March 08, 2015

MAKING IT COUNT: Steven Kampfer has made most of opportunity with Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Some players don't fully realize when they are given opportunities in the NHL.
Steven Kampfer isn't one of them.
After not playing in the NHL since 2012 with Minnesota, Kampfer has taken full advantage of the chance and become one of Florida's most dependable defensemen since being recalled last month.
As Florida's defensive core gets healthier, coach Gerard Gallant has some decisions to make. If the Panthers keep seven defensemen, one has to sit.
Kampfer is making a strong case that it shouldn't be him.
"I don't what happened in the years past, don't know his history but I can't believe this guy hasn't been in the NHL,'' said Brian Campbell, who was paired up with Kampfer in Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders.
"He's given us great depth, has proved how good he is. I enjoy playing with him. He moves the puck, is really good. He's making the decision hard on the coaches. Hopefully we get to keep him around a little longer.''
Kampfer came to Florida as a relative unknown, acquired in a deal with the Rangers after training camp ended.
General manager Dale Tallon, who finalized the deal while hiking up a mountain as part of a team building session at West Point, knew Kampfer from his time in Boston and figured he would be a serviceable defenseman if injuries dictated depth moves.
Turns out, getting Kampfer was a steal.
"I liked him in Boston,'' Tallon said. "He's done a fantastic job since he's joined us. He's done great. He's a great kid, plays with emotion and stays involved. He's good on both ends of the ice.''
Knee injuries as well as a concussion slowed Kampfer's progression in the NHL.
The Michigan grad played in 61 games with Boston and Minnesota from 2010-12 but was relegated to the minors the past two-plus seasons.
"I went through a lot of adversity,'' Kampfer said. "I needed to get my confidence back.''
After coming to the Panthers he reported to their minor league team in San Antonio where his play raised some eyebrows.
Of Florida's seven defenseman, two (Kampfer and Alex Petrovic) started the season in San Antonio.
Neither want to go back.
"I came here to help the team win and you try to contribute any way you can,'' Kampfer said.
"I'm trying to do what I'm asked to do. I'm definitely trying to earn a contract, but the biggest thing is trying to help this team win. I'm doing everything I can.''
Kampfer has a couple of standout moments with the Panthers in the past six weeks but none, perhaps, bigger than Saturday.
Midway through the third, a puck from a John Tavares shot got around goalie Dan Ellis and was sliding undeterred toward the net.
At the last second, Kampfer swept in and knocked it out of harms way. Had that puck gone in, the Panthers may not have won.
"I think I was just in the right place at the right time,'' said Kampfer, who scored his only goal this year in Florida's shootout win at Montreal last month.
"You just want to help out and I was fortunate to get back and see the puck rolling toward the goal. We found a way to win and that's huge.''
TIME OFF
The Panthers finally have a couple days to breathe as their next game doesn't come until Thursday.
Gallant plans to have open practices at their Coral Springs IceDen facility on Monday and Wednesday with an off-ice session Tuesday.
With last Friday's practice cancelled because so many players were sick, the Panthers have had just two full practices in the past weeks.
"We still have a few guys with the flu so this time will help us get healthy,'' Gallant said. "The guys have played well so this is a perfect time for the break.''

 

 

 

March 07, 2015

SHOOTOUT WINNER: Huberdeau scores in regulation and SO as Dan Ellis gets first win with Panthers in 4-3 victory over Islanders ... Aaron Ekblad misses first NHL game with flu

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Dan Ellis admits he didn't finish last season with the Panthers the way he or anyone else around the team liked.
This is a different season, and, perhaps, a different goalie.
Ellis won his first game with the Panthers since coming over in a trade last March as Florida topped the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout at BB&T Center.
The Panthers had won two straight and kept pace with Boston in the playoff race. Earlier in the day, the Bruins rallied to tie Philadelphia in the final seconds before winning in overtime.
Since losing both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya to injury last week, Ellis helped Florida pick up three of the available four points.
"I've stepped into a great situation where I've been able to play,'' said Ellis, who was winless in six starts with the Panthers before stopping 25 shots and all three offerings faced in the shootout.
"I just want to contribute any way I can right now.''
Said coach Gerard Gallant: "Dan Ellis was great. He's an NHL goalie and gave us a real good game. It was a big win, a big two points for us. The goal is to stay on pace, stay in the race. We played good from the drop of the puck.''
Florida held the lead for big chunks of the night as Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau all scored.
The Islanders answered each time, tying the game at 3 with 7:12 left on a Josh Bailey goal from 30 feet out.
In overtime, Florida -- which took just 17 shots on former Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth (who lost to the Panthers the previous Saturday) in the first 60 minutes -- went on the attack and had the Islanders worn out in their zone when the horn sounded.
Huberdeau, who has two goals and three assists in the past four games, was the offensive hero as his slick spin-o-rama goal gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
In the shootout, Huberdeau charged in on Neuvirth and just about came to a complete stop before pushing the puck through.
Huberdeau was the only player to score as Florida improved to 7-10 and the Islanders dropped to 7-3 in shootouts. Ellis has stopped five of six shots in two shootouts since returning to the Panthers.
"The shootout was huge,'' Gallant said. "Huberdeau has played great lately and I really wanted to throw him back out there. I know this has been great for his confidence. Great goals by him, a real confidence builder.''
For the second straight game, Ellis was done in on a shot through traffic that was redirected off one of his teammates.
Thursday, two of the three goals scored went off a player in front.
Saturday, a long slapshot from Nick Leddy clipped Scottie Upshall's stick before finding its way to the back of the net to tie the score at 2.
Ellis didn't let that affect him too much, however, as he stood strong and stopped John Tavares in the shootout after getting beat by the Isles' top scorer on a breakaway in the second.
"We would have liked to win in regulation so we have to stop giving away leads,'' Brian Campbell said. "But this has been a tough week."
STILL SICK
The Panthers were still missing a few pieces as the flu works its way through the team as Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Ekblad sat out.
Saturday's game was the first one missed by Ekblad, 19, this season.
With Ekblad sitting out, only Derek MacKenzie, Campbell and Bjugstad have played in all 66 games for Florida.
Campbell has not missed a game since coming to the Panthers in a draft-day trade in 2011.
-- Captain Willie Mitchell was activated off the IR before the game after missing the past 16 games. Because Mitchell is still fighting the flu, Jonathan Racine was recalled from the minors as a precaution.
Racine landed in South Florida but was told he wouldn't play and watched the game from the press box instead.
-- The Panthers' online promotion awarding someone the chance to be a goalie in a practice has received over 1,200 applications since it began Thursday.
A select number of applicants (have to be 18 and over and have goaltending experience) will compete for two final spots on March 16.
For more information, visit floridapanthers.com

 

March 06, 2015

HELP WANTED: Florida Panthers go public in search for emergency goalie, ESPN's Linda Cohn is "available"

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Tuesday's controversial goalie situation, in which goalie coach Robb Tallas suited up as Florida's backup goalie in the third period, has spawned the team's public search for an emergency goalie.
The Panthers officially unveiled their plan, called a 'Goal of a Lifetime,' in which local amateur goalies (18-and-over) will compete for the chance to work with the Panthers in practice for a day.
The team would also likely keep track of the participants in case they needed an emergency goalie for a practice, or again, even in the middle of a game.
Interested applicants need to apply through the team website and a competition will be held March 16 at the BB&T Center. Two finalists will compete for the job during an intermission of Florida's game against Montreal on March 17.
A number of national hockey outlets picked up on the promotion with ESPN's Linda Cohn tweeting a picture of herself in goalie gear to the Panthers with the message "I'm available for backup duty."


The Panthers responded "we'd love to see you in net at the BB&T Center.''
"We think we're going to have a great response for this,'' executive chairman Peter Luukko said. "[Assistant coach] John Madden told us they used to do this up in Minnesota so we figured, 'why don't we do it as well.' It should be a lot of fun.''

 

SAM BRITTAIN: Making the most of his opportunity with the Florida Panthers


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Sam Brittain's first real taste of NHL life came in January when the Panthers called up the rookie goalie when the team was in Vancouver.

Backup Al Montoya left the team in Washington, D.C., to be with his wife as she gave birth to their second child.
Florida needed someone to play opposite Roberto Luongo in practice and Brittain, knowing he would never even see the bench during a game, was more than happy to leave his ECHL team in Cincinnati for the opportunity.
"I don't care how it happens I'm just happy to be here to learn what it takes to be an NHL goalie,'' Brittain said after a lengthy workout in Vancouver. "To get a taste of this for a few days is invaluable.''
On Tuesday, the Panthers found themselves with a big problem after both Luongo and Montoya were hurt in a loss to Toronto.
With both players out, veteran Dan Ellis was brought in from Florida's AHL team in San Antonio but so was Brittain.
Thursday, Brittain found himself taking part in his first NHL morning skate at BB&T Center and on the bench for his first game later that night.
How long Brittain sticks around, or whether he gets a chance to play in an NHL game isn't known.
Luongo is out until at least Thursday with a shoulder injury and Montoya could be done for the remainder of the regular season with a groin pull.
Brittain, 22, is just enjoying each day in the NHL as it comes. It's possible he gets sent back to the minors following Saturday's game since the Panthers don't play again until Thursday.
"I was going to go wherever they wanted me to, work hard and do my best,'' Brittain said in his first day as an NHL backup goalie on Wednesday.
"It's just awesome I'm here in Florida with the big club. I'm looking forward to enjoying every moment and helping where I can. You have to prepare to play every day. You never know what can happen. I have to be ready and take care of business.''
Ellis made his first start with the Panthers since last April, stopping 29 shots in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Stars -- the team he played for before being traded to Florida last year.
Of the three goals he gave up in regulation, two were deflected (one directly off the stick of teammate Brian Campbell) and the other could be attributed to a defensive breakdown.
"I thought he was good, real sharp,'' coach Gerard Gallant said.
Ellis is expected to start Saturday against the Islanders and, if Luongo is healthy, take the bench Thursday against Winnipeg.
"I thought there would be some nerves but I think playing against my old team, seeing some friends helped,'' said Ellis, who is winless in six starts with the Panthers.
"I felt good in there, would have liked to get the second point but getting one was a positive.''
-- Florida went scoreless in a shootout for the second straight time as it has dropped to 6-10 in those games this year. The Panthers have lost six of the past seven shootouts.
"I'm putting the guys out there I think can win it for us,'' Gallant said. "The goalies have been pretty good.''
-- Defenseman Shane O'Brien, recalled on an emergency basis Thursday when Erik Gudbranson fell ill, was returned to AHL San Antonio on Friday.
Saturday: Islanders at Panthers
When, where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Panthers lead 42-36-8
Noteworthy: The two teams have split the first two games with the Islanders winning in a shootout at Sunrise and Florida winning 4-2 last month in its final trip to Nassau Coliseum. The Isles ended a two-game slide with Thursday's win in Nashville.

 

 

 

 


March 05, 2015

SICK AND TIRED: Panthers battle illness, injury but keep pace with Boston in 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas ... Roberto Luongo injury not thought to be long term

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers had three players call in sick Thursday but their playoff hopes stayed out of intensive care despite a 4-3 shootout loss to the Stars.
With Boston also losing in a shootout, Florida kept pace with the Bruins and remain two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
With all the Panthers have had to deal with the past couple of days, coach Gerard Gallant says he'll take the point and move on.
Not only did Florida lose its two goalies to injury, but at least seven players were suffering varying degrees of illness on Thursday.
Three -- Jaromir Jagr, Willie Mitchell and Erik Gudbranson -- didn't play.
Four others had to, one of whom got physically sick on the ice during warmups.
"I'm not one for making excuses but it didn't look too good with guys showing up sick, others not coming in,'' Gallant said.
"Four guys played pretty sick. We battled hard, played hard, came back from being down 2-0. We got a point. We're not worried about Boston, just ourselves.''
Not surprisingly, Florida didn't show much life early and watched the Stars -- who had lost seven of nine after losing leading scorer Tyler Seguin in a win over the Panthers on Feb. 13 -- take a 2-0 lead.
Brandon Pirri gave the Panthers a jolt of life with his fourth goal in as many games with three minutes left in the first period.
Florida took over the game in the second, scoring twice and chasing goalie Kari Lehtonen to the bench.
Jonathan Huberdeau tied the score by snapping his 18-game goal drought with a wrister from Nick Bjugstad.
Four minutes later, Dmitry Kulikov popped out of the penalty box, took a slick feed from Jussi Jokinen and charged in on Lehtonen.
Kulikov beat Lehtonen top shelf and gave the Panthers the lead for the first time.
Kulikov fought Curtis McKenzie in the first in response to Kulikov taking out Seguin on Feb. 13 in Dallas. Kulikov ended up with his first 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick,' as he got credited for a fight, scored and had the secondary assist on Huberdeau's goal.
"They stuck up for their teammate and I wasn't going to back down,'' Kulikov said.
"We needed a win. A point is good for us, but we needed two. We need to put this one behind and learn from what we did good and bad. We need to come out strong [Saturday].''
Florida didn't muster up much of a fight in the third, taking just two shots on goal as Alex Goligoski tied it with 6:39 left.

The Panthers had numerous scoring chances in overtime but couldn't solve Jhonas Enroth who stopped 10 shots not including all three faced in the shootout.
Dallas scored on its third and final shootout offering to sweep the season series against the Panthers.
"We have to start finding ways to win these games and not just get a point,'' said Shawn Thornton, one of the sick players.
"Everyone goes through adversity it's just unfortunate it has happened to us at crunch time. But there are no excuses. We can't be giving away points.''
LUONGO OK
Gallant said Luongo would miss Saturday's game against the visiting Islanders but could return to action next week.
After the Islanders game, Florida doesn't play again until Winnipeg comes to Sunrise the following Thursday.
"He won't play Saturday but after that he will be day-to-day,'' Gallant said. "There's a possibiltity we're looking at hime for [Thursday]. It's tough to lose a guy like that.''
Montoya is expected to be out a month with a groin injury. Although the Panthers haven't placed Montoya on the injured list yet, they will in the coming days.
-- With illness racing through his team, Gallant cancelled Friday's scheduled practice.

 

March 04, 2015

PUT ME IN COACH: Center Derek MacKenzie, goalie coach Robb Tallas prepare to play in goal for Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

With much confusion over whom the Panthers could bring in to play goalie Tuesday, center Derek MacKenzie was tabbed as the player who would do so if needed.
When Montoya got hurt, goalie coach Robb Tallas, 41, was ready to go in. Problem was, he wasn't cleared by the NHL to be an eligible player and wasn't allowed on the ice by the on-ice officials.
That led the referees to tell the Panthers they needed to replace Montoya with someone who was on the active roster and currently in the game.
MacKenzie, who said his only goalie experience was goofing around during informal practices during the 2012 lockout, went into the locker room to change.
"I was ready to go out there and was debating in my mind whether to shuffle the crease like I knew what I was doing or just stumble out,'' MacKenzie said.

As for why he was chosen over Scottie Upshall: "It was a close game, you want the guys who can put the puck in the net out there on the ice trying to do that.''
He says he couldn't wear Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya's gear because it was too big, so he needed Tallas' equipment.
"I was down to putting on the chest protector when they changed their minds again,'' MacKenzie said.
The two trading gear led to even longer delays.
Montoya ended up returning to the game although he left the ice a second time leading to a delay of over 30 minutes.


Tallas was finally cleared by the NHL and was on the bench as the backup for the final 16-plus minutes of game time. MacKenzie put on his regular gear and returned to the ice.
Although it appeared MacKenzie was fighting with the officials before going off to the locker room, he says he was just warning them not to expect to much -- and to help protect him.
"I told them if anything came within three feet of the red line, they better blow the whistle for icing because I would be going back there,'' MacKenzie said.
As for Tallon saying the Panthers were considering going with an empty net instead of putting a forward like MacKenzie in there, MacKenzie smiled.
"I don't blame him,'' he said. "Everyone was concerned about another injury out there. Lou came out and stood up for us. He did us a big favor. Seeing both guys go out in a game is hard to process.''
-- Tallas previously suited up for a game in 2013 when Jacob Markstrom's equipment was delayed coming into Fort Lauderdale airport. Tallas took warmups and backed up Scott Clemmensen for the first period.
That game was exactly two years ago Tuesday.
"Next March 3rd I will be nowhere near a hockey rink,'' Tallas wrote on his Twitter account late Tuesday night.

 

 

RECALL NOTICE: Panthers call up Dan Ellis and Sam Brittain as they await word on severity of injuries to Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
With both of their primary goalies hurt, the Panthers quickly got to work and brought up a pair of replacements.
Whether this is a long-term solution or just a quick fix remains to be seen.
If Florida still wants to make the playoffs, it better hope this is nothing too serious.
Roberto Luongo injured his shoulder in the first period of Florida's 3-2 loss to Toronto on Tuesday night after being struck by a puck.
Luongo left the game during after the period and left the arena to get a CT Scan at Cleveland Clinic in Weston. When he heard backup Al Montoya got hurt trying to make a save early in the third, he raced back to BB&T Center and eventually returned to the game with nine minutes left in the game.
The extent of Luongo's injury isn't known as he continued to seek treatment by specialists on Wednesday.
Luongo and Montoya weren't available for comment.
"He's day-to-day right now and don't think it's as serious as we thought [Tuesday],'' coach Gerard Gallant said Wednesday.
Montoya appeared to injure his groin and he was limited upon his return. Gallant said "I don't think it's too serious but I don't know a whole lot."
The Panthers didn't have many options on Tuesday with 41-year-old goalie coach Robb Tallas (99 games over six NHL seasons) eventually signing a pro-tryout contract to be eligible to play if needed.
Tallas was back on the ice Wednesday in a coaching capacity with veteran Dan Ellis recalled from AHL San Antonio and rookie Sam Brittain brought up from ECHL Cincinnati.
Ellis will start Thursday against Dallas. Coincidentally, that game comes on the one-year anniversary of Florida acquiring Ellis in a trade with the Stars for Tim Thomas.
"This [Florida] team has shocked the league a little bit and they haven't gotten the credit for what they've done,'' said Ellis, who was with the Rampage for its series in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he got the call to come to South Florida.
"People have written the Panthers off yet here they are, competing night after night against the best teams in the league and winning. They've proved a lot of people wrong and it's great for the city because they want to see playoff hockey.''
If Luongo is hurt long-term, the Panthers do have some options -- none of which are as good as having a healthy Luongo.
Florida is currently two points back of Boston for the final playoff spot and can't afford to have its MVP on the shelf for the final 18 games.
Although the trade deadline passed Monday, General manager Dale Tallon could still acquire another goalie via free agency although that cupboard seems pretty barren.
The Panthers could also run with Ellis until Luongo is back. Ellis, who struggled with Florida at the end of last year, lost his backup job when Tallon signed Montoya to a two-year deal in July.
Ellis has been strong at times with San Antonio as he has accepted his role as a minor league goalie with class.
Ellis, 34, has gone 22-11-3 with the Rampage. He has played in 204 games over seven NHL seasons.
"Dan Ellis is an NHL goalie, we know that,'' Gallant said. "He's played a lot of games in the league and he's won a lot of games He's a good player, a good person. We know that. He'll work hard and give us a chance to win. That's all we ask.
"He's done a great job in San Antonio where it was a tough situation, an NHL goalie going down there. But he's worked hard and battled hard. Now he gets his chance again.''
-- Willie Mitchell is expected to return to the lineup after missing the past 15 games.
Center Nick Bjugstad was struck by a puck in the chest Tuesday and didn't practice Wednesday. He should play Thursday.
Thursday: Stars at Panthers
When, where:
7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Florida leads 13-12-3
Noteworthy: Dallas won the first meeting 2-0 on Feb. 13. The Stars are without leading scorer Tyler Seguin who was hurt on a low hit from Florida's Dmitry Kulikov. Dallas has lost seven of nine since to drop out of the playoff race.

 

March 03, 2015

MORE ON REPLACEMENT GOALIE

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

 

This comes from the NHL:

 

Panthers goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya both sustained injuries during the Maple Leafs/Panthers game. According to Rule 5.3, "In regular League and Playoff games, if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player’s bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured or incapacitated in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warm-up." In this situation, the League approved Florida's request to dress goaltending coach Robb Tallas.

From Dale Tallon:

"For our third goalie to go in, Robb Tallas, paperwork had to be cleared by the league before he could go in. The last time we did it, it was expired. It was a one-time PTO (pro tryout) and it had expired.

"The delay was, we were debating whether to put a player in or wait to get Robb legal so he could go in. We were in communication with the league so he could go in. We had to keep Montoya in; then Louie decided to come in and try and get us the win.

"We had [Derek MacKenzie] and Robb getting dressed.

"This is rare, it doesn't happen very often. We were in constant communiation with the league to do the right thing. You have to have him be legal, has to be cleared by Central Registry and that's hard to do at 11 o'clock or 10:30. Whatever.

"We had time, but I eventually you have to get someone cleared to play. If [Tallas] wasn't cleared we would have put a player in. And we probably would have decided not to have a goalie in there.

"We had to get Robb cleared and by that time, Louie decided to come back and give it a shot. Louie went for X-rays, a CT Scan. He decided he was fine to go. The rule states both goalies have to be incapacitated. You can't start things until the second goalie is hurt. Both goalies have to be incapacitated.

"[Montoya] is a lower body injury, Louie is an upper body injury. We have to bring up a goalie for practice tomorrow just to be sure. You may have to suit up.''

 

GOALIE MERRY-GO-ROUND: Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya hurt as Maple Leafs snap long road slide with 3-2 win ... Goalie coach Robb Tallas dresses but Luongo returns

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers went from starting their All-Star, future Hall of Fame goalie Tuesday to going with their backup.
They almost ended up putting in the guy selling Molsons in Section 132.
OK, things weren't that bad although Florida was forced to suit up goalie coach Robb Tallas -- who hasn't played an NHL game since 2001 -- in a deflating 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs.
"We had communication with the league and had to get Robb legal to go in,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "It's rare, this doesn't happen very often."
Tallas, who never went in as Roberto Luongo returned after a first period injury, was approved by the NHL to be Florida's emergency backup after Luongo hurt a shoulder in the first period and Al Montoya appeared to pull a groin muscle early in the third.
Montoya returned to the game after a lengthy delay early in the third period as Florida and league officials tried to work through the mess and figure out who was eigible and who was not.
Montoya was obviously hurt and gave up the game-winning goal to Peter Holland with 14:32 left.
With Tallas in the tunnel and in uniform, Luongo -- who had appeared in his dress clothes -- talked coach Gerrard Gallant into going back in.
While Montoya killed time best he could, Luongo got suited up and returned to the game with 9:08 left.
Toronto didn't score again -- but neither did the Panthers.
Florida remains two points back of Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the Bruins playing two fewer games.
Toronto had lost 16 straight road games -- dating to New Year's Eve -- before topping the Panthers.
"We were really concerned, playing a good game and lose both goalies boom, boom,'' Gallant said. "There was a lot of confusion going on.''
Montoya returned to the game in obvious pain and was lauded by management and teammates alike for returning.
Gallant said Montoya was "hurting pretty good" and Tallon confirmed Florida would recall a goalie from its minor league affiliate -- likely former NHLer Dan Ellis -- immediately.
"We have to bring a goalie up,'' Tallon said. "We'll see what happens after the medical report.''
Aside from Florida's goalie issues, its scoring issues popped up again as Jonathan Bernier slammed the door in the third.
The Panthers led 1-0 on a Brandon Pirri goal early with Aaron Ekblad making it 2-1 in the second.
Montoya was hurt trying to stop Nazem Kadri on his game-tying goal 22 seconds into the third forcing the Panthers to scramble and try and find an emergency goalie.
Both Scottie Upshall and Derek MacKenzie were considered, with MacKenzie going as far as to head back to the locker room to change.
Tallon, meanwhile, was working with the league to get Tallas approved to play. Tallas served as an emergency backup during warmups and the first period of a game against Carolina when Jacob Markstrom's equipment was late to arrive.
Tallas, Luongo and Montoya were unavailable for comment.
"We have to be mentally strong, try and keep pucks away from them,'' Pirri said. "We're not even close to being happy about what happened. We want that playoff spot.''

Tallas photo from 2013 warmups v Carolina courtesy of Eliot J. Schecther/Getty Images

 

SCOTTIE UPSHALL: Glad to be with the Florida Panthers


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Scottie Upshall walked up to a local reporter in the Panthers locker room Tuesday morning and held out a hand.
"It's good to see you today,'' Upshall said with a smile.
With the trade deadline Monday at 3, Upshall wasn't sure he'd be with the Panthers come Tuesday.
"It's nice to be here this morning,'' he said.
Although he knew he was one of the players being shopped around by the Panthers, Upshall said he didn't particularly pay much attention to the trade talk on Monday.
With family in town, he took them to the beach.
A day off in Fort Lauderdale? Why not.
"Deadline day in pro sports is where a lot of action happens,'' Upshall said. "It's nice to have it over with. You never like to see your friends go, and as much action that went on [Monday], it's good to see [Tallon] believes the group here can get the job done. We want to make the playoffs and do good things in the playoffs.
"We feel we're right there. With 19 games left, this is an opportunity for the guys here to do what we believed we could do from the start of the season. We want to turn some heads and prove we can get the job done. We're close and the push here in the next month is when hockey gets really tough. We like where we are.''

 

PETER HORACHEK: Staying positive despite the losses

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Peter Horachek is as positive a person one would ever meet.
It's a character trait that has done him well, especially with all of the negativity -- and flat out losing -- surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs these days.
"I don't think there's any other way to go about it,'' Horachek said after Tuesday's morning skate in Sunrise.
"It doesn't help anyone if you get overly negative on the team right now. We're very clear when we make mistakes, clear with how we need to play.''
Horachek has been in this type of situation before, and not too long ago, either.
As the interim coach of the Panthers last year, Horachek took over a rough situation (Florida had lost seven straight when it fired Kevin Dineen) and tried to make things better.
As was the case in Florida, the Maple Leafs were sellers going into the trade deadline.
He'll work with what he has, he says, trying to make things better.
"There are challenges, we traded away six guys'' he said. "If I look like I'm not motivated and into it, neither will they.''
Toronto has 19 games left this season and his message is his players have a chance to show a little pride, prove themselves accountable.
And, in the process, maybe spoil some playoff dreams of some other teams.
Although the Leafs have lost 16 straight road games -- dating to a New Year's Eve win in Boston -- they sure could screw up the Panthers with a win tonight in Sunrise.
"This is a good opportunity for everyone to show what kind of person they are, what they're made of,'' Horachek said.

 

 

PHIL KESSEL: Leave Dion Phaneuf alone


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Those who thought the Toronto Maple Leafs may go quietly into the good night after the trading deadline passed were in for a little surprise Tuesday.
Phil Kessel, he of many trade rumors himself, stood in front of Dion Phaneuf's locker stall in the visitor's room at BB&T Center after Tuesday's morning skate.
After being asked a few questions about still being around -- he said he didn't assume he was going anywhere -- Kessel tore into the Toronto media for its perceived poor treatment of Phaneuf.
Kessel, it should be noted, was not asked about Phaneuf.
"I think the way the media treats Dion Phaneuf in this city is embarrassing,'' Kessel said, referring to Toronto and not, we think, Sunrise.
"A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves. I’m embarrassed for them. I don’t think anyone deserves to be treated like that and a lot of media should be embarrassed about what they said about him in general.
"It’s disgusting the way people treat him. You guys unfairly criticize him. He’s our best defenceman and you guys act like he’s not trying out there and this and that. Is it his fault we’re losing? No. Did he build this team? No. It’s not Dion Phaneuf.''
Rumors swirled this weekend and into Monday that Phaneuf and his large contract might be on the move to Detroit. That didn't happen.
Phaneuf didn't speak to the gathered media despite being requested. The players who were in the room seemed surprised by Kessel's rant as they all stopped what they were doing to listen in.
A few of them did so with raised eyebrows and some chuckled under their breath.
"The stuff he takes, the crap he takes, the things people say, I’m just tired of it,'' Kessel continued. "He’s owed some apologies by some people.''
TSN ended up apologizing to Toronto's Jeffrey Lupul for a tweet it ran during Monday's trade deadline show. The tweet, from the general public, talked about personal issues and seemingly slipped through the filtering process.
After the derogatory tweet got through, TSN stopped running live tweets on its show.
Lupul also didn't speak Tuesday. He did go to Twitter however, writing "get familiar with #nocomment."

 

WILLIE MITCHELL: We haven't done anything, but don't disrespect the Florida Panthers


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Panthers captain Willie Mitchell said he heard Sportsnet analyst Glenn Healy disrespecting the Panthers during SN's trade day coverage Monday and decided he couldn't let it sit.
Mitchell sent out a tweet directed at Healy that got plenty of play as it spiced up a fairly lame trading deadline.
When SN saw the tweet, it wasn't ignored and was brought up during a roundtable discussion.
Former Panthers coach -- and part-time South Florida resident -- Doug MacLean jokingly stuck up for his former team as he is never one to turn down a chance to rib Healy.
On Tuesday, Mitchell explained why he came out in defense of his team through social media.
"We're not satisfied with what we've accomplished by no means,'' Mitchell said. "We have one goal and that's to make the postseason and we've said that from the beginning of the season. We've worked our tails off. Ownership has given us a chance. I just thought it was uncalled for from the outside to discredit what we've done to this point.
"Again, we haven't accomplished anything, but, we were a last place team in the league and we're fighting with a team that won the Stanley Cup not that long ago. I thought it was uncalled for. We talk about the positive things in the Florida market. We're playing better, we're in every game. We try to do things the right way. I think people are seeing that.''
Mitchell added that there's a challenge of playing in a non-traditional market especially one like South Florida. He says he and his teammates relish the opportunity to get things right here.
"This group really likes that challenge, we embrace that,'' Mitchell said. "Everyone says hockey in Florida doesn't work, the Florida Panthers have never been a team to contend with. We have a lot of work to do to [disprove] that to our peers. The most important thing is when teams around the league know its not a lay-up in Florida. I know in playing against them last year, we're a different hockey club.''
Mitchell, who has been on the injured list for the past few weeks, says he was aiming to play Tuesday against the Leafs but is now hoping for Thursday.
"Some injuries [hang] around and this one has,'' he said. "I feel good, should be in the next game. I was trying to vouch for this one but the medical staff are pulling back the reigns a bit. You should see me in the next one.''
Dave Bolland, also on the IR, didn't skate Tuesday as coach Gerard Gallant says he was fighting the flu.

 

March 02, 2015

ALL'S QUIET IN SUNRISE: Panthers stand pat on trade deadline day but make news on Twitter


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The most exciting part of Monday's trade deadline for the Panthers was captain Willie Mitchell taking exception to a comment by a Canadian television analyst and responding to it on Twitter.
Yeah, it was a slow news day.
With general manager Dale Tallon making three trades last week -- including one for future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr -- there wasn't much to do come Monday.
Tallon was believed to be shopping pending free agents Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall but by 3 p.m., Florida didn't make any deals.
"We did most of our work early as did most teams. There wasn't a lot going on,'' Tallon said.
"Teams had done their trades over the past few weeks. We looked at possibilities with other teams and other players, but we knew this was going to be a quiet day. We wanted to help our offense but it's hard to do that.''
Florida's four pending free agents had been on the market all season with Tallon dealing away Sean Bergenheim last Tuesday and Tomas Fleischmann on Saturday.
Although Kopecky and Upshall may not be in the future plans of the Panthers, they are part of their immediate future and can help Florida in its quest for a playoff spot.
Upshall's goal Saturday broke a 3-3 tie in an eventual 5-3 win over the Sabres; Kopecky was back in the lineup on Sunday and had two key scoring chances against the Lightning.
"We're in the hunt, two points out,'' Tallon said. "Team morale is very high, we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Team chemistry is important and you don't want to disrupt that.''
So now, the Panthers move forward.
With 19 games remaining, coach Gerard Gallant knows who is on his team moving forward.
The Panthers currently have 21 players on the roster so they have room when Mitchell and center Dave Bolland return from injury.
"Tuesday will be a good day for us because we can move on, we know what our team is for the final games,'' Gallant said over the weekend. "It's tough for the guys who are involved in that, but they are pros and know this is part of the business. It will sort itself out.''
Said Upshall: "We know we have 15, 16 forwards and decisions need to be made. As a pro, you just do your job, come to play. We all want to be on this team, make the playoffs here.''
As for Mitchell, he didn't like snide remarks made toward the Panthers by Sportsnet commentator Glenn Healy including one comment in which he referred to Florida as the "mighty Panthers."
That led Mitchell to send a tweet toward Healy poking fun at his 14-year career as an NHL goalie -- as well as making an unprintable suggestion.
Mitchell's tweet caught the attention of the Sportsnet crew with former Panthers coach Doug MacLean defending Mitchell and his former team while good-naturedly ribbing Healy.


Roberto Luongo, himself a master of Twitter, jumped into the fray as well, posting a picture of a crying Terrell Owens with the line "that's my captain!"

Again, it was a slow day.
"God bless Willie,'' Tallon said with a chuckle. "He's a great captain and he's a Panther. We have a good group who really care for each other and believe in themselves, believe in our team. It's all good.''
-- Tallon said Mitchell is close to returning from his undisclosed upper body injury. Bolland is expected to join the Panthers for Tuesday's morning skate.
-- Former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen won't return to Sunrise on Tuesday as Toronto traded him to St. Louis for a sixth round draft pick.
Jokinen made his Toronto debut after being traded there from Nashville against the Panthers on Feb. 17.
Tuesday: Maple Leafs at Panthers
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Toronto leads 33-29-7
Noteworthy: The Leafs have been bad but especially so away from Toronto as they have lost 16 straight road games. Toronto hasn't won on the road since winning at Boston on New Year's Eve.

 

 

 

 


March 01, 2015

ROLLING RIGHT ALONG: Panthers snap home losing skid v Lightning, hold on for wild 4-3 win ... Jagr gets goal, assist as Panthers have nine goals in past two wins

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers appear to have found their offense.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
On Sunday, Florida newcomer Jaromir Jagr led a balanced attack as the Panthers scored three unanswered goals then held on for dear life to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 at BB&T Center.
The Panthers hadn't beaten the Lightning in Sunrise since their 2011-12 season opener.
That victory kicked off Florida's previous playoff season; the Panthers hope Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay precludes another postseason berth.
Florida is back to being two points back of the final playoff spot.
"This could really be one of those games you look back on,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said.
"They play very well and we knew that. We know the level we have to play at to be consistent and to be good. We have Toronto and Dallas coming up. We need to keep piling them up. We have 19 games left. We know how many wins, how many points we need to get into the playoffs. We need to keep climbing.''
Before Jagr arrived in South Florida, the Panthers offensive had slowed to a crawl, scoring just 11 goals in the previous nine games.
Since Jagr popped into the lineup Saturday against Buffalo, the Panthers have nine goals.
Coincidence?
Probably not.


Sunday, Jagr scored Florida's first goal after being fed in the slot by Jonathan Huberdeau and beating Ben Bishop top shelf.
In the second, tied at 1, Jagr fired a hard shot at Bishop with the puck lingering dangerously around the goal line. Sasha Barkov cleaned it up and Florida had a lead it would not relinquish.
Jagr hadn't scored a goal in 10 games before Sunday.
"It's only been two games but its a big two games and we're back in the race,'' said Jagr, who received the West Point victory jacket after tying Hall of Famer Phil Esposito for fifth all-time on the NHL goals list with 717.
"I came here to try to help this team get into the playoffs and these games are like the playoffs. We have 19 games left, it's exciting.''
Up 2-1, the Panthers kept coming at the Lightning and went into the second intermission up two when Brad Boyes scored a wacky goal by throwing a shot at Bishop from behind the goal cage.
In the third, Florida made it 4-1 on a power play blast from rookie Aaron Ekblad.
Tampa Bay, the NHL's highest-scoring team, didn't sit back and made it a game as Steven Stamkos scored midway through the third before Tyler Johnson made it a one-goal game with 2:44 left.
Backup goalie Al Montoya and Florida's defense stood up, however, and kept the Lightning at bay. The Panthers, who had lost four straight, have victories in consecutive days for the first time this season.
"The guys are going hard to the net,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "We played a real good game against a real good team. They put the press on us late and got some goals. We held on, found a way to get two big points.''
TRADE DAY
After already trading away Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann, the Panthers aren't expected to be too busy before Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall are being shopped by the Panthers but could remain after the deadline.
Kopecky was in the lineup Sunday after being scratched in the previous three games. Upshall scored the game-winner in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Sabres.
Both players will be free agents on July 1.
"Those are all just rumors, I just want to focus on my shifts,'' said Kopecky, who like Upshall served as an assistant captain Sunday.
"I can control what I can control and that's my work ethic.''
-- Boyes scored his 200th career goal Sunday. He had gone 17 games between goals.
"It's been a while since I've chipped in,'' Boyes said. "It was nice. We need goals.''
-- Campbell played in his 900th NHL game in Saturday's win over the Sabres -- the team which drafted him and he spent eight seasons with.

 

February 28, 2015

JAGR TIME: Jaromir Jagr doesn't land on scoresheet but makes presence known in Florida's 5-3 win ... Brandon Pirri comes off IR, scores twice

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Jaromir Jagr came to the Panthers with the thought he would help their much maligned offense.
And even though the future Hall of Famer didn't find the scoresheet Saturday, Jagr certainly had an effect as Florida recorded its fifth biggest output of the season in a 5-3 win over visiting Buffalo to snap a four-game losing streak.
"He was outstanding,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "He makes your team a lot better, gives your team a a lot of confidence.''
Jagr made his Florida debut Saturday afternoon just hours after he arrived at BB&T Center and headed to the home locker room for the first time.
The 43-year-old winger -- who shares a line with 19-year-old center Sasha Barkov as well as 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau -- ended up playing 21 shifts (17:09) with three shots on goal.
He'll get another chance to snap his eight game scoreless streak when Florida plays host to Tampa Bay on Sunday at 5.
"It was crazy for me since they told me about [the trade] at 4 on Thursday so I didn't have much time to pack up and get down here,'' Jagr said in a introductory postgame press conference.
"It's tough to just go to the game without any practice or preparation. We need every point we can get but this was new for me, not practicing and just jumping in.''
Not only was Jagr on the ice for both of Brandon Pirri's goals, but Pirri -- who was activated off the injured list before the game -- credited Jagr for getting him to take the shot in the first place.
Pirri's goals came just over a minute apart and tied the score at 2 past the midway point of the second period.
"He told me to shoot the puck, said 'you got it','' Pirri said. "I knew I had to be the shooter there, [Brian Campbell] put it in my wheelhouse and I teed off on it.''
Buffalo, the worst team in the NHL, jumped to a two-goal lead on the Panthers even when it looked like it didn't want to.
The Sabres, a team in tank mode as it hopes to hold the top pick in the NHL draft when it's held in Sunrise come June, was held to just 14 shots on goal yet found a way to get three past Roberto Luongo.
Buffalo's final goal tied the score at 3 with 7:06 remaining; the Sabres were being outshot 40-13 at the time.
Yet just when it looked like the Panthers would go to overtime despite thoroughly outplaying an opponent, Scottie Upshall came to the rescue.
Upshall, whom the Panthers have been trying to trade before Monday's deadline, took a feed from Derek MacKenzie in the slot and fired a wrister past Michal Neuvirth (42 saves) with six minutes left.
Buffalo didn't make much noise after that as MacKenzie put the Sabres out of their misery with an empty net goal in the final seconds.
"It felt great, nice to chip in and get on the board again,'' Upshall said. "It was nice to start a big weekend here with a win.''
Said Gallant: "It was tough seeing it tied 3-3. Fortunately for us, it's good to see your so-called fourth line get a goal for us.''
Florida at least kept pace with Boston for the final playoff spot. The Bruins opened their lead on the Panthers to four points after beating the Devils in overtime on Friday.
With the Bruins playing host to an Arizona team that hasn't won since Feb. 9 on Saturday evening, the Panthers couldn't afford to lose to the Sabres.
So the postseason hunt continues. Jagr should help things out.
"I'm going to do my best, that's why I'm here,'' Jagr said. "I've played the game so many years, when you add Europe I think it's the most ever, so I have a lot of experience. This makes me a little more excited. This is a new life.''

Sunday: Lightning at Panthers
When, where: 5 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Florida leads 57-47-10
Noteworthy: The two cross-state rivals haven't met since the season opener on Oct. 9. The Lightning has won five straight over Florida and the Panthers haven't won in Sunrise since their 2011-12 home opener. Al Montoya starts in goal for Florida.

 

 

FLASH THE DUCK: Fleischmann dealt to Anaheim for Dany Heatley, pick ... Tallon says Heatley will get shot with Panthers if 'proves himself'

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers made another trade before Saturday's game against the Sabres, sending winger Tomas Fleischmann to Anaheim for a future third round pick and former NHL All-Star Dany Heatley.
"We did what we had to do,'' GM Dale Tallon said, "for our case and for Fleischmann. Flash is a real pro, a real good guy. It was all about performance.''
Heatley, who scored four goals in the 2003 All-Star Game in Sunrise while with the Thrashers, has battled injuries the past few years and is currently in the AHL.
The Panthers will keep Heatley in the minors with general manager Dale Tallon saying Heatley will get a chance with Florida if his play picks up in the AHL. In 25 games with Norfolk, Heatley has just two goals and five assists.
Heatley, 34, has played in 869 NHL games with Atlanta, Ottawa, San Jose, Minnesota and Anaheim.
While Heatley has scored close to 400 goals, he's only scored 23 in the past three seasons.
Anaheim signed him to a bargain-basement one-year deal worth $1 million. Florida will pick up about $200,000 of that salary whether he plays in San Antonio or in Sunrise.

Fleischmann was making $4.5 million with the Panthers so the Ducks will pay him about $1 million.
Heatley will join the Rampage in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I think Dany can go down and give us some offense down the stretch,'' Tallon said. "He has to prove to me that he can do it. He's definitely done it before. He's had some injury-plagued years so it's not easy. But I told him today he'll get a shot with us if he earns that shot. I hope he goes to San Antonio and finds his way.''
As for Fleischmann, rumors had been flying all week that Anaheim wanted to reunite him with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
One of Tallon's big signings in the summer of 2011, Fleischmann led Florida in scoring during his first two seasons with the Panthers.
The past two seasons have been a battle for Fleischmann, however. After scoring 39 goals with 96 points in his first two years here, he ended with 15 goals and 49 points in his final two.
Fleischmann left South Florida on Saturday to fly to Anaheim and join his new teammates.
"The performance just wasn't there,'' Tallon said. "He lost his confidence and just needs a fresh start. It's too bad it didn't work out here. He was real good for us, especially the year we made the playoffs. Somewhere along the line it didn't continue.''

 

 

February 27, 2015

WAITING FOR JAGR: Panthers try to end losing skid Saturday as Jaromir Jagr expected to make Florida debut ... Brandon Pirri returns, Willie Mitchell still out

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

For the second straight day, the Panthers went about their business Friday without their newest teammate.
Jaromir Jagr, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Friday afternoon, is expected to join the team Saturday before Florida plays host to Buffalo at BB&T Center at 3 p.m.
Jagr, the 42-year-old right winger who made his NHL debut three seasons before the Florida Panthers hit the ice for the first time, will likely see plenty of time on one of Florida's top lines and try and help a power play ranked 28th in the league.
"I heard about the trade when I came in [Thursday] and it was just amazing to hear,'' said 19-year-old Sasha Barkov, who could center the future Hall of Famer against the Sabres.
"He was a top player in the league, won two Stanley Cups before I was born. He's one of the great players who can score from anywhere on the ice. It's a good thing for us.''
Already, the team is banking on Jagr's star power to invigorate ticket sales as well as help kickstart a stagnant offense.
Florida was shutout 3-0 by Chicago on Thursday night and hasn't scored more than two goals in a game since putting up three on the reeling Maple Leafs last week in Toronto.
Among teams within six points of a playoff spot, the Panthers have the fewest goals (2.28 per game) and the highest goal differential (minus-27).
Since beating the Ducks 6-2 on Feb. 10, Florida is averaging a meager 1.2 goals per game.
Although Jagr only has 11 goals in 57 games with New Jersey this season, the Panthers hope more top-line minutes as well as more offensive creativity will get him going.
Jagr's 24 goals and 67 points last season would have led the Panthers. This year, his 11 goals would be good for third on the team and his 29 points place him fifth.
"We can find a place for him on roster somewhere, for sure,'' said coach Gerard Gallant, whose final season as an NHL regular was with Tampa Bay during Florida's inaugural season of 1993-94. Gallant faced the young, mullet-sporting Jagr when he was first breaking in with the Penguins.
"We all know what he is. He's an older guy, but he's still a real good hockey player. He brings some credibility to our hockey club and I think he'll be a real good fit with our group. I don't know the guy that well, but I played against him. That tells you how long he's been around.''
For the second straight year, Buffalo gets to be the team Florida's new star breaks out against.
Last year, Roberto Luongo played his first game with the Panthers after being reacquired from Vancouver and shut out the Sabres 2-0 on March 7.
“[Jagr] was by far one of my favorite players I got to watch,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters in Buffalo on Friday.
“The Florida Panthers are a young team that needs some proper leadership and direction to get them in that next hump. It’s a great move.”
New executive chairman Peter Luukko saw Jagr's influence on young players first hand while president of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Luukko, whose opinion on the deal was sought out by general manager Dale Tallon, said players such as Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux benefited from having Jagr as a teammate.
Jagr's work ethic is so strong the Flyers and other teams he's played for gave him a key to their training facility so he could work out whenever the mood struck him.
The Panthers are banking on Jagr's work acumen rubbing off on their many impressionable youngsters.
"He was an incredible influence in our locker room, especially with our younger players in terms of leading by example,'' Luukko said.
"No one worked harder on our team. .-.-. When Dale called me and mentioned we had a chance to get in on the Jagr deal, I told him he was a first-class, awesome guy. I was 1,000 percent behind this.''
PIRRI RETURNS
Brandon Pirri centered Florida's third line with Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes on Friday and has been cleared to return to the lineup.
Pirri has been out since injuring a shoulder Feb. 10.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell practiced again Friday but won't play against the Sabres.
"He's still day-to-day,'' Gallant said.
-- Garrett Wilson remained with the team Friday as center Derek MacKenzie didn't practice after blocking a shot during Thursday's game.
"He's fine,'' Gallant said. "He took a maintence day to get some treatment on it, but he's fine for [Saturday].''
Saturday: Sabres at Panthers
When, where: 3 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WFTL 850
Series: Buffalo leads 45-34-4
Noteworthy: This is the fifth and final meeting of the season with Florida 3-0-1 so far. Roberto Luongo has won six of seven against the Sabres and five straight.


 

 

February 26, 2015

HELP ON THE WAY: Trade for Jaromir Jagr should help scoring-deficient Panthers as Cats lose fourth straight ... Chicago takes control and wins 3-0

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Dale Tallon believes his Panthers are a playoff team and Thursday, he got them some help in their quest by acquiring future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr.
Hours before Florida lost 3-0 to the visiting Blackhawks at BB&T Center, Tallon swung a deal bringing the 43-year-old Jagr south for a pair of draft picks.
Jagr, the NHL's active leader in just about every category, is expected to be in South Florida on Friday and make his Panthers' debut Saturday against the visiting Sabres.
"We’re committed to winning,'' said Tallon, whose team has lost four straight but remains two points back of the final playoff spot.
"We want to win a championship. We’re putting the pieces together, step by step, and we’re hopeful that Jaromir can lead these young guys to the promised land. It’s a win-win for us."
Thursday's loss put a spotlight on Florida's biggest weakness -- a lack of scoring.
Jagr, obviously, knows a little something about putting the puck in the back of the net.
Jagr broke in with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and won a pair of Stanley Cups alongside Mario Lemuiex.
A nine-time All-Star and 15-time 30-goal scorer, Jagr has slowed a bit over the years but should bring the Panthers an added spark on a power play ranked 27th in the league and give them a dangerous scoring option on one of Florida's top two lines.
Thursday, the Panthers were shutout for the second time in eight games; Florida has been held to two goals or fewer in five straight.
"He's still got it,'' Tallon said. "He's still outstanding, still great to watch.''
Jagr had 11 goals in 57 games with the Devils and recently complained of diminishing playing time since New Jersey fired former Florida coach Pete DeBoer in December.
In 1,530 NHL games, Jagr has 716 goals and 1,068 assists. Jagr also scored 66 goals in three seasons in the KHL from 2008-11.



"This is a real jolt for a team that's winning and close to the playoffs,'' said Chicago television analyst Ed Olczyk, a teammate of Jagr's for two seasons in Pittsburgh.
"This is a real strong message to the players in that locker room that their management is serious about winning. On the ice, he can still generate offense, he's won before and has a great work ethic. He's just a terrific guy.''
The price for Jagr wasn't cheap -- but wasn't all that steep either.
Florida will give up its second round selection in this upcoming draft (hosted by the Panthers in Sunrise) and a conditional third round pick in 2016. The Panthers will also pick up around $850,000 in salary.
What Florida gets back is a tireless worker whom the Panthers hope will give the team's young players invaluable guidance.
Thursday, Tallon said he hoped Jagr would return to play with the Panthers next season -- and beyond.
"I’d love to see him play another year or two here,'' Tallon said. "That’s what his goal is. His fitness level is second to none.''
THURSDAY'S GAME
Chicago finished its sweep of a rare home-and-home series with the Panthers by scoring early in the first (Teuvo Teravainen) and second (Brandon Saad) periods. Jonathan Toews potted an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining.
Teravainen was recalled from the minors Wednesday to replace the injured Patrick Kane who is out three months after breaking his collarbone in Tuesday's shootout win over the Panthers.
Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic, whose shove sent Kane into the boards, didn't face any retribution from the Blackhawks.
The Panthers are 3-5-3 in their past 11 games with 21 games remaining. Florida has lost seven straight to Chicago.
"Chicago played a playoff-atmosphere type game,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "I liked the way we battled and competed but we just weren't good enough [Thursday]. They were a better team, one of the best teams in hockey.''
-- Winger Brandon Pirri, out the past two weeks with a shoulder injury, is close to returning and could be back against Buffalo or Tampa Bay on Sunday.
-- With the trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m., Florida winger Tomas Fleischmann is getting a lot of attention from Western Conference teams.
A pending free agent, Fleischmann played in his 262nd game over four seasons with the Panthers on Friday.
-- Winger Garrett Wilson played in his second game since being recalled from the minors on Monday. He's expected to be sent back to San Antonio to make roster space for Jagr.
-- The Panthers will hold an open workout at the Coral Springs IceDen on Friday at 11 a.m.

Jagr jersey photo courtesty of @FlaPanthers

Jagr scoreboard photo courtesy of @DavidDwork