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KULIKOV BENCHED: Panthers Sit Struggling Defenseman V Sens

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Struggling defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will find himself on the sidelines Tuesday as he will be a healthy scratch against the Senators.

Kulikov has been his own worst enemy of late. On Monday, coach Peter Horachek called Kulikov one of Florida's most talented defensive players - but one who needed to get out of this slump.

On Tuesday, Kulikov spent extra time after the morning skate with fellow scratch Scott Gomez and injured captain Ed Jovanovski.

"I'm disappointed, that's the only way to describe it,'' said Kulikov, the 14th overall pick of the 2009 draft who made his NHL debut a few months later.

"I'm going to work hard to get back into the lineup. I think most of this is mental. The mistakes I've made weren't forced; I shouldn't have made them. What happened, happened. I have to work hard to get it out of me and not worry about it.''

Horachek said taking a step back on Tuesday isn't a bad thing for Kulikov.

"I think that's a good thing for a lot of players. They have to go through this process,'' Horachek said. "They have to be accountable to their teammates. We've decided it's best for him to just sit back, to see it and come back with a whole new approach to the game.

"No one wants to be in this situation but sometimes it's necessary.''

Horachek said he would speak with Kulikov -- "they all get spoken to in that situation" -- although Kulikov said he that hasn't happened yet.

"He's out there, he knows the situation he's in,'' Horachek said. "How he approaches it is up to him. If he says 'OK. I'm going to work hard and pay attention so this doesn't happen anymore.' He could also take a victim's attitude and that's something a player can't do. Most players take the right approach. The attitude is key when it comes to adversity.

"And this is adversity.''

When asked if he was surprised to be benched, Kulikov said "a little bit. I didn't think I was playing bad enough to be kicked out of the lineup but that's the coach's decision.''

-- Horachek also said that Tomas Kopecky and Matt Gilroy were getting closer to being in the lineup but they wouldn't play Tuesday against the Sens.

-- Tim Thomas is back between the pipes. This is Thomas' 12th straight start for the Panthers.