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4 posts from April 8, 2014

April 08, 2014

PLAYOFFS IN PHILLY: Flyers Clinch Spot in Postseason as Ellis Takes Blame for Panthers' 5-2 Loss ... Roberto Luongo 'Sore'

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers hoped to put Philadelphia's playoff party on hold just another day bolstered by the addition of three forwards to the lineup.

Alas, Roberto Luongo came out of warmups complaining of what coach Peter Horachek described as being sore and the Flyers took full advantage. Philadelphia scored three goals off its first four shots in the second and clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 5-2 win at BB&T Center.

The Panthers, meanwhile, will miss the postseason for the 12th time in 13 seasons. In the franchise's 19 seasons, it has missed the playoffs 15 times.

"It was a terrible second period and you can't expect to win when you play like that,'' said Erik Gudbranson, whose long shot put the Panthers on the board early in the third to make it 4-1.

If the Flyers thought they had an easy one on their hands, the Panthers looked like they wanted to prove them wrong.

Florida played one of its best periods of the month in the first, dictating play and surviving what could have been a disastrous penalty kill late.

First, Drew Shore -- brought up from the minors on Monday -- drew four minutes in the penalty box for drawing blood with a high stick on Wayne Simmonds.

With 1:40 left in that penalty, Scottie Upshall was called for slashing, giving the Flyers a two-man advantage for 100 seconds.

Although the Flyers challenged backup goalie Dan Ellis, they didn't get anything through and the two went into the first break still scoreless.

Florida's tough play didn't last, however, as the Flyers scored two quick goals to kick off the second and all but stamp their ticket to the playoffs.

"It was a good start and then in the second I gave up four crap goals,'' said Ellis, who faced 12 shots in the second. "It's unacceptable. It's frustrating as hell when you're the primary reason for the loss. I take responsibility for the loss.''

The Flyers got its first when Vincent Lecavalier -- who long owned the Panthers from his days in Tampa -- jammed one through Ellis' skates 2:02 in.

Lecavalier became the seventh player in the Flyers' lineup to hit the 20 goal plateau; Florida has one.

Four minutes later and Claude Giroux made it 2-0 by scoring his first of two, this one off a nice slap shot from 20 feet out. The Flyers scored their third at 8:50 of the second from Giroux and led 4-0 with five minutes remaining in the period.

Jonathan Huberdeau, who missed 11 games with a concussion, made it 4-2 with 14:22 left to play. It was Huberdeau's first goal since Jan. 20 and second in a span of 37 games.

-- Aleksander Barkov practiced Tuesday but it's doubtful the rookie center will play again this season.

Barkov has been out since re-injuring a knee representing Finland at the Olympics in February.

"I could've played better but then I had the injury,'' Barkov said. "I will go back to Finland, practice a lot and I'll be a better player next year. Now I know I can play on this level and I want to be better.''

-- Former UM track standout Lauryn Williams (won Silver in bobsled) dropped the first puck.


NEW ENVIRONMENT: Panthers to Close Off End Zone, New Capacity Like Miami Arena

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers plan to drop capacity at the county-owned BB&T Center even more next season by blocking off entire sections in the upper deck.

Former team president Michael Yormark put tarps on some upper rows of the arena in 2010.

At Tuesday's morning skate, a large theatre curtain hung from the rafters blocking off six end zone sections. New team president Rory Babich said Tuesday the team will either tarp those seats off or keep the curtain.

Florida isn't offering season ticket packages in those sections. The arena holds almost 19,000 now for hockey and is among the largest in the league.

Babich says the new capacity -- if all upper deck tarps are utilized -- will be around 15,700.

The Panthers left Miami Arena (cap. 14,703) in 1998 for the larger arena in Sunrise. The team had a 5,000-person waiting list for tickets when they went north.

Florida had an announced attendance of 12,487 for Tuesday's game.

"This is one of the biggest arenas in the NHL so we're trying to make it a little smaller for most games,'' Babich said. "We'll have people in a smaller area, make it a more intimate experience.

"I think people recognize what we're doing. It's not minor league at all. There are other arenas and stadiums who have done it. We're not selling out at 19,000-plus, so instead of having empty seats in the less desirable sections, we've decided to block them off.''


CURTAINS!: Panthers to Seriously Cut Back on Sunrise Capacity in 2014-15?


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers had a huge curtain cutting off part of the end zone at Tuesday's morning skate and it looks like that may be a sign of things to come.

According to the team website, seats in those sections aren't being offered as part of any season ticket plan. As you can see from the chart below, season ticket sales end at Section 306 and resume in 313*. It also appears the tarps are staying as 'Goal Zone' seats will only be sold up to row 10.

(*) The team is renaming the 400 level the 300 level as well.

The Panthers have already cut chunks out of the upper deck with tarps the past few seasons, opening up seats as the need arises. I would think the curtain would be gone for single game tickets if needed (when Montreal comes to town, the Holiday Series) but will ask about this when I'm at the game tonight.

Your thoughts on the matter? Leave 'em below in the comment section.


FLYERS NOTEBOOK: Boyes, Huberdeau, Shore Back in Lineup ... End of the Line for Gomez? ... Barkov Works Out with Team

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Busy day for the Panthers at Tuesday's morning skate as three players jump back into the lineup.

Brad Boyes is back after missing the past few games on a revamped 'B-Line' as Nick Bjugstad rejoins Sean Bergenheim after playing down on the third line.

Jonathan Huberdeau is also back in the lineup after being out since last month with a concussion.

Drew Shore, recalled yesterday, is also in the lineup.

That means two players need to be scratched tonight and it's going to be Scott Gomez and Quinton Howden. That last decision led to a lot of head scratching among the gathered media as many wouldn't mind seeing Tomas Fleischmann take a day off. Personally, I'm looking for a big bounce-back year from Fleischmann in 2014-15.

"I'm really excited. It's been a while,'' Huberdeau said. "When you've been out for a while, you want to get back out there and do everything you can to help the team. I'm going to keep it simple out there and try and finish the last three games the right way.''

-- With the influx of forwards, Gomez goes from playing on Florida's top line to being scratched. It's possible Gomez has not only played in his final game with the Panthers but perhaps his final NHL game.

Coach Peter Horachek admitted that scratching Gomez -- he's been a pretty good citizen with the Panthers -- was a difficult decision.

"That's the hardest thing that's happened because he's part of the driving force,'' Horachek said "He's saying the things he needs to say, been a total pro and works hard.

"When things are happening in the game, he's trying to make a difference. He's speaking on the bench, in the locker room. He's doing all the things a good pro does. At this time, sometimes you're looking at next year more than the final three games. You want to see what chemistry the younger players have. I can't say enough good things about Scottie.''

-- Aleksander Barkov was out practicing on Florida's fifth line with Gomez and Howden but it's still very doubtful we'll see the rookie center again this season.

Barkov has been out with a knee injury since the Olympics.

"I'm a hockey player and I want to be on the ice with the team,'' Barkov said.