April 03, 2014

PANTHERS TALK WITH COUNTY: Vote for Tourism Money May Not Come for a Bit

The Panthers were part of a workshop in Fort Lauderdale as the debate continues whether the county will give the team more tourism money. Here's the link to the story:

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/04/broward-debates-bed-tax-dollars-for-panthers-vs-beaches.html

April 01, 2014

SCOTT CLEMMENSEN: Playing in the NHL and for the Panthers was a 'Privilege'

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Scott Clemmensen likely made his final appearance with the Panthers in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Islanders.

Clemmensen played well at times and didn't get much help.

Florida was being outshot 28-13 by the end of the second period and ended up at a 40-22 disadvantage.

"Playing in the NHL is a privilege and playing for the Panthers was just that,'' said Clemmensen, who could return to Florida's minor league team in San Antonio in the coming days.

"I played with a tremendous amount of guys over my five years and I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I'm taking it one day at a time and appreciating everything. I'm taking it all in. Regardless of what happens, I'll look back and know I laid it all on the line. I'll have no regrets.''

 

END OF THE ROAD: Panthers Lose Final Road Game of 2013-14 to Islanders ... Upshall Leaves and Returns

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Peter Horachek was thinking he may have to start Tuesday's game down a forward. Turns out he was without Brad Boyes for much of Florida's 4-2 loss to the host Islanders.

Scottie Upshall and Brad Boyes were both game time decisions because of various injuries. Both played in Florida's final road game of the season, although both left in the first period -- with Upshall returning in the second.

Boyes' sore back tightened up forcing him to leave the game for good with 7:55 left in the first period after five shifts.

Upshall was knocked out by a big hit from Matt Carkner late in the period. Upshall got hit in the face while skating up the ice and hit the deck hard. Upshall remained flat on the ice for a few minutes as he was attended to by head athletic trainer Dave Zenobi and would later slowly be helped off the ice by Zenobi.

According to coach Peter Horachek, the initial fear was Upshall broke his jaw. He returned midway through the second period and finished the game.

"Losing guys right off the bat puts you behind from the start because you're mixing and matching,'' Horachek said. "That put us a little bit behind the 8-ball but other guys went out and had opportunities. It's not an easy situation.''

Upshall didn't comment on the incident as he headed to the training room.

"Sorry guys, have to go put ice on my jaw,'' he said.

The nasty hit led Erik Gudbranson to fight Carkner as Zenobi was tending to Upshall a few feet away.

Carkner was given two minutes for high-sticking Upshall, but because it was determined Gudbranson initiated the fight, he was penalized as well and there was no power play chance. Carkner would later fight Krys Barch as well.

Florida got off to a rare good start Tuesday. Defenseman Jonathan Racine made quite an impression in his first NHL start, hammering Cal Clutterbuck with a big hit that was called interference 42 seconds in.

The Panthers, for only the fourth time in their history, got a shorthanded goal for the second straight game as Quinton Howden picked the pocket of Frans Nielsen and raced down the ice, beating Evgeni Nabokov with a wrister.

That was about the it for Florida highlights as the Islanders scored the next four goals before Brandon Pirri scored with 3.9 seconds left.

New York tied it with a Travis Hamonic shot from 50 feet out with seven seconds left on the power play 45 seconds after Howden scored.

After being deadlocked at 1 for some time, the Islanders added a pair of goals in the second and never looked back.

-- The Panthers made two roster moves but only used one. Although Racine made his NHL debut by filling in for Ed Jovanovski, Bobby Butler was scratched.

Racine apparently heard he was joining the Panthers on Sunday so he was able to get some friends and family to the New York area.

"I tried to play hard, play my game and do my best on the ice,'' Racine, 20, said. "I was so happy to get the call. I think I did a very good job for my first game.''

Florida expected either Upshall [lower body] or Boyes [back] to miss Tuesday's game but both decided to play after warmups so Butler watched. He could play Friday if Boyes is out.

-- The Panthers will take Wednesday off as it appears the team will have been stuck in New York on Tuesday night. The team was planning on staying on Long Island because of a problem with its charter plane.

-- Florida ends the 2013-14 season 13-25-3 away from Sunrise.

 

March 31, 2014

BE-DEVILED: New Jersey Keeps Hope Alive in 6-3 Win Over Panthers ... Clemmensen Likely For Tuesday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils were desperate for a win Monday night to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Man, were they ever happy to see the Panthers come to town.

New Jersey got its precious two points in the standings by scoring three goals in the first before holding off the Panthers 6-3 at Prudential Center.

The game was a little closer than the Devils would have liked as Florida was within a goal in the third but New Jersey was happy to escape with the win as Travis Zajac celebrated his first career hat trick.

"It's the same thing. We get down, we're not ready, we constantly battle back,'' said Brad Boyes, who scored his team-high 20th early in the second.

"It just doesn't change and that's the frustrating part. Talk is cheap unless you do something about it.''

When the Devils lost to the Panthers 5-3 in Sunrise two weeks ago, they were just two points out of the final spot. They started Monday five out.

New Jersey had to deal with goalie Roberto Luongo the last time out, but with Luongo back in South Florida, he wasn't a concern of the Devils this time around.

Backup Dan Ellis continues to search for his first win since coming over from Dallas in a March 5 trade as he made 26 saves.

New Jersey took a 3-0 lead after outshooting Florida 17-3 to start things before Dmitry Kulikov got the Panthers' first goal with Ed Jovanovski serving double penalties for jumping Jersey fourth liner Ryan Carter.

Florida went into the first break down 3-1 after being outshot 18-4 but battled back. The Panthers scored 50 seconds into the second when Boyes backhanded a shot past Martin Brodeur.

New Jersey's Ryan Clowe made it 4-2 at 3:05 of the second, but Pete DeBoer yanked Brodeur after Dylan Olsen's long shot skipped off Brandon Pirri's stick and hit the back of the net to make it 4-3 with 13:25 left in the period.

"The starts we've had are frustrating. We haven't figured them out yet,'' Pirri said. "We have a lot of resiliency in this room, but we can't have those starts and hope to win games in this league.''

The Devils were hearing it from their fans coming into the third, but Jacob Josefson gave them some breathing room by scoring on a 35-foot wrister while his team was killing off a penalty.

Zajac finally got to see the caps rain down on the ice midway through the third as he made it 6-3 by working his own soft rebound past Ellis.

Two of the Devils' first three goals came from Zajac as he opened the scoring 12 seconds in after poking a rebound past Ellis.

Almost ten minutes later, Jaromir Jagr -- "he looks like he's getting better,'' coach Peter Horachek said -- fired a shot over Ellis' shoulder for a 2-0 lead. Zajac made it 3-0 on a power play chance at 11:33 of the first.

WHY ELLIS?

If Scott Clemmensen was disappointed to not get the start Monday against his former team, he didn't show it.

"I'm living the dream,'' he said, soaked in sweat after the morning skate.

Clemmensen should get what likely will be his final start with the Panthers Tuesday against the Islanders.

Horachek said before Monday's game that he wanted Ellis -- who has lost his first four starts since joining the Panthers -- to get into a rhythm. Ellis didn't get to play much in Dallas and the same has been true with the Panthers.

"I don't know much about [a player's history] and it means very little to me,'' Horachek said. "Ellis is here and Clemmensen had been down [in the minors]. I think Ellis deserves to play some back-to-back games, get some timing down. He's been a capable goalie, but the past two seasons, he hasn't had many games and there has been a lot of time between them.''

Clemmensen originally signed with the Panthers in 2009 and is in his fifth season with the team. In the final year of a two-year deal, Clemmensen will very likely not return next season.

-- With two assists on Monday, center Nick Bjugstad became the fourth rookie in franchise history to have 20-plus assists in a season.

 

Tuesday: Panthers at Islanders

When, Where: 7 p.m.; Nassau Veterans Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.

TV/Radio: Sun Sports; WQAM 560

The series: Florida leads 41-34-8

Scouting report: The Panthers have won both games between the two this season after being swept in three last year. Florida has won the season series in four of the past five seasons. Tuesday marks Florida's final road game of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2014

CLEMMENSEN IS BACK: Luongo's Injury Means Recall for Panthers Goalie ... Ellis Gets Start Monday in Jersey

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEWARK, N.J. -- After being sent down to the minors earlier this month, it didn't look like goalie Scott Clemmensen would ever wear the Panthers jersey again.

But with Roberto Luongo being hurt in a loss to Carolina last week, Clemmensen was summoned from San Antonio.

Coach Peter Horachek said Sunday night that Dan Ellis would get the start Monday against the Devils at Prudential Center.

Clemmensen could start Tuesday against the Islanders.

"I'm still fighting the good fight,'' Clemmensen said after watching Saturday's 4-1 loss to Montreal from the bench as Ellis' backup.

"I was obviously disappointed in going down to the minors but at the same time, I'm going to put myself in the best position to further my career with no regrets. The biggest thing for me, once this is all over, is to have no regrets about anything I did. We'll see where it takes me. One door shuts, another opens. You just have to keep moving forward.''

For Clemmensen, a visit to New Jersey is often a mini homecoming.

Clemmensen spent seven seasons in the Devils organization and has played well against them when given the chance. Clemmensen is 4-1 against New Jersey during the regular season and was 1-2 against the Devils in the 2012 playoffs.

"I've always enjoyed playing in New Jersey, seeing their fans,'' Clemmensen said. "I have good memories of playing there. I'm taking things one day at a time here right now. I would just be happy with some playing time.''

With Luongo out the next two games, Clemmensen and Ellis will likely split the starts in Newark and on Long Island on Tuesday.

Horachek says he has no problem putting Clemmensen out there. After all, Clemmensen filled in for Tim Thomas during the team's most successful run of the season in December when he won four straight starts.

But, as it is now, Ellis is Luongo's backup. So when Luongo's out, Ellis gets the start.

"Every time he's gotten the opportunity, he's played well for us,'' Horachek said of Clemmensen. "When he got into a rhythm played well.''

Clemmensen admits the past few weeks were tough. On March 4, Florida put Clemmensen on waivers in order to be able to move him later. The Panthers completed the trade with Vancouver for Luongo later in the day.

On March 5, the Panthers sent Thomas to Dallas and got Ellis back. Clemmensen was the odd goalie out and was sent to the minors.

"I had no idea what was going on at the time,'' Clemmensen said. "The 24 hours leading into the trade deadline were very hectic for everyone around here. Obviously I got caught up in it. That's the business. They have decisions they make and it's out of my control. My future was in their hands. You just roll with it the best you can, make the most of it.''

With the Rampage, Clemmensen has won three of his eight starts.

"One thing about him is he is even keel,'' Horachek said. "He has shown real professionalism and the way he approached everything has been really good. He went down, handled it right. He's been a total pro. I really appreciate that shows the young guys how to handle himself. its not easy. he has a family and all. he sends a good message.''

-- Horachek said Sunday that Luongo skated earlier in the morning but wasn't on the trip to the New York area.

"He's fine,'' Horachek said, "and will play the final five games of the season.''

-- Monday's game against the host Devils will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network with no other local coverage aside from radio.

Tuesday's game against the Islanders will move from Fox Sports Florida to Sun Sports because of a conflict with the Marlins.

 

Monday: Panthers at Devils

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; WQAM 560

The series: New Jersey leads 48-27-7

Scouting report: The Devils are sticking around the playoff race although their failure in shootouts have slowed them down. New Jersey is 0-10 -- and has lost two straight -- in the shootout session. Florida won the previous meeting 5-3 in Sunrise earlier this month.

 

March 29, 2014

LUONGO DOUBTFUL FOR ROADTRIP: Huberdeau, Kopecky Getting Close?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Although Roberto Luongo said he wouldn't know whether he would be traveling on Florida's final road trip of the season, Horachek said it was doubtful Luongo would be going.

Luongo, hurt during the first period of Thursday's loss to the Hurricanes, was at the arena early Saturday for treatment before leaving.

Florida travels to New Jersey on Sunday afternoon for Monday's game against the Devils; Florida visits the Islanders Tuesday in the final road game of the year.

"At this point, I don’t expect it,'' Horachek said of Luongo. "He’s progressing. In our situation, I think you want to make sure he’s 100 percent. They haven’t given me a final word. .-.-. That would leave us the home stretch here for him to be totally healthy.''

-- Scott Clemmensen returned to the Panthers on Saturday after backing up Michael Houser at AHL San Antonio on Friday night.

-- Jonathan Huberdeau (concussion) said he started skating Saturday for the first time with Horachek saying both he and Tomas Kopecky (concussion) could join the team for practice later this week.

 

FLORIDA WEEK STARTS WITH WIN: Vacationing Habs Top Panthers 4-1

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Montreal Canadiens will have plenty of time for playing on the beach during their nearly weeklong working vacation in Florida. Saturday, however, the Habs had business to attend to.

Montreal won its fifth straight game as it continued its playoff push with a 4-1 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center.

The Canadiens, in Fort Lauderdale through Monday before spending a few more days in Tampa, have won eight of the past nine and held tight to their second place spot on Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.

"We dominated the chances but they had the lead and maybe they sat back a little,'' Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.

The Panthers stayed in the game despite being behind for much of it, peppering goalie Carey Price with 37 shots -- only Brad Boyes' wrister finding the back of the net. Montreal led 3-0 just before that goal and added an empty-netter in the final seconds.

"We generated a lot of shots, lot of chances but they sat back in the third and let us come at them,'' Boyes said.

"We tried to generate things but the lack of scoring really hurt us.''

Florida went up against the streaking Canadiens without goalie Roberto Luongo who is out for precautionary reasons.

The Canadiens jumped all over backup Dan Ellis, nearly scoring in the opening seconds.

Montreal's first goal would wait until Thomas Vanek -- a longtime Florida nemesis from his days in Buffalo -- scored midway through the period after P.K. Subban chased down a puck Brian Campbell whiffed on.

With 2:57 left in the first, Max Pacioretty got his first of the night by cleaning up a loose puck around the cage a second after Erik Gudbranson's slashing penalty ended.

"We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,'' Horachek said. "They obviously only need a few chances. We need more. The effort was there. We just made mistakes at the wrong time.''

Montreal made it 3-0 when Pacioretty scored in similar fashion to his first with Florida getting Boyes' goal -- his first in eight games -- with 3:51 left in the second.

"There's no quit in this team, no quit in this locker room,'' Ellis said. "Guys gave it their all to the final buzzer.''

 

March 28, 2014

LAST BATTLE?: Dvorak and Jovanovski Meet on Thursday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Radek Dvorak and Florida captain Ed Jovanovski are the last remaining active players from the Panthers' 1996 Stanley Cup Finals team.

On Thursday, the two may have shared NHL ice for the final time.

Although both say they want to return next year, there is questions whether both -- or either -- will.

Dvorak earned a spot on the Hurricanes with a good training camp; Jovanovski is coming off serious hip surgery and will be 38 at training camp next fall.

Both were rookies when the Panthers made their run to the Eastern Conference championship in 1995-96. The two were teammates in Florida until Jovanovski was traded to Vancouver in the Pavel Bure deal in 1999.

"I'm taking things game by game, day by day and we'll see what happens in the summer,'' Dvorak said.

"Jovo and I started together here in 1995 and it's always good to see him and play against him. We started together and went through a lot. You become good friends. It was nice to be on the ice with him although it was too bad I got kicked out so soon.''

 

LUONGO OUT V CANADIENS: Dan Ellis Starts Saturday, Scott Clemmensen Heads Here Saturday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers will be without goalie Roberto Luongo for Saturday night's game against the visiting Canadiens coach Peter Horachek said on Friday morning.

Luongo suffered from a sore neck after colliding with veteran forward Radek Dvorak during the first period of Florida's 3-0 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. Dvorak was ejected from the game with Luongo leaving following the first period.

Horachek said Luongo was looked at by team medical personnel during Thursday's game and came in for treatment on Friday morning. Luongo did not participate in Friday's optional workout.

"It's not long-term at this point,'' Horachek said. "He's just out for [Saturday] and we're going to leave it at day-by-day.''

With Luongo out, Horachek said backup Dan Ellis would start against Montreal at BB&T Center with Scott Clemmensen coming up from AHL San Antonio to serve as Ellis' backup.

Ellis made 18 saves on 20 shots in relief of Luongo and has yet to record a win in two starts since coming over from Dallas on March 5.

Saturday's game will be part of CBC's 'Hockey Night in Canada' broadcasts.

"It's always exciting to be playing against Montreal,'' Ellis said. "They have so much history and tradition. Everywhere they go, they bring a large fan base. It's a good challenge for us.''

Ellis said he didn't think there would be an awkwardness in having Clemmensen back with the Panthers.

Clemmensen had been Florida's backup goalie since signing here in 2009. On March 4, hours before the Luongo deal was completed, Clemmensen was placed on waivers. The next day, Florida traded Tim Thomas to Dallas for Ellis and sent Clemmensen to the minors.

Despite his recent success against Montreal, Clemmensen won't start Saturday. Clemmensen was scheduled to be the backup goaltender in San Antonio on Friday night and fly to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning.

If Luongo isn't cleared for Florida's upcoming road trip, Clemmensen would likely at least get one more start for the Panthers as they play back-to-back games in New Jersey and on Long Island.

"We've both been in this position before and we're both professionals,'' Ellis said. "We're teammates; you're supportive of each other. You do your best when you're out there and you support the other guy so he can do his best.''

Photo: J Pat Carter/Associated Press

 

Saturday: Canadiens at Panthers

When, Where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Panthers lead 36-35-6

Scouting report: Florida won the first two games against the Canadiens before losing 2-1 in Montreal in January. Florida took 16 shots in the third of that game but failed to score the tying goal. Montreal has won four straight and seven of eight.

 

March 27, 2014

LUONGO KNOCKED OUT OF LOSS: Radek Dvorak's Hit Sends Luongo to Bench for Precaution as Panthers Lose 3-0

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

What may have been Radek Dvorak's final NHL game in South Florida didn't last long. Roberto Luongo's night ended early as well.

Dvorak, a rookie on Florida's Stanley Cup Finals team in 1996, was ejected from Carolina's 3-0 win over the Panthers after colliding with Luongo in the first period. Luongo remained in the game after the hit, one that looked more accidental than anything else, but didn't return for the second period.

Florida goalie coach Robb Tallas said during the second intermission that Luongo took a hard hit and was pulled purely for precautionary measures. Tallas added that he expected Luongo -- who suffered from a sore neck -- to play Saturday against visiting Montreal.

"They held him out for precautionary reasons,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "I'll have a report on Friday.''

Thursday's collision was one for the Panthers record books.

Dvorak had been Florida's all-time leader in games played after two stints with the Panthers before being passed by Stephen Weiss in 2012. Luongo is Florida's all-time leader in games played by a goalie yet the two have never been teammates with the Panthers -- although they have trained together in Coral Springs during the offseason.

Dvorak, who made the Hurricanes after a training camp tryout, rolled Luongo as he and Erik Gudbranson jockeyed for position driving toward the net. With Luongo on the ground, Gudbranson pounced and both teams ended up conversing in the crease.

Gudbranson was given two minutes for roughing but Dvorak was slapped with a five minute major and the automatic ejection that comes with a game misconduct.

"It was not intentional, I tried to stop,'' Dvorak said afterward. "That's not my game. I would never try and hurt the goalie. I got pushed a little and tried to hold up. I kind of felt bad. I never want to hurt anyone out there. It just happened.''

Carolina, which swept the season series for the first time, took a 1-0 lead when Jiri Tlusty froze Brian Campbell and Luongo and scored midway through the first.

Tlusty welcomed Dan Ellis to the Florida ice for the first time since joining the Panthers as the backup gave up his first goal 2:30 into the second as his defense broke down again in front.

Jeff Skinner made it 3-0 by poking a shot past Quinton Howden as Ellis was down on the ice 5:46 into the period.

Florida had numerous chances to get on the board in the second but Anton Khudobin (35 saves) made a number of great stops to keep the Panthers scoreless.

"It's never a fun situation knowing something is up with your [goaltending] partner,'' said Ellis, who stopped 18 of 20 shots. "That's the job and you have to be ready when they call you.''

GILBERT DONE

Defenseman Tom Gilbert had sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Thursday morning and will miss the rest of the season.

Gilbert, a pending free agent, played through the pain of what he reportedly thought was a hip injury.

"He's been dealing with it for a while,'' Horachek said.

"He's been playing through it, taking therapy and medicine trying to keep it under wraps. It got to a point where something needed to be done. He had the appointment and now the surgery.''

 

SURGERY FOR GILBERT: Defenseman Out for Remainder of the Season

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Defenseman Tom Gilbert had sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Thursday morning and will miss the final nine games of the Florida Panthers' season.

Gilbert, a pending free agent, has been fighting what some described to me as a hip injury for sometime now. Apparently it was a little more than that. Have to give him a lot of credit for trying to play through the pain, especially with nothing on the line the past month or so.

"He's been dealing with it for a while,'' coach Peter Horachek said after Thursday's morning skate.

"He's been playing through it, taking therapy and medicine trying to keep it under wraps. It got to a point where something needed to be done. He had the appointment and now the surgery.

"When things happen you look at all the options. I think the doctors knew what it was. You can play through it, manage it a little bit. Sometimes it gets worse.''

-- The Panthers will wear their road white jerseys at home for the first time in a long time -- thinking pre-lockout in 2004 -- on Thursday as Carolina plays its final game of the season in their black alternates.

No one can give me a reason why Carolina is wearing those tonight although it was on their schedule since the beginning of the season.

I like the idea of wearing white at home with the opponent bringing in different colors each night. But that's just me.

-- Horachek says there has been improvement from some of Florida's injured players although no real update.

I don't expect to see Tomas Kopecky, Jonathan Huberdeau or Aleksander Barkov back in a game this season, although that could change. Horachek said he thinks Kopecky is about to start skating on his own, but with nine games left, I don't see it.

 

March 25, 2014

COMEBACK CATS: Panthers Rally from 2-0 Deficit, Drop Sens in Shootout

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers got their first shootout win since Roberto Luongo rejoined the team after Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri scored in the extra session to lift Florida to a 3-2 win over visiting Ottawa.

The Senators were trying for a rare Florida shootout sweep after beating the Lightning on Monday night. Florida snapped its three game losing streak with the win.

Ottawa started off by scoring its first goal on its 29th shot with Florida's porous defense allowing the Senators plenty of time to set up shop in front of Luongo (37 saves) and work the puck around before Mark Stone knocked it through.

"Luongo made some big, big saves and kept it 0-0,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "That was huge. They played last night, it should have been the other way around, them trying to find their legs. It was important we responded.''

Florida's horrid penalty kill gave up a goal in its 10th straight game later in the second before Florida pounced and got a pair of quick goals to end the second and tie things up.

"We weathered the storm,'' Luongo said afterward.

First up was Sean Bergenheim -- who was robbed of an earlier goal via a quick whistle before ringing one off the post in the third -- with 2:28 left. Moments later, Tomas Fleischmann picked off the puck and worked it up ice. Scottie Upshall and Trocheck went on the rush with the Trocheck beating Robin Lehner to make it 2-2.

"Luongo did a great job, did what he's billed as,'' Horachek said.

-- Jesse Winchester returned to the lineup after missing the past eight games. Winchester, who once played for the Sens, has scored a career-high nine goals for the Panthers this season.

-- Defenseman Erik Gudbranson has missed the past nine games with a knee injury but skated with the team Tuesday and is expected to rejoin the team Thursday against Carolina.

 

CHANGE AT TOP: Mike Santos To Leave Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers front office was shook up a little Tuesday as assistant general manager Mike Santos was told he wouldn't be returning next season.

General manager Dale Tallon said before Florida's 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Senators that Santos, his assistant GM since 2010, would not have his contract renewed and was free to find employment elsewhere.

Santos has been general manager of Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio and was instrumental in the team's handling of contracts and bringing in a number of free agents.

"I thought about it long and hard,'' Tallon said. "I feel we need to go in a different direction, I need a different set of eyes, another opinion, different ideas. It was a tough decision, have gone back-and-forth the past couple months.''

With Tallon scouting last week, Santos traveled with the Panthers on their West Coast road trip.

Tallon, who lives next door to Santos off Fort Lauderdale beach, informed him of the news on Tuesday morning.

Tallon said the move was made now -- Santos is signed with the Panthers through June 30 -- so he could potentially find work elsewhere before the NHL draft.

"He can have conversations now with other teams about future employment,'' Tallon said.

Mike Dixon and Eric Joyce from hockey operations will take on more responsibility as will Tallon.

"We'll have an extensive search but haven't even looked at candidates,'' Tallon said.

Travis Viola, son of team owner Vinnie, was named a Vice President of hockey operations prior to the start of the season which made it look like Santos' future with the team in jeopardy.

Tallon said Santos' future with the Panthers is not tied to that of interim coach Peter Horachek.

Horachek and Santos worked together with the Nashville Predators before Santos hired him to coach San Antonio over the summer.

Horachek, who took over the Panthers in November, is expected to seek a three-year deal from the Panthers once the season is complete although Tallon and Florida's management team could go a different direction there as well.

Tallon said a decision on Horachek's future could come as late as May after he, Vinnie Viola and new CEO Rory Babich analyze the franchise.

 

March 23, 2014

FRIENDS OF A FEATHER: Ducks Get Four in Second, Roll Panthers 6-2 in Anaheim

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

ANAHEIM -- The Ducks and Panthers are both celebrating 20th anniversary seasons this year.

The similarities stop right there.

The Ducks, battling San Jose for the top playoff position in the Pacific Division, scored four goals in the second period in a 6-2 victory over Florida Sunday night at Honda Center.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have 10 games remaining and are a point away from being mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Florida is 20 points back of Toronto and Detroit for the last spot.

Sunday, the formerly Mighty Ducks avenged their November loss in Sunrise which was the first victory for Florida coach Peter Horachek.

Florida went down 3-0 but had cut its deficit to one goal midway through the second. The Ducks took their timeout and proceed to score twice within a span of just over a minute.

One moment the Panthers were back in the game, the next it was over.

"They had 14 shots at that point and ended with 40,'' Horachek said. "We were a little outmatched, but it goes back onto us and how we played it. .-.-. We handled every one of their goals poorly.''

Anaheim, which joined the league with H. Wayne Huizenga's Panthers in 1993, took a 1-0 lead with 8:03 left in the first when Patrick Maroon jammed a puck past backup goalie Dan Ellis on Anaheim's first power play attempt.

Ellis, making his second start since joining the Panthers on March 5, was battered for much of the game as Anaheim scored twice early in the second and got two more within a span of 1:01.

"We left him hanging,'' Horachek said.

Anaheim made it 2-0 off the opening face-off in the second with Teemu Selanne snapping a shot past Ellis a mere 15 seconds in. Moments later, Jakob Silfverberg picked off the puck during a Florida power play and scored.

Florida got back into it, however, starting when Jimmy Hayes deflected Krys Barch's wrister past Jonas Hiller.

At the midway point, Tomas Fleischmann connected on a wraparound pass from Vincent Trocheck to make it 3-2.

This game was over soon. Moments after Fleischmann's goal, Kyle Palmieri made it 4-2 with Corey Perry following suit a minute later.

Anaheim scored once in a stat-padding third period.

"We were right there but they have world-class players over there, guys who have won Gold Medals and Stanley Cups,'' Barch said. "They set their ship straight. We knew they were coming at us and couldn't stop it.''

The Ducks pulled within a point of San Jose -- which the Panthers beat 3-2 to kick off this road trip -- in the Pacific. Anaheim had lost two straight and six of eight coming in. Florida, meanwhile, lost the final three games of this four-game road trip and has dropped seven of the past nine games.

ROSTER MOVES

The Panthers made a few minor moves over the past 24 hours, including bringing up veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney from their AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Whitney, who spent one season with the Ducks, was up on an emergency to fill in for captain Ed Jovanovski on the second of a back-to-back set.

The Panthers are expected to send Whitney back with Jovanovski back in the lineup Tuesday against Ottawa.

Garrett Wilson played Sunday with Quinton Howden going back to the AHL.

 

March 22, 2014

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Jonathan Quick Sets Kings Record for Wins in 4-0 Shutout of Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

LOS ANGELES -- There was no beating Jonathan Quick on Saturday, just like many days before it.

Quick set he Kings' franchise record for wins Saturday afternoon with 24 saves in Los Angeles' 4-0 win over the Panthers at Staples Center.

The MVP of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Quick picked up his 172nd win to pass Rogie Vachon -- who held the record since 1978 without benefit of shootouts much less overtime sessions.

“I wish I would’ve set the bar a little higher,'' Vachon said. "He’s playing great and is going to set some incredible records before his career is over. He’s going to set some records that I think no other goalie in the league will ever touch.''

The Kings outscored the Panthers 7-0 in their two wins this season as Florida was shutout for the fifth time.

St. Louis and Los Angeles account for four of those shutouts.

The shutout was Quick's fifth this season and 30th of his career. Quick is now within two shutouts of tying Vachon for the franchise lead in that category as well.

"He was on top of his game. You could see he was feeling it,'' said Florida goalie Roberto Luongo. "I don't know if we would have ever got a puck by him tonight. It was one of those games where he sees everything. Even the ones he didn't see he stopped.''

The Panthers offered a few challenges on Saturday but none bigger than a Tomas Fleischmann shot with Florida trailing 2-0 in the second.

Fleischmann, who has been a victim of bad puck luck all season, had a wide open net when he fired an odd-angled shot.

Quick's left arm shot though the air, however, his glove snapping the puck out of the air and seemingly before it crossed the line. Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed the play to see if Quick's glove went over the line, but his grand larceny was rewarded with the save.

"He just robbed me,'' said Fleischmann, who has seven goals this season and has had great scoring chances snuffed out by terrific saves all year.

"I saw and empty net and then all I saw was a glove. I wasn't happy about it. It was a big game-changer today. We made it easy on him, our shots were too far out. You can see he's one of the best goalies in the league. It was 2-0 and he made the save.''

Florida went down 2-0 in the opening period and watched the Kings make it 3-0 in the second not long after Fleischmann was robbed by Quick's glove.

And that was just about that.

"He's one of the best goalies in the league,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "It's a big difference if it's 2-1 right there, then they go out and get the third goal. It's a big difference, changes the momentum of the game.''

LONG TIME AGO

Luongo said he didn't recall the last time Florida won in Los Angeles although, believe it or not, he was there for it.

Florida has lost five straight in L.A. since beating the Kings 5-2 on Nov. 27, 2002. Janis Hurme, playing in place of Luongo that night, earned first star honors with 32 saves.

Florida, coached by Mike Keenan, got goals from Ivan Novoseltsev, Kristian Huselius, Andreas Lilja, Sandis Ozolinsh and Viktor Kozlov.

"It's been a while,'' said Luongo, who won a few games in Los Angeles in his eight seasons with Vancouver since leaving the Panthers in 2006.

"They're a good team especially in their building. They've won the Cup; they know what they're doing.''

-- Sean Bergenheim was back in the lineup after missing five games with an undisclosed injury.

"He was going to let us know when he was ready,'' Horachek said. "He came off and had some opportunities. His line was the better line, had some shots out there.''

-- Horachek said backup goalie Dan Ellis would start for the Panthers Sunday in Anaheim. Ellis has played once (lost in Tampa) since coming over from Dallas in a trade for Tim Thomas on March 5.

 

SUNDAY: PANTHERS AT DUCKS

When, Where: 8 p.m.; Honda Center, Anaheim

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560

The series: Florida leads 11-10-3

Scouting report: Peter Horachek got his first win as Panthers coach back on Nov. 12 as the Panthers upset the Ducks 3-2 in Sunrise. Anaheim has lost two straight and six of the past eight.

 

March 20, 2014

DESERT ISLAND: Luongo Gets Run Over, Coyotes Outlast Panthers with 2-1 Win

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Roberto Luongo finally got his game in Arizona on Thursday night.

It was a rough one.

Phoenix kept its playoff hopes going as it picked up two points on Minnesota and Dallas by dropping the Panthers 2-1 at Jobing.com Arena.

Luongo, who was scheduled to start for Vancouver here the day he was traded back to the Panthers on March 4, made 20 saves but ended up on the ice a few times and even took an errant stick to the neck.

"The scene of the crime,'' Luongo joked beforehand.

Luongo wasn't laughing late in the first period when the Coyotes, who have won three straight and five of six, scored their second of the game.

Luongo never had a chance at the puck as Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker ran over Luongo. The two lay in a heap as Antoine Vermette scored to make it 2-0 with 1:22 left.

An official told Luongo and coach Peter Horachek that Florida defenseman Dylan Olsen hooked Boedker and if there was any penalty to be called, it would have been on the Panthers.

They didn't agree with that assessment as Vermette's goal stood up as the game-winner.

"They felt our guy pushed him into me,'' Luongo said afterward. "I felt the guy was already in the blue [paint] when contact was made. It makes it tough for me to do my job when I end up in the corner. It's frustrating because you want to have the chance to make a save. When you're taken out of the play, you can't do anything about it.''

Said Horachek: "They felt Olsen was doing it, but without the ability to look at video, it's hard. It was obviously not the right call. It should have come back. But those things happen and you have to deal with them. Everyone does.''

Phoenix, which beat the Panthers 3-1 in Sunrise earlier this month, had a number of chances against Luongo and the Panthers but couldn't get anything else through.

Early in the third period, Luongo hit the deck after getting caught by the stick of Martin Erat. As Erat was swinging around the cage, Luongo went out to make some contact and Erat's stick got under his mask and knocked him to the ice.

After being looked at by head athletic trainer David Zenobi, Luongo got up and continued the game.

"I don't think it was intentional but they're a big team, like to play the body,'' Luongo said. "That was a physical game.''

Florida finally scored with Scott Gomez getting his second of the season with 4:07 left.

Gomez whipped a shot past goalie Mike Smith's glove to give the Panthers hope. Despite playing a skater up for the final minute, Florida couldn't get anything else past the former Tampa Bay netminder.

"We knew it was going to be a tight game against these guys,'' Brian Campbell said. "I didn't think we were at our best and that's frustrating. We could have given a better effort.''

 

PANTHERS NOTES: Gomez Gets First Goal Since Opener ... Jovo Back in Arizona

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thursday's goal was Scott Gomez's first in a long, long time. How long?

Gomez, 34, hadn't scored a goal for the Panthers since getting the team's first of the season in the opener at Dallas.

That was on Oct. 3.

"It came a little too late and we didn't get the two points so it really doesn't matter to me,'' said Gomez, who was a healthy scratch for big chunks of this season before becoming the full-time fourth line center after the trade deadline.

"My job is, I don't know when it started, but I'm so into the passing the puck. My job is to get the wingers the puck. I've been yelled at my whole career for not shooting.''

-- Florida captain Ed Jovanovski played his first game in Glendale since leaving the Coyotes for Florida in 2011.

 

March 19, 2014

LATE NIGHT CATS: Panthers Win Over San Jose Worth Staying Up For

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Panthers aren't going to the playoffs but have given their fans reason to pay attention.

Tuesday night's late game -- one that ended after 1 a.m. back home -- was a prime example.

Not only did goalie Roberto Luongo turn in a classic performance in Florida's 3-2 upset of the host Sharks, but one of the Panthers' top-end young players put on a show during a 17-second span in the second period.

Brandon Pirri, acquired in a trade with Chicago earlier this month, scored a highlight-reel goal on a full-end rush to tie the score at 1. He then followed that with a hard shot on the ensuing shift that Quinton Howden swept into an empty net.

Florida has won two of three picking up five of the available six points. The Panthers' West Coast swing continues Thursday in Arizona against the Coyotes.

"There's obviously not much we can do over the rest of this season, but the future is good here,'' said Luongo, who made 28 saves in the third period alone.

"Like I've said before, it's going to be exciting to see what pieces we add to this over the summer and make a run for it next year. But this team doesn't quit. We battle no matter what, up or down.''

Tuesday's game felt like a heavyweight bout in which the Panthers took the brunt of the blows but held on just long enough to pull it out in the end.

Florida scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead into the third against a San Jose team trying to position itself for the top seed in the Western Conference.

San Jose, which had won six straight, took 54 shots at Luongo during the game. In the third period, Florida was outshot 29-2 with the Panthers getting both of their forgettable shots at Antti Niemi within the first four minutes.

Niemi didn't face a shot for the final 16:13 of the game with the Panthers only briefly getting the puck into the San Jose zone. When they did, they didn't do anything with it, content to just change lines.

Oh, and Florida's two shots of the period weren't exactly tough saves. Jimmy Hayes and Dmitry Kulikov's shots at the net came from 40-plus feet out.

"I wasn't feeling for him, trust me,'' Luongo said of Niemi's easy period.

The bushed Panthers were also forced to kill off four penalties in the third -- including a 5-on-3 chance for 51 seconds.

"We got into some penalty issues and they're such a good veteran team, they're going to get opportunities,'' captain Ed Jovanovski said. "Hey, we found a way to keep it out of the net. Lou played great. But they were coming in waves.''

San Jose seemed to toy with the host Panthers in a 3-0 win last month and took the initial lead.

After a scoreless first in which Luongo kept Florida afloat, the Sharks cashed in on a power play following a questionable boarding call on Jimmy Hayes.

Marty Havlat gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead when he teed off and fired one past a diving Luongo from 30 feet out after a sharp deflection ended up on his tape.

Yet as was the case in Florida's previous visit in 2011, three goals in second period ultimately did the Sharks in.

The Panthers, who scored three in the second during their 5-3 win here on Dec. 3, 2011, did it again Tuesday as they have won three straight in San Jose.

Florida tied it when Pirri took off on a rush and weaved his way through the defense and fired a shot at Niemi. The puck bounced over the goalie's head and trickled into the net.

Just 17 seconds later, Pirri hammered a shot that Niemi got a piece of. Howden was down low, however, and swept the loose puck into the empty net to give the Panthers their first lead of the night.

"It seemed like pucks were jumping everywhere,'' Pirri said. "It's a good feeling when the team gets a jump like that.''

Scottie Upshall made it 3-1 in the waning seconds of the second when his soft shot from inside the right circle got between Niemi's skates and nestled into the back of the net.

Then came the third. Florida took the first two shots in the period but then it was all San Jose. Save for the Florida goalie.

According to STATS, Florida's win was the second-biggest upset in the league this season as 39 points separate the two teams. Buffalo beat the Sharks earlier this season and that difference was 40 points.

"Louie played great obviously, but so many penalties in the third was the crazy part,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "They certainly know what they're doing in those situations and put a lot of pucks at the net. That's where [Luongo] shines, a big situation with pucks coming at him. We're fortunate to get out of here with the two points.''

THURSDAY: PANTHERS AT COYOTES

When, Where: 10 p.m.; Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Ariz.

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560

The series: Phoenix leads 13-9-3

Scouting report: This is the second meeting of the season with the Coyotes beating the host Panthers 3-1 on March 11. Phoenix continues to battle for a playoff spot and has won two straight and four of its past five.

March 18, 2014

LUONGO SHOW AT THE SHARK TANK: Panthers Goalie Makes 52 Saves - Including 28 in the Third - As Florida Tops San Jose 3-2

 

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Roberto Luongo won't participate in the upcoming postseason but he sure looked playoff ready Tuesday night.

The Panthers' goalie was absolutely outstanding throughout Florida's 3-2 win over the Sharks at SAP Center in a game that ended by the time Wednesday morning rolled around in South Florida.

Florida has won three straight in San Jose dating to Bryan Allen's overtime goal here in 2010.

On Tuesday, however, it was the Luongo Show as the Florida goalie made 52 saves -- including 28 in a lopsided third period in which the high-flying Sharks only scored once despite spending most of the period in Luongo's face.

As usual, Luongo wanted to talk about the one that got away soon afterward.

"I'm upset about the second goal,'' Luongo said. "I should have had it. .-.-.

"Some days you feel it more than others. Even this morning at practice I felt good. You have that feeling sometimes. I've always enjoyed playing in this building.''

Luongo, whose Canucks were swept out of the 2013 playoffs by these Sharks, was assaulted on all sides especially during a dominant third by the Sharks, one that was reminiscent of Luongo's past time in South Florida. Those days, Luongo seemingly had to make 50 saves each outing.

"That was vintage Panthers right there,'' Luongo joked.

The Sharks, who had won six straight, outshot the Panthers a whopping 29-2 in the final 20 minutes.

Florida was also forced to kill off four power plays -- including a 5-on-3 chance for 51 seconds -- during the third.

Luongo, who beat the Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference finals in five games, had 24 saves through the end of two.

"We got into some penalty issues and they're such a good veteran team, they're going to get opportunities,'' captain Ed Jovanovski said. "Hey, we found a way to keep it out of the net. Lou played great. But they were coming in waves.''

San Jose, battling for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference, seemed to toy with the host Panthers in a 3-0 win last month and took the initial lead.

After a scoreless first in which Luongo kept Florida afloat, the Sharks cashed in on a power play following a questionable boarding call on Jimmy Hayes.

Marty Havlat gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead when he teed off and fired one past a diving Luongo from 30 feet out after a sharp deflection ended up on his tape.

Yet as was the case in Florida's previous visit in 2011, three goals in second period did the Sharks in. Good thing. San Jose brought all it had in the third.

The Panthers, who scored three in the second during their 5-3 win here on Dec. 3, 2011, did it again Tuesday.

Outplayed to this point, Florida was able to tie it when rookie Brandon Pirri took off on a rush and somehow weaved his way through the defense and put up a shot that popped up over Antti Niemi's head.

Just 17 seconds later, Pirri hammered a shot that Niemi got a piece of. Quinton Howden was down low, however, and swept the loose puck into the empty net to give the Panthers their first lead of the night.

"It seemed like pucks were jumping everywhere,'' Pirri said. "It's a good feeling when the team gets a jump like that.''

Scottie Upshall made it 3-1 in the waning seconds of the second when his soft shot from inside the right circle got between Niemi's skates and nestled into the back of the net.

"Louie played great obviously, but so many penalties in the third was the crazy part,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "They certainly know what they're doing in those situations and put a lot of pucks at the net. That's where [Luongo] shines, a big situation with pucks coming at him. We're fortunate to get out of here with the two points.''

 

PROF. HORACHEK: Panthers Coach Helps Mold the Young Florida Panthers ... Bergenheim, Huberdeau Still Out

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Panthers had yet another new face in the lineup Tuesday night with Garrett Wilson the latest to come up from the minors and join the team.

Instead of being negative about having to replace veteran players with inexperienced ones -- and being asked to try and win games -- coach Peter Horachek seems to be embracing his role as a teacher.

"If I start complaining about it, I'm only complaining to myself,'' said Horachek, who coached the likes of Wilson, Vincent Trochek, Colby Robak and others while with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL before taking over the Panthers in November.

"It is what it is. I think everyone can see almost half of our team is from San Antonio. But they're playing hard. This is a great opportunity for a lot of players. To come into the NHL and be able to play against Joe Thornton and all these players .-.-. You'll see it in a year from now, two years from now. They're going to grow from this.''

When the Panthers took on the top-tier Sharks late Tuesday night at SAP Center, they did so with eight of their 18 skaters having played in the minors at some point this season.

Horachek says it's important these players learn what it takes to be NHL players and he plans on helping them.

"They don't need me yelling at them every day,'' he said. "I can make my point clearly without doing that.''

In Pete DeBoer's final months as Panthers coach in 2011, Florida had a similar look with general manager Dale Tallon trading away a number of veteran players and replacing them with call-ups from the minors or with castoffs from other teams.

DeBoer, now in his third year of coaching the Devils after being fired by Tallon at the end of that season, told NHL.com before last week's game in Sunrise that Horachek is handing things in a positive way.

"It looks eerily familiar to the last year I was here, the last couple of years,'' DeBoer said. "Upon reflection and watching, I  think Pete has done a very good job of handling the situation, much better than I  did at the time.''

Although the losses have frustrated Horachek as it did DeBoer, Horachek is taking a big-picture approach with Florida's young players.

DeBoer, sensing he wasn't going to be asked to return, didn't have much patience with helping along a construction project he wouldn't be around to finish.

Ultimately, Horachek could be in the same boat. The Panthers gave Horachek the head coaching job on a interim basis with Tallon saying the two will talk about the future once this season is mercifully done come April.

"There is an opportunity here to step up and they can grow together and make this a positive thing moving forward,'' Horachek said. "It's up to them. I can't give them the confidence. But they build the trust in their play. They're going to grow and they're going earn it. You can stay or you can go away.''

Horachek has drawn praise from both the young players he had in San Antonio at the beginning of the season to veterans he inherited when Kevin Dineen was fired.

"I think teaching the game, when you have a young group, can be difficult at times because they make mistakes and do so repeatedly,'' said captain Ed Jovanovski, who saw the ill effects the hard-nosed style Marc Crawford inflicted on young players when he was with Vancouver in 2000.

"Peter is a good communicator and I think he's done an honorable job for us. We all have to assume the responsibility of saying something when a player makes a mistake. All of us helping each other will put us closer to where we want to be.''

Said Trocheck: "It was a tough situation for him to come into, but Peter is a real positive guy and stays even keel all the time. He hasn't changed a thing even though so many guys are up. He expects you to do the job.''

WILSON IN

A fourth-round pick by the Panthers in 2009, Wilson took the long road to the NHL as he spent time both with Cincinnati of the ECHL and San Antonio before getting the call Sunday that he would be joining the Panthers.

Being told early allowed Wilson's parents to book a flight from Toronto and make it to San Jose in time to see their son make his NHL debut against the Sharks.

"My experience has been a little different than most guys up here,'' said Wilson, 23, who started on the fourth line with center Scott Gomez and Krys Barch.

"I just tried to stay positive when I was down there, keep working hard. My game is based on work ethic.''

-- Winger Sean Bergenheim could be back soon. Bergenheim missed his third straight game with an apparent groin injury but skated with the team on Tuesday.

-- Jonathan Huberdeau is out for at least the next few games after being run up into the boards during Sunday's game against the Canucks.

Horachek said Huberdeau didn't skate in South Florida on Tuesday and doesn't expect him to join the team on this West Coast swing. Jesse Winchester, who has missed five games, has been skating and could meet up with the team.