13-year playing career, Madden played for New Jersey (1998-2004 & 2005-2009), Chicago (2009-2010), Minnesota (2010-2011) and Florida (2011-2012), earning three Stanley Cup titles (New Jersey 2000 & 2003; Chicago 2010).

The Toronto, Ontario, native played in 898 career NHL games, recording 348 points (165-183-348) and 219 PIM. He was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2001. After his retirement in 2012, Madden spent one year with the Montreal Canadiens (2012-2013) serving on their scouting staff.

November 07, 2013

TIM THOMAS TALKS: Grateful for Boston Reception, Ready for Return to Florida Panthers

 

(Tim Thomas of the Florida Panthers works out at Thursday's morning skate at the Boston Garden. It was Thomas' first workout on Boston ice since the 2012 postseason. Photo/George Richards)

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The highlight of Thursday night's 4-1 loss to the host Bruins for Florida had nothing to do with the game on the ice.

It was seeing the Bruins celebrate Panthers' goalie Tim Thomas on the HD boards at center ice.

Thomas, 39, watched most of the game from downstairs and word was the Bruins were going to forget about the video tribute if they couldn't see Thomas' reaction.

In the third period, Thomas crept into the top-level press deck and kept a low profile.

The Bruins' television cameras caught him as he smiled while watching the highlight tape. As the crowd at the Garden took to their feet in applause, Thomas stood up and waved.

Thomas was extremely happy to be remembered this way after leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years in 2011. Some predicited there would be mixed reaction for the way Thomas left the Bruins in 2012.

There wasn't. Thomas received a rousing standing ovation.

"It was great to be back at the Garden, great to be back in Boston,'' Thomas told the Miami Herald as he headed to the elevator late in the game. Thomas seemingly declined all other official interview requests both before, during and after the game.

"I was hoping for that kind of reaction from the fans. I loved playing here. I loved Boston. It was nice to see that response.''

Thomas is expected to return Saturday at Ottawa with GM Dale Tallon saying he would likely make a decision on which goalie -- Scott Clemmensen or Jacob Markstrom -- returns to San Antonio on Saturday night after the Senators game.

On Thursday night, Thomas said his goal was to play in that night's game but his lower body injury kept him from doing so.

"I was aiming for this game, wanted to play,'' said Thomas, who has been skating since last week.

"The reason we're being so cautious is so when I come back, I'm back for good. I want to help this team out."

Thomas was one of three Florida goalies on the ice for Thursday's morning skate. There was only one a large throng of media gave a flip about.

Members of the local media took up residence on the empty Bruins bench snapping pictures of Thomas working on the Garden ice for the first time since April 25, 2012 -- a Game 7 loss to Washington in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Panthers, and perhaps Thomas, have two more trips scheduled to Boston on Jan. 28 and March 4.

"I don't want Tim for one game, I want him for a major bulkload,'' coach Kevin Dineen said postgame.

"That's what he was brought here for. When he gets in the mix I want him for the long run. I want him to be in that locker room, want him in that mix.''

 

BRUINED AGAIN: Panthers Lose Seventh Straight, This One 4-1 to Bruins

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The Panthers locker room doors remained shut tight for almost 10 minutes following yet another loss, this one a 4-1 decision to the host Bruins.

There was plenty of yelling and plenty of profanity leaking through those locked doors, the frustrations of a seven game losing streak stronger than the locker room walls.

"There are no positives right now,'' Shawn Matthias lamented. "It's embarrassing. I cannot remember the last time we won.''

Florida, which is 0-3-4 during this string of losses, hasn't suffered this many consecutive losses since the final weeks of Pete DeBoer's time behind the Panthers bench. Florida was basically fielding a minor league team then.

Some wonder what the Panthers are putting on the ice now both externally and inside the team as well. It's not good, everyone can agree on that.

"There's only one thing that matters and it's two points,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "We're going to continue to search for a complete game that will make a difference. I think our players understand that and feel it as well as the coaches do.''

Even though many Boston fans hoped former Bruins hero Tim Thomas was in net for the Panthers, he sat out his sixth straight.

Scott Clemmensen, a standout down the road at Boston College, stood tall but ended up losing his third straight start at the Garden after Boston scored twice within four-plus minutes in the third.

The two teams played a scoreless first but Boston broke free on a long shot from David Krejci 7:17 into the second.

Brad Marchand then got an easy one when he charged in on Clemmensen after the Florida goalie made the initial stop but watched the puck slip between his skates. No one came to Clemmensen's aid as Marchand swooped in for the tap-in killer.

The Panthers were never the same. By the time Jesse Winchester -- who could be suspended for Saturday's game after throwing an elbow at Chris Kelly -- scored his fourth of the year, Florida was down 3-1 with less than six minutes left.

-- Brad Boyes, who spent two seasons in Boston (2005-07), was scratched for the first time this season.

-- Steve Pinnizzotto, who has been out since training camp with a hip injury, cleared waivers on Thursday and was sent to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

November 06, 2013

LATE NIGHT MEETING: No Coaching Change for Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Panthers management had a late night meeting following Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton at the BB&T Center with GM Dale Tallon telling the Miami Herald the team would not be making a coaching change at this time.

"There will be changes though,'' Tallon said outside the arena. "I don't make rash decisions. None of us are happy. I have to fix this and I will. We're better than this.''

Doug Cifu, the team's new minority owner and alternate governor, has been around the team the past few days and was part of the meeting. Cifu left the arena around 11:30 p.m. with Tallon, assistant GM Mike Santos and hockey operations director Mike Dixon following suit around 10 minutes later.

Tallon was visibly upset -- as he usually is after a loss -- after Tuesday's loss to an Edmonton team that had not only lost five straight coming in, but were shutout by a 9-0 score to Detroit and Toronto over the weekend. The Oilers hadn't scored in almost three hours of play, yet put in two during a 30-second span during the second period to take a 3-1 lead.

Florida got two goals from Scottie Upshall -- his first two tallies of the season -- to at least force OT. Upshall took a tripping penalty, however, and the Panthers lost their sixth straight. Florida has a point in four of those six defeats with three coming in a shootout.

The Panthers have been let down by a number of their highest paid players this year with Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky ($10.1 million between them) yet to score a goal. Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg ($8.9 million combined) have five goals between them. Upshall has eight goals in two seasons and makes $3.5 mil.

Florida's leading goal scorer is Brad Boyes -- who signed a $1 million deal after a tryout during training camp. Boyes was playing on Florida's fourth line on Tuesday and has five goals so far.

The Panthers currently have the fourth-lowest salary cap number in the league with almost $12 million to reach the cap ceiling according to capgeek.com.

Dineen and the rest of his coaching staff are working on the final year of their contracts. Gord Murphy preceeded Dineen as he was on Pete DeBoer's staff in his final season; Craig Ramsay signed on soon after Dineen was hired by Tallon to replace DeBoer.

Tallon has made it clear in the past that Dineen and his staff isn't solely to blame for the teams struggles although some within the organization don't share that thought and figure a change at the top probably needs to be made.

Tallon likes Dineen and respects him as a person and coach; Tallon knows something is wrong with the team as it stands, however, he is apparently giving Dineen -- a former captain who spent close to 20 years playing in the NHL and comes from a respect line of hockey people in his family -- room to work this thing out.

Dineen has appeared frustrated the past few weeks and although he says there isn't any panic, things are getting salty around the team.

Florida will play eight of the next nine on the road with three coming this week with stops in Boston (Thursday), Ottawa (Saturday afternoon) and New York (Sunday). The Panthers return home to face Anaheim next Tuesday before embarking on a rough five-game trip to Minnesota, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

PHOTO: JOE RIMKUS JR./Miami Herald Staff

November 05, 2013

OILED AGAIN: Panthers Rally to Force OT, Lose 4-3 to Visiting Edmonton

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

When Tuesday's game started, there were three teams ranked lower than the Panthers in the NHL standings.

Florida has now hit a personal trifecta by losing to all of them.

At least Tuesday came with the loser point.

Thanks to a pair of goals from Scottie Upshall in the final 10 minutes, the Panthers forced overtime before losing 4-3 to the visiting Edmonton Oilers at BB&T Center.

The Panthers have a six-game winless streak going as they have lost four in overtime/shootout during that slide. Edmonton's five-game slump came to an end as it has now won five straight in Sunrise dating to 2002.

"We're not even a quarter of a way through the season but there has to be a sense of desperation in our play, a confidence, a major push to give the effort every minute on the ice,'' coach Kevin Dineen said.

"It seems we get behind before the engines start revving. We need to start in first and floor it. We need to set the tone. This has to change.''

Upshall, who hadn't scored all season and only six times in the previous two-plus seasons here, watched Mark Arcobello's game-winning goal from the penalty box after he pulled down Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 36 seconds into OT.

Still, the Panthers wouldn't have been there without Upshall's goals.

"That was a desperate effort by a desperate [Edmonton] team,'' Upshall said. "I thought our line played well, did the little things well. But it's not good enough. We have a ways to go to being competitive and winning every night. We're not happy with the way things are going.''

Upshall's penalty forced the Panthers into a 4-on-3 disadvantage for the second straight game in overtime. On Saturday in Washington, Florida survived Tomas Fleischmann's infraction to force the shootout. Tuesday not so much.

"That's a high-skilled team and you give them space, they'll find the opportunity,'' Dineen said. "These are points that are slipping away.''

The Panthers opened the game with a rousing jump, taking the game to an Edmonton team that is hurt and had been lit up 19-6 during its winless streak.

Florida took a 1-0 lead midway through the first when Marcel Goc flew up the slot and took a Jonathan Huberdeau feed and lifted a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk.

That was one of Florida's few highlights until Upshall broke loose and scored with 9:56 and 57.6 seconds remaining. That at least helped the Panthers pick up a point in the standings. Not much consolation though in a game in which the Oilers dictated play for much of the night.

Edmonton snapped a scoreless stretch of almost three hours of play when Philip Larsen beat Jacob Markstrom with 3:01 left in the first.

The Oilers then scored twice in a 33 second span early in the second but then didn't solve Markstrom (23 saves) again until overtime.

"Today wasn't good enough for me,'' Markstrom said. "I want to give the team a chance to win. The second period wasn't good enough.''

-- Goalie Tim Thomas (lower body) worked during Tuesday's morning skate and could be an option to return to the lineup during Florida's upcoming road trip -- and perhaps even Thursday in Boston.

-- With Kris Versteeg back in the lineup, veteran fourth-line center Scott Gomez found the bench Tuesday with Shawn Matthias moving back to the middle after playing wing the past few weeks.

Gomez, who signed a one-year deal worth $900,000 during the offseason, has a goal and three assists. Krys Barch and Matt Gilroy were also scratched.

 

November 04, 2013

VERSTEEG SCRATCHED AGAIN?: Winger In Limbo on Monday ... Tim Thomas OUT v. Oilers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

One player on the Panthers who knows a little something about scoring may not play Tuesday.

Kris Versteeg, a healthy scratch Saturday for what he said was the first time, was the odd-man out on a line with Marcel Goc, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias in Monday's practice.

Dineen is said to be unhappy with Versteeg's effort and all-around play although Versteeg said after Monday's practice that the two haven't spoken about the situation.

"I have to earn my time back,'' Versteeg said Monday. "It's not easy but you keep working. You get paid a lot of money to play a game you love, so you roll with the good times and deal with the bad times and try to always come out on top, do the best with the opportunity you're given. I'm fine. I know what's expected of myself.''

Vertseeg said Saturday that he did struggle getting comfortable early in the season after coming back from major reconstructive knee surgery. Yet Versteeg says he's been feeling good lately and felt he's been playing hard.

Dineen wouldn't say Versteeg is in or out of the lineup on Tuesday although not having his own line in practice seems to suggest he may not be.

"It's not easy for anyone to be in that situation,'' Dineen said. "We make lineup decisions on what we think is the best way to compete against Edmonton.''

-- Goalie Tim Thomas didn't practice with the team Monday although Dineen said he worked out earlier that day and over the weekend.

Thomas is out for Tuesday's game, although Dineen said he would be making Florida's upcoming road trip.

Florida visits Boston, where Thomas led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in four decades, on Thursday.

PHOTO BY JOE RIMKUS JR./Miami Herald Staff

 

CURE FOR SCORING ILLS?: Oilers Lead League in Goals Allowed, Differential ... Panthers Not Much Better

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers could find a temporary fix for their scoring woes Tuesday as no team in the league has given up more goals than Edmonton has.

Florida, which has scored four or more goals just twice in the opening 13 games this season, is tied for 25th in the league by averaging just under two goals per game.

During the Panthers' five game winless streak, the team has scored three goals just once. Edmonton has given up 19 goals in its past five games.

"The stock answers are we need to put more pucks on net, create more traffic, believe in the offense,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "At the end of it, when you are an offensive player and the puck isn't going in for you on a consistent basis, there's a frustration.

"But we believe in our skill guys and are going to keep putting them out there in situations where this will pop somewhere along the line.''

Both Florida and Edmonton are among the worst teams in the league not only in putting the puck in the net, but keeping it out as well.

Edmonton's average of almost four goals a night is worst in the league, but Florida isn't far behind.

The Panthers' 3.29 goals allowed is just two spots higher than the Oilers -- who are tied for the league's worst goal differential with Buffalo at minus-23. Florida isn't much better at minus-21. The Panthers, it should be noted, lost at home to Buffalo last month.

Like Florida, Edmonton hasn't won in its past five games, although the Oilers have looked much worst in their losing as they've been outscored 19-6 during that stretch.

Edmonton came to South Florida after back-to-back home losses in which Toronto and Detroit outscored the Oilers 9-0.

"Teams go through adversity and they battle through it,'' Edmonton's Sam Gagner, who took up playing hockey as a kid in Coral Springs, told The Edmonton Journal. "If things are going bad, you don't throw in the towel.''

 

TUESDAY: OILERS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Edmonton leads 11-8-3

Scouting report: Both teams are struggling and haven't won in their past five games. Florida hasn't beaten the Oilers at home since March 8, 2002 -- a span of four straight home losses. Florida last beat the Oilers, in Edmonton, on Dec. 11, 2008. The Panthers play eight of the next 10 away from Sunrise including a visit to Edmonton on Nov. 21.


November 03, 2013

SUNDAY NOTES: Tomas Kopecky Comes Close ... Vincent Trocheck Keeps on Scoring

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Florida may have avoided a shootout Saturday as Tomas Kopecky was robbed of a point-blank shot moments after Tomas Fleischmann tied the score at 2 late in the third period.

Coach Kevin Dineen said the play was reviewed and determined the puck didn't go over the line.

Kopecky, still without a goal this season, threw his head in his hands after getting back to the bench in frustration.

"He had a heck of a chance at the end,'' Dineen said. "I would have liked to see that puck go in, find a way into the net.''

-- If Florida is looking for internal improvement, rookie forward Vincent Trocheck has to be at the top of the list. Trocheck had two assists in San Antonio's 5-3 win over Rick DiPietro and the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday night.

Trocheck, who led the Ontario Hockey League with 50 goals last season, leads Florida's AHL affiliate in scoring with six goals and five assists and has seven points off three goals in the past three games.

Although Panthers management has said they would like the 20-year-old to continue maturing in the AHL, for a team that is struggling to score, seeing Trocheck light it up in the minors could be tempting.

 

SHOOTOUT WOES CONTINUE: Panthers Still Bad in the Shooting Exhibition

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Panthers have been the league's worst team since the shootout was introduced in 2005 to determine a winner in tie games. The past two weeks has been one of Florida's toughest runs yet.

Florida is currently winless in its past five games although it has points from three.

Those points came from shootout losses with Chicago, Tampa Bay and Washington all gaining the extra point as Florida was left with the loser's singular point -- as historically has been the case.

The Panthers have played in the fifth-most shootout games all-time (93) yet only five teams have fewer wins (34) and no team has more losses (59). Columbus, ranked 29th in the league, has nine fewer losses than the dead-last Panthers.

Florida's goalies have a shootout success save rate of 64 percent which is ranked 24th; Florida's shooting rate of 25 percent is last.

"I'm still confident in the options I have in the shootout,'' said coach Kevin Dineen, whose team is 1-3 in shootouts this season with all of them coming in the past six games.

"This is an area we're going to see a lot of this year. We're going to have games like this because no goals seem to come easy for us. Hopefully that pops open for us, but the shootout will probably be a big part of our season.''

The problems in the past three shootout losses are the same problems which have plagued the Panthers throughout the past decade. They are obvious problems. The Panthers don't score enough and don't stop the opposition enough.

In the Panthers 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota on Oct. 19, Florida was perfect. Not only did both Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes both score, but Tim Thomas stopped both offerings from the Wild.

Of course, Thomas is one of the better shootout goalies in the league. Thomas' 31 wins (three fewer than the Panthers have total) rank eighth among active netminders as he has gone 31-27.

In the three games without Thomas, Florida has stopped just three of 10 shootout shots while scoring on two of seven.

On Saturday, Scott Clemmensen gave up goals on all three shots faced -- including one from Brooks Laich in which he whiffed on the shot yet the puck slid between Clemmensen's skates -- with only Aleksander Barkov scoring.

Dineen said as the backup goalie, Clemmensen is at a disadvantage because he's usually the guy used as target practice for Florida's shooters.

"He gets a bucketload of shots thrown at him and it's more practice for the shooters than for his own improvement,'' Dineen said. "Sometimes that's not fair.''

Markstrom said he's always prepared for individual shooters and enjoys the challenge of trying to get the extra point for his team.

"I think it's fun because it comes down to you versus the skater,'' said Markstrom, who is 0-2 after stopping three of seven this year. "These are the best players in the world and they have the best moves. But it's tough losing them. Sometimes it comes down to luck.''

 

 

OnFrozenFilm: Krys Barch Pulls Out Tooth, Offers to Caps Fan

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WASHINGTON, D.C. - How complete was Florida's effort Saturday?

Shawn Matthias left the game after taking a puck to the face while trying to block a shot, Brad Gilbert leapt in front of a shot late in the game and took the puck off his ankle and Marcel Goc got into his first NHL fight in his 502nd game.

Matthias returned to the game but visited a doctor after the game. He was struck near one of his eyes. Gilbert was seen limping around with a huge bag of ice on his swollen ankle.

Krys Barch also took a big hit and was upended, leaving him with numerous facial lacerations. Barch, while in the penalty box, yanked out a loose tooth and then offered it to a fan who watched in amazement.

 

November 02, 2013

VERSTEEG NOT HAPPY: Dineen Says Benching is Deserved

 

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Kris Versteeg was visibly upset with coach Kevin Dineen's decision to sit him Saturday and said this was the first time in his NHL career that he had been a healthy scratch.

And, Versteeg added, "I've played for some pretty good teams.''

"Obviously I'm being used as an example,'' Versteeg continued. "Hopefully the guys rally around that and win. It's tough. I've never been put in this situation. It's not fun. It's a kick to the midsection.''

Dineen said his decision was based on Versteeg's play. Versteeg has two goals this season and played less than 11 minutes of Friday's 3-0 loss to the Blues.

"That's indicative of his play the past week,'' Dineen said of Versteeg's shrinking minutes. "He's looked pretty frustrated the past three games, and honestly, hasn't played well. When he's at his best, he'll be a big contributor to this team.''

Added Versteeg:

"I just want to be in the lineup and help this team and contribute. This is my first time ever doing this and it isn't pleasant. You want to be out there helping the guys.

"I put in a lot of work, a lot of effort this summer. This isn't what I wanted. But it's up to the coaches who plays. I'll just leave it at that.''

-- Sean Bergenheim was sat as a precaution as the Panthers don't want him pushing things too much by playing in the second game of a back-to-back set.

Bergenheim missed all of last season and much of the first month of this season after having numerous surgeries relating to his abdominal core.