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2 posts from December 26, 2013

December 26, 2013

IT'S SIMPLE: Good Goaltending, Team Defense Lead to Florida Panthers Wins

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

In the past few weeks, the Panthers have won seven of its past 10 games. When Florida has won, it has gotten strong defense and good goaltending.

That hasn't been the case during the three losses.

When the Panthers reconvene after a holiday break, they hope to find that winning formula again.

Tim Thomas, out since injuring his groin on Dec. 12, is expected to be back in net when Florida plays host to the Red Wings on Saturday night in Sunrise.

Florida has already returned Jacob Markstrom to its AHL team in San Antonio. Scott Clemmensen won four of his five starts filling in for Thomas.

"Clemmensen had the opportunity to step in and was really solid,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "His confidence has gone up. When goalies sit for a while, it's difficult to step back in. Clemm has been doing it for a long time, is the consummate pro. He's definitely stepped up and that has been important.''

During Florida run of seven wins in eight games from Dec. 5-19, the Panthers scored close to three goals a night while allowing fewer than two.

The Panthers played stout defense during that time, a good example coming when Scott Clemmensen didn't face an official shot on goal in the final 5:27 of Florida's 2-1 win at Montreal on Dec. 15.

Although Montreal was shooting toward the net so much it looked like a Wild West shooting gallery, the pucks weren't getting past the Florida defense.

"Our play in general changed and I think there was a real bond between them, more trust than was there before,'' goalie coach Robb Tallas said.

"Our team has been supporting itself all over the ice.''

In the three losses, Florida scored two goals twice and are gave up an average of 5.7.

Florida has been outscored 17-5 in the losses to Chicago (Dec. 8), Winnipeg (Dec. 20) and Tampa Bay (Monday).

The defense hasn't been there for support and Florida's goalies let in softer-than-usual goals. Although it's hard to blame Clemmensen for all six of Tampa Bay's goals, he definitely had a hand in a few of them.

During the winning run, Clemmensen and Thomas weren't giving up the cheap ones.

"We don't want to give up more than two goals,'' Horachek said. "In the games in which we were successful, they were two or less. We were playing a good defensive game. .-.-. When you have players who can offense out of nothing, you have to be there as a group, five guys in every zone.''


Horachek said he spoke a little longer to the team following Monday's loss expressing disappointment in the way the team got beat but also expressing enthusiasm for what's ahead.

Horachek didn't want his team to be too down after consecutive blowout losses at Winnipeg and at home to Tampa Bay, yet didn't want them coming back from Christmas break with their heads hanging.

Florida has four more games on this homestand and can turn things back in the positive way in a hurry.

Detroit is here Saturday night, with Montreal, the Rangers and Nashville closing things out.

"I told them to go have a good break; told them how I felt about the game,'' Horachek said, adding that his players held their own short meeting after he left the room.

"These guys tried hard, we had a great road trip. I just hoped we finished before the break on a positive note so they could go and be with their families. That's important. We have four more games on this homestand. That can spur you.''

Said Clemmensen: "To be successful you’ve got to have a bad memory. Hopefully we just use these next few days to kind of recharge a little bit and hopefully that will do us well coming back for four more home games after Christmas.''

-- The Panthers will hold their first post-Christmas break practice Friday at noon. The workout at the Coral Springs Iceplex is free and open to the public.


STILL HIGH ON PETRO: Panthers Have High Hopes for Young Defenseman

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Alex Petrovic was excited to get word he was being called back to the Panthers on Sunday night. His stay may have been short lived.

The 21-year-old defenseman filled in for Erik Gudbranson in Monday night's 6-1 loss to the visiting Lightning. On Tuesday he was sent back to San Antonio -- it may be just for Christmas or could be longer.

Although Petrovic wasn't singled out by coach Peter Horachek following Monday's loss, it appears he didn't do much to stand out from the crowd.

"I think all of our defensemen were bad,'' said Horachek, who coached Petrovic for the first month of this season at AHL San Antonio. "There was no one in a positive situation.''

A second round selection in a 2010 draft that also brought Gudbranson to the Panthers, Petrovic had a very successful final junior year with the Red Deer Rebels in 2011-12. Petrovic joined San Antonio for its playoff series at the end of that year then spent the majority of last season with the Rampage.

Petrovic played six games for the Panthers last year and the 21-year-old was thought to be a contender for a roster spot during training camp. Yet Petrovic didn't have a strong camp and was among the first sent to San Antonio.

"I didn't have a good camp at the start and that's what happens when you don't show up,'' he said. "I put that on myself. Hopefully I can prove myself different. I have to have good year here or in San Antonio .-.-. come back next year with a better effort.''

On Sunday night, after getting word Gudbranson was hurt, Petrovic was told to come back.

"I was ecstatic to get the call. It was a great Christmas present,'' Petrovic said.

Gudbranson underwent orbital bone surgery in Boca Raton on Monday and could be out for a month. With one of their top d-men missing, the Panthers need to find other options.

Petrovic very well could be it although the Panthers although they have depth at the position.

Florida could play Mike Mottau, who has been a healthy scratch for 13 of the past 14 games.

The Panthers could also recall veterans Matt Gilroy or Ryan Whitney. Colby Robak is also an option.

Petrovic, assistant general manager Mike Santos said, was called up based on his recent run of strong play.

"He's a work in progress and has played well lately,'' said Santos, who serves as GM of the Rampage. "He's still a young guy, only in his second year. He needs to get physically stronger to play the type of game he likes to play. He's a big kid but needs to fill in. I think once he does that, everything else will fall in for him.''

Said Horachek: "This was the right time for him to come up, although it was a bad situation to fall into.''

Making the full-time jump to the Panthers is the ultimate goal for Petrovic. It just may not come right now. The Panthers remain high on Petrovic and he figures in the future of the franchise.

Whether that continues through the weekend or not remains to be seen.

"They scored six goals and that's not something you ever want to see,'' Petrovic said of the Lightning. "There's no excuse whether you were just called up or not.''


The Panthers had a mixed bag of special teams play on Monday. Florida's lone goal came on the power play yet Tampa Bay broke things open in the second on a power play of its own.

It's tough to blame the penalty kill for the goal allowed Monday as the Panthers were playing two skaters down for an extended time. Florida's sloppy play during one shift led to a hooking penalty on Tom Gilbert while there were also too many skaters on the ice.

Tampa Bay's Val Filppula scored 8:01 into the second to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead.

“Too many men on the ice plus a hooking call; We’ve got to be better at that on the bench,'' defenseman Mike Weaver said. "It shouldn’t happen. Being down two men for that length of time, it’s never good. If you kill it, you get that momentum, but we didn’t kill it and they scored on us and it was a little bit of a downer."

Florida's lone goal of the night came near the end of a first period power play when Aleksander Barkov picked off a soft clearing attempt from Matthew Carle and deftly slipped the puck to Sean Bergenheim who rifled a shot past Ben Bishop.

-- The Panthers return to the ice Friday at noon. The workout at the Coral Springs Iceplex is free and open to the public.