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3 posts from December 5, 2013

December 05, 2013

REUNITED: Old Panthers are New Foes

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Thursday was another in Florida's string of so-called 'Reunion Games' with former captain Olli Jokinen and Keaton Ellerby coming back to Sunrise.

Michael Frolik, Florida's first-round pick in 2006, was ill and out of the Jets' lineup.

Florida visit Stephen Weiss in Detroit on Saturday and Versteeg in Chicago on Sunday.

Weiss, who spent a decade with the Panthers, returns for the first time since leaving as a free agent on Tuesday.

The Panthers opened the week with a game Tuesday against former goalie Craig Anderson.

-- Thursday's game was the first matchup between the Panthers and Winnipeg franchise that wasn't a divisional game.

The Atlanta Thrashers were placed in the Southeast Division when it entered the league in 1999 and remained there when the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

The Jets were relocated to the Western Conference this season.

"It's strange not having them in the division,'' Scott Clemmensen said, "but it was really strange having Winnipeg in the Southeast Division the past few years.''


BARKOV OUT: Panthers Lose Rookie to Lower Body Injury in Third ... Status Unknown

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Florida coach Peter Horachek said he didn't have an update on Aleksander Barkov's apparent injury following Thursday's 5-2 win over visiting Winnipeg.

Barkov, the second overall pick of the 2013 draft, left the game with a lower-body injury with 12:15 left.

Will try and have more updates from Friday's workout in Coral Springs.

Follow @DavidJNeal at Twitter for up-to-date, well, updates. He's covering for me tomorrow. I'm headed to the chilly midwest.

PANTHERS - AND GUDBRANSON - GROUND JETS: Florida Halts Slide with 5-2 Win over Winnipeg

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

A big hit can go a long way.

Thursday, Florida's Erik Gudbranson crushed Winnipeg's Tobias Enstrom to get the Panthers going in a rousing 5-2 win over the Jets at BB&T Center.

Gudbranson's hit led to a rush up the ice with Dylan Olsen scoring and giving the Panthers their first lead -- one that stood as the Panthers snapped a three-game slide by scoring four-plus goals for just the fourth time all season.

"It was a good goal but we had to refocus to get that win,'' said Olsen, who got his first NHL goal moments after Gudbranson got fans on their feet with his heavy shoulder drop of Enstrom.

"We knew we had to win every battle, everyone had to contribute.''

The Panthers, who lost rookie Aleksander Barkov to an undisclosed lower body injury in the third, needed a shot of momentum after being outscored 14-5 in their three losses and fell behind 1-0 on Thursday.

Winnipeg took the initial lead off Andrew Ladd's goal six minutes in, but the Panthers tied it when Gudbranson let one fly from 45 feet away with 5:58 left in the first.

Early in the second, Gudbranson hit Enstrom behind the net. Olsen picked up a loose puck and started the rush up the ice by tossing it to Scottie Upshall. Upshall returned the favor as Olsen slid into the slot and fired the puck past Ondrej Pavelec.

"I didn't see the hit, but I heard it,'' Upshall said. "Everyone in the building heard it.''

Said Gudbranson: "I just saw an opportunity to finish my check. We were lucky there was a 12-car pileup behind the net and [Olsen] took off.''

The Panthers led 3-1 going into the third as Tomas Fleischmann got his first goal in 15 games off a rebound from Mike Weaver. Nick Bjugstad made it 4-1 in the third on a strong wraparound following Florida's first power play of the night.

The Jets cut their deficit in half when former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen, who still lives in Broward, beat Tim Thomas with 7:15 left.

Yet the Panthers kept scoring, with Jimmy Hayes - who came to town with Olsen in the Kris Versteeg deal - scored on a breakaway with 2:44 left.

"It showed [Thursday] that if you're not ready to battle and ready to play you're not going to win,'' said Jokinen, who turned 35 on Thursday. "It was pretty evident. We turned the puck over, they got goals off turnovers.''

-- Tomas Kopecky (elbow) and Dmitry Kulikov (benched) were back in the lineup. Kopecky had been out the previous five games.