January 23, 2015

EKBLAD THE ALL-STAR: Panthers rookie named to All-Star team ... Cats have two on All-Star roster for first time since 2003

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just six months ago, Aaron Ekblad sat on a riser in Philadelphia talking to the national media about getting the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League.
On Friday morning, Ekblad was back in a similar setting although no one was asking him how cool it would be to be the first overall pick in the NHL draft.
No, this time the talk was of the 18-year-old being the youngest player at the NHL All-Star Game.
"It's quite an honor,'' Ekblad said. "I'm very lucky and fortunate. No doubt.''
Originally selected to be just part of Saturday's skills competition, Ekblad -- whom the Panthers took first overall at the Philadelphia draft last June -- was added to the All-Star Game roster on Friday after Colorado's Erik Johnson backed out because of injury.
Ironically, Ekblad was the first defenseman taken with the top pick since St. Louis took Johnson in 2006.
"It feels long ago, but the journey leading up to this was much longer,'' said Ekblad, who was playing Canadian junior hockey for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League at this time last year.
"I didn't know I would be coming here at all, didn't think I would be playing in the game. It's been a whirlwind. It's all moved very quickly.''
Now the Panthers have two players on an All-Star Game roster for the first time since Olli Jokinen and Sandis Ozolinsh were selected for the 2003 game held in Sunrise.
Florida traded Ozolinsh to the Kings just before that game was played.
Because of various injuries to All-Star selections -- and veteran players already on vacation and unwilling to come to central Ohio -- a few rookie selections have been tabbed to play in Sunday's All-Star Game.
Although Ekblad acknowledged "there are tons of better players who could be here over me" that doesn't mean he's not worthy to be on an All-Star team.
Ekblad is having an outstanding rookie season and turning heads in the process as 18-year-old defensemen aren't supposed to be doing what he's doing.

"I'm so happy for him,'' Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said.
"He deserves it man, he's been our best player on the ice all year. He's so solid back there. He deserves it.''
Ekblad already owns the Panthers' franchise record for scoring by a rookie defenseman and is considered a strong candidate for the league's rookie of the year award.
Competition for the Calder Trophy, however, is stiff as Nashville's Filip Forsberg is the favorite as he comes into the All-Star Game -- he was added as well -- with 15 goals and 25 assists in 45 games.
If Ekblad keeps up his pace he could garner more traction in Calder voting as he not only is playing a tough position but came straight out of junior hockey.
Forsberg made his NHL debut with the Predators during the 2013 season and split time last year in the minors and with Nashville but is still technically considered a rookie.
"We've played them a couple times and he's been real tough to play against,'' said Forsberg, who is two years older than Ekblad and played three years of professional hockey in his native Finland.
"He's playing with huge confidence and is tough on both ends of the ice. He's shutting people down on defense and putting up points on offense. He gives you everything you want from a defenseman and at that age, it's impressive.''
When the season started in October, there's little chance Ekblad nor the Panthers envisioned him being here at the NHL's midseason showcase.
Ekblad didn't have the best training camp as he looked a little shaky at times. When Florida played its opener in Tampa, however, things changed.
Paired with veteran Brian Campbell for most of the year, Ekblad hasn't looked out of place save for extremely rare moments of levity. And even when he makes a mistake, Ekblad bounces right back and doesn't let it affect his next shift.
"You have ups and downs but he's had very few downs this year,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "As coaches, we get upset when mistakes are made but that's part of maturing. Everyone does it but it doesn't bother the star players. It's surprising he does that at his age.''
Said Luongo: "In training camp, you could tell he was nervous. But then the regular season started and you didn't notice that. He flipped the switch right away. You could never tell he's 18. He's that good. We're happy to have him for sure.''


January 19, 2015

HITTING THE SKIDS: Panthers lose again, this time 2-1 to the visiting Canucks ... Bergenheim and Upshall sit for Perri and Trocheck

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers wanted to go into the All-Star break on a wave of momentum yet instead ride a downward spiral after losing their fourth straight on Monday, this one 2-1 to visiting Vancouver.
Remember that franchise-best 4-2-0 road trip earlier this month?
May as well have been last season.
"We're going to need a big effort in February,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We've given away quite a few points. We can't give up any more.''
Florida, which doesn't play again until next Tuesday, lost the finale of that season-long road trip 8-2 in Winnipeg and hasn't been completely right since.
The Panthers have lost five straight at home dating to a shootout loss to Montreal on Dec. 30.
The four-game slide (at Winnipeg and home games to Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver) is Florida's longest of the season.
Before Sunday, the Panthers hadn't lost three straight all year.
"You can feel we lost a little bit of jam as a team in the past week or so,'' said goalie Roberto Luongo, who is Florida's lone representative at this weekend's All-Star Game in Columbus.
"It's good for the guys to get this week off to recharge and refresh a little bit and come back with a fresh mindset. We have to attack the second half of the season. That's huge for us.''
Vancouver, which lost to the Panthers and Luongo at home on Jan. 8, jumped all over Florida in the rematch.
The Canucks took their first lead 3:25 in and got the eventual game winner with more than 10 minutes left in the first on Bo Horvat's breakaway shot that trickled past Luongo.
"They took it to us in that first period,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "It probably should have been 5-0 but Louie kept us in there. We played better in the second and I thought real well in the third. It was just a little too late.''
Goalie Ryan Miller, who gave up three to the Panthers in Vancouver, went more than three hours of game-time before being scored on again.
Miller didn't play in the Canucks' following two games after the Florida loss then rolled shutouts in his following starts against Philadelphia and Carolina.
Miller's shutout streak ended with 2:32 left when Brandon Pirri -- back in the lineup after a three game absense -- scored on a faceoff won by Dave Bolland.
Although the Panthers made an all-out attack to tie the score in the final minutes, Miller was too much.
Wanting to get Pirri and Vincent Trocheck into the lineup, Gallant put a pair of veteran forwards on the bench Monday in Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim.
Both seemed puzzled why their numbers were called.
Bergenheim had goals in consecutive games at Calgary and Edmonton on the previous road trip; Upshall, however, has one assist in his past 10 games.
"All I can do is play as good as I can play,'' Bergenheim said. "I've had less ice time than before and with that in mind, I'm happy with the way I've played. I can only look at what I've brought to the team. I can't hang my head. I honestly don't know what's going on.''
Said Upshall: "We have numbers and coach had to make a hard decision. It makes everyone accountable. When you are in a little skid like we have been, changes will be made.''
-- The Panthers next practice isn't until Monday following All-Star weekend in Columbus. Luongo will be playing in Sunday's game with rookie Aaron Ekblad going and participating in Saturday's skills competition.


January 18, 2015

POWERED DOWN: Panthers power play struggling ... Again

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers led Edmonton by a goal heading into the third period despite not having a single power play in the first 40 minutes.
Coincidence or not, but the Panthers got three chances with the man advantage in the final period in a game they ended up losing.
Sure, the Panthers power play is improved over last season but that's not saying much.
Florida finished last in the league on the power play last year and set a franchise low for power play efficiency.
This year is better, yes, but things sure aren't good.
On Saturday, the Oilers scored a goal on a Florida power play chance -- a shorthanded goal that was a killer -- as the Panthers went 0-for-3.
The Panthers have scored just one goal in their past 19 tries and have a single power play goal in their past seven games.
Thanks to the inept Sabres, however, don't expect the Panthers to finish last in the league this year.
Florida's power play is currently 29th in the league, its 17 goals in 129 tries good for a 13.2 percent success rate. The last place Sabres have just 12 power play goals (9.4 percent).
"We have to be smarter with the puck and really get set up,'' said Jonathan Huberdeau, who has yet to pot a power play goal this year.
"And you definitely can't give one up when you have the power play chance. That hurts.''
Already past the midway point, how do the Panthers rectify the situation?
Coach Gerard Gallant has already tried some new things but the Panthers haven't been able to create much offensive chances.
The team works on the power play throughout the week, yet nothing seems to get better.
Florida was ranked as high as 23rd on the power play this year, but since Nov. 22, the Panthers have just seven goals.
In a league that places so much importance on special teams, that's not going to cut it.
"It's a struggle,'' Gallant said. "We're putting the guys on the ice we think can get the job done. It's frustrating, no doubt. The players are getting frustrated. But you keep working in practice and hopefully get better.''
-- The Panthers will try and salvage the finale of this three-game homestand before the All-Star break kicks off as Vancouver visits Monday.
Florida has lost three straight since having its first three-game winning streak of the season. That three-game run started with a 3-1 win in Vancouver in Roberto Luongo's homecoming.
The Panthers have lost four straight in Sunrise, going 0-2-2.
"I think we've played pretty well at home generally although we've lost a few here lately,'' Luongo said of Florida's recent home struggles. "I don't think our game is that much different on the road or at home. We know what systems we want to run it's just a matter of executing.''
Monday: Canucks at Panthers
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Vancouver leads 12-8-6
Noteworthy: The Panthers have won three of the past four meetings between the two. Vancouver has won its past two at Philadelphia and Carolina by a combined 7-0.


January 17, 2015

COVERED IN OIL: Panthers lose third straight as Edmonton wins rare road contest ... Cats hold closed door meeting after shootout loss ... Roster moves coming?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
There are few 'gimmes' in the NHL, but if there ever was one, it was Saturday night.
The visiting Oilers sure didn't follow the script.
Edmonton, which hadn't won on the road since November, got a short-handed goal in the third and topped the Panthers 3-2 in a shootout at BB&T Center.
The Oilers had been 0-8-6 away from Edmonton before winning the shootout session 1-0.
Florida, which hasn't beaten the Oilers at home since 2002, has lost three straight for the first time this season. The Panthers did pick up a point on Boston and the Rangers in the playoff race after the Bruins lost to Columbus.
"This was a game we needed to win and we didn't work hard enough,'' captain Willie Mitchell said after a closed-door postgame meeting.
"As a player, you owe it to your teammate to lay it all out there. I don't deny our want to win as a team; we just weren't good enough in all aspects of the game. .-.-. It wasn't a mature enough game for us.''
Said coach Gerard Gallant: "We had a real bad game again tonight, got outworked in every aspect of the game. [Roberto Luongo] bailed us out to get that one point. We were definitely not good enough.''
Florida won in Edmonton last Sunday yet struggled to get anything going on Saturday.
The Panthers went into the third up 2-1 before the Oilers' Matt Hendricks scored a short-handed goal after a Florida turnover at center ice midway through the period.
Florida's power play has struggled all year but it has been magnified of late.
The Panthers have one power play goal in their past seven games and went 0-for-3 in the third period Saturday.
"We definitely wanted these points at home,'' Nick Bjugstad said. "We beat ourselves. We need to score on the power play and giving up a short-handed goal is huge. That kind of put us away for a little bit. It wasn't good.''
Florida trailed 1-0 after Jordan Eberle drove in on Luongo 3:35 into the second period.
Two minutes later, Erik Gudbranson got his second of the season on a shot from just inside the blue line. Gudbranson hadn't scored since he notched Florida's first goal of the season in the opener at Tampa on Oct. 9.
"It was a great shot,'' Gallant said. "Too bad we fell a little bit short.''
Later in the period, Jonathan Huberdeau gave Florida its first lead after jumping on a loose puck that bounded off the goal cage off a Aleksander Barkov shot.
"I was in front and hoping the puck would come,'' Huberdeau said. "It did and I was very fortunate. We're playing pretty good together but we have to pllay better on both sides of the ice.''
Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri were both healthy scratches for the third straight game.
The duo have been mostly left out of the lineup the past few weeks and at least one -- probably Trocheck -- is expected to be sent to the minors as the All-Star break starts Tuesday.
Pirri has a one-way deal meaning he would have to pass through waivers and be paid his full NHL salary if sent to AHL San Antonio. Trocheck wouldn't have to be risked through waivers and would be paid a lesser AHL salary.
Trocheck has been scratched in five of the past six games; Pirri eight of the past 11.


January 15, 2015

DEFLATED: Panthers come home, can't shake Avs in 4-2 loss

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers were desperate for a bounce-back win Thursday after getting shellacked in Winnipeg a few days earlier.
They didn't get it.
Florida had its share of chances but struggled against goalie Semyon Varlamov as Colorado escaped BB&T Center with a 4-2 win.
The Panthers have lost two straight regulation games for the first time since November.
Florida remains three points back of the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the east but are now five back of Boston which holds the top wild card slot.
"We're not happy. We wanted to come home and get off to a good start.'' Nick Bjugstad said. "We need to be better on the penalty kill, not get so many penalties. We have to find ways to put the puck in the net. It's a tough way to lose.''
Before Nick Holden scored on a power play with nine minutes left, the Panthers had matched Colorado's first two goals within minutes.
Three minutes after Tyson Barrie gave the Avs a 1-0 lead, Aaron Ekblad fired off a mid-range shot from the slot that beat Varlamov (30 saves).
In the second, Colorado made it 2-1 on Gabe Landeskog's goal only to have Aleksander Barkov tie it a mere 23 seconds later.
"I thought we played a good game honestly, we were as good a team as they were,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "Overall, we competed and played a lot better than last game obviously.''
In the third, Holden fired a shot from 50 feet out that was deflected by Scottie Upshall's stick and skipped off the ice and past Roberto Luongo.
Colorado was able to hold off Florida's charges and iced the game on an empty net goal by Jarome Iginla with 27 seconds left.
"The guys had a little more pep in their step and we played well, fought hard,'' Luongo said. "We had a bad bounce, a bad goal by me and that's the difference.''
The Panthers longest road trip was extended by a few hours Wednesday as their chartered jet was grounded in Winnipeg delaying their departure by more than four hours.
The team was able to get a jet from Canada's Sun Country Airlines and landed in Fort Lauderdale after 8 p.m.
Most of the players spent their time milling about Winnipeg's airport either playing cards, watching videos or reading. Some tried to catch up on sleep.
"It was a safe day and we made it back which is the main thing,'' Gallant said. "We get spoiled. We get to come back to a great place and sometimes you face some adversity.''
-- Florida sent defenseman Shane O'Brien back to its minor league affiliate in San Antonio after he didn't play in the past two games.
Forward Shawn Thornton is close to returning to the lineup as well and O'Brien maxed out Florida's roster.


January 14, 2015

A GAME TO FORGET: Panthers ready to move on, kick off long homestand Thursday v Avalanche

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
It was already the most successful six-game road trip in Panthers' history regardless of what happened in the sixth game.
Of course, there was that sixth game.
Florida's 8-2 loss to host Winnipeg on Tuesday night may have taken some shine off the team's successful two-week run that took them across North America.
Yet, as coach Gerard Gallant stressed postgame, the Panthers can't let one lopsided loss mess up what was accomplished.
After all, the Panthers now embark on an important five-game home stretch with three games coming before the weeklong All-Star break.
Do well in these final three games before the mid-season vacation and that six goal loss in frigid Manitoba can be forgotten.
"It's one game. We're disappointed, a little embarrassed,'' said Gallant, whose team opens up its long homestand Thursday against Colorado.
"Instead of showing a lot of video, they know they played a horrible game and weren't ready and didn't compete. It happens, we don't like it when it happens, but hopefully we learn a lesson from it.''
The Panthers haven't had many of these types of games -- especially not lately.
When the team left South Florida on New Year's Day headed to Buffalo, Florida was riding a two game losing streak after dropping home games to the Canadiens (in a shootout) and the Rangers.
The Panthers then won in Buffalo, lost by one in Washington and beat Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton before Tuesday's debacle.
Florida kept pace in the playoff race with the 4-2-0 road trip and came into Wednesday three points back of Boston for the final slot with three fewer games played.
"We just have to keep doing the same things we've been doing in the second half,'' Gallant said. "If we do, we're going to be a playoff team. If we fall off and don't do the right things, we're not going to be there.''
Florida's success on the road has been well documented this season with its 28 points ranking fourth in the league.

The Panthers have played more road games than all but three other teams meaning if they want to make it to the playoffs, they're going to have to win at home.
Florida's 17 home games played to date are tied with Ottawa for fewest in the league. The Panthers' 21 home points, predictably, are ranked in the bottom third.
Although the team has a few more long road trips left -- the Panthers have a pair of five-game roadies remaining -- the team has plenty of long homestands to play as well.
Florida has a seven-game run at home from Feb. 26-March 12 and concludes the regular season with five in Sunrise.
That's a lot of home points on the table.
"Our team has been battling,'' Gallant said. "I think our team is confident and we're looking forward to it.''
-- As ugly as Florida's loss looked on Tuesday night, the numbers look even worse in the daylight.
The Panthers fell behind by three before Dave Bolland scored his first with Florida to give the Panthers life with 14:45 left in the second.
Then the Jets scored a minute later and the Panthers were done.
"The way we were playing,'' Gallant said, "there was no way we were coming back.''
With that in mind, Roberto Luongo was pulled by Gallant for the second time this year as the defense collapsed time and again.
While Winnipeg's Matthieu Perreault scored four goals, the Panthers had two players who were a minus-4 in Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky.
The Panthers only attempted 41 shots while Winnipeg sent out 66.
"I'm going to forget about it,'' Gallant said. "We just have to turn the page.''
-- Gallant made it clear he didn't pull Luongo out of dissatisfaction with him.
Down 4-1, however, with a long flight home and the Avs awaiting, there was just no reason to keep Luongo out there.
"Louie has been strong,'' Gallant said. "I'm not blaming any of the goals on Louie. We just wanted to get him out and get him ready for the next game.''
-- The Panthers haven't lost two straight games in regulation since November and have won eight straight after such a loss since.
Thursday: Avalanche at Panthers
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, ESPN 1210 (Spanish)
Series: Colorado leads 19-10-3
Noteworthy: Florida lost a 2-0 first period lead but rallied and topped the host Avs 4-3 in overtime off Brad Boyes' power play goal in October. This remains Florida's lone win in overtime this season not counting shootouts.


January 11, 2015

CLEANING UP THE OIL: Panthers get timely offense, strong goaltending in 4-2 win over Edmonton ... Cats have won three straight for first time this season ... Florida is 4-1-0 on road trip

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Panthers continued their fantastic road run through western Canada on Sunday night, finding the right mix of offense and goaltending in a 4-2 win over the host Oilers.
And for the first time this season, Florida is on what had been an elusive three-game winning streak.
Florida's three wins came in a span of four nights starting Thursday in Vancouver. The Panthers then polished off the host Flames on Friday.
"Right now we're getting rewarded and our finding ways to win games,'' said goalie Roberto Luongo, named the game's first star after sending back 31 shots offered by Edmonton.
"We knew [Edmonton] had been playing well lately and this was going to be a tough game. There's no easy game for us in this league. If we want to win, we have to come to play. We knew this would be a tough match and we responded.''
The Panthers have struggled against the Oilers over the past few years despite both teams usually hanging out around the bottom of the standings.
Sunday's win, which makes Florida 4-1-0 on this six-game trip that ends Tuesday in Winnipeg, was just Florida's second in 11 tries against Edmonton.
The Oilers had won five straight against the Panthers.
"We battled, stayed ahead much of the night and played pretty well. It was a good, solid game,'' coach Gerard Gallant said.
Florida opened the scoring on Jimmy Hayes 13th goal of the season as he hammered a drop pass from Nick Bjugstad and sent it screaming past Ben Scrivens.
"We have 20 guys going every night and we're a tough team to beat when we do that,'' Hayes said. "We just have to keep it up.''
Edmonton tied it up 4:07 into the second, but the Panthers took a 2-1 lead into the second break when Brian Campbell scored his second in as many games off another 50-foot shot that Scrivens never saw.
"I didn't know who was screening for me and it was Hayes,'' Campbell said.
"I saw where the puck was going. You have to credit guys who go to the net. It found a hole.''
The third all but belonged to the Panthers as they took a two-goal lead on two separate occasions -- first off a Tomas Kopecky goal and then Sean Bergenheim iced it with 4:32 left.
"We can enjoy this for five minutes and then we have to start looking for Winnipeg,'' said Kopecky, who scored his first goal in a month.
Added Bergenheim: "I would say it was an ugly win for us, but we got the two points and we're happy about that. But I don't think we should be happy with the way we played. It was a little sloppy. I know how we can play and there's a lot to improve. This won't cut it against Winnipeg.''
Scottie Upshall took a quick flight to his hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Saturday to be honored by his former junior team.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barrons retired the No. 7 that Upshall wore in his one season (1999-2000) playing for his hometown squad.
Shane O'Brien and Shawn Thornton went along for the hour-long private jet flight.
"It was a really cool deal, very classy and was real nice for my family,'' said Upshall, who grew up about a four-hour drive north of Edmonton. "They had a full house of about 1,200 and it was a nice event. Not bad for a tier-2 junior team.''
-- The Panthers got Dmitry Kulikov back after he missed Friday's game with the flu. Aleksander Barkov, however, missed his second straight game.
Florida also scratched Vincent Trocheck and O'Brien.


January 10, 2015

ALL-STAR ONCE MORE: Roberto Luongo returns to All-Star Game ... Aaron Ekblad selected for Skills Competition

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The first time Roberto Luongo appeared in an NHL All-Star Game, it came as a member of the Florida Panthers in 2004.
Luongo will again be an NHL All-Star as he was named Saturday as Florida's lone representative selected for the game.
Rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad will also be heading to Columbus, Ohio, as he was picked for the skills competition.
This year's All-Star Weekend will be held in Columbus from Jan. 24-25.
"It is an honor and not only a reflection of myself but the way this team is playing,'' said Luongo, who is making his fourth trip to the event and first since 2009 in Montreal.
"It's more of a team recognition than anything else. Obviously I've felt good on the ice, have worked hard on the ice and off it as far as the mental aspect goes. But this wouldn't be possible I don't think without our team play.''
Said Ekblad: "I'm very happy to go to Columbus. Obviously it's another step, something to look forward to. It's an honor. Not many people get this chance.''
Friday night, Luongo took the night off as the Panthers got into a track meet with the host Flames at the Saddledome.
Florida's 6-5 win had six lead changes-- the final one coming when Tomas Fleischmann scored with 3:09 remaining.
Tied at 4 heading into the third period, the Panthers took a 5-4 lead when Brian Campbell scored a controversial goal that took a few minutes to be reviewed at Hockey Central in Toronto.
In question was whether Sean Bergenheim deflected Campbell's long shot with a high stick before the puck reached goalie Jonas Hiller and bounded off his blocker and into the cage.
The official review was inconclusive and Campbell was awarded the goal.
"That's the first bounce I've had on the offensive side this season,'' Campbell said. "I'll take it.''
Florida's lead didn't hold up for long as the Flames tied it with 3:54 remaining.
As they had all night, the Panthers kept coming and grabbed their final lead of the game less than a minute later when Dave Bolland fed Fleischmann in the slot.
Fleischmann shoveled the puck past Hiller and the Panthers were up 1 with 3:09 left.
"It was so good to see that,'' Campbell said. "Flash works so hard. He needed some puck luck there.''
The final few minutes matched the previous 58 for intensity as Calgary got a late power play chance and had six skaters attacking Montoya with an empty net.
Florida held tight -- Jussi Jokinen made a huge block on a T.J. Brodie shot -- and escaped with another road win.
"That was back-to-back for us and we really battled back,'' Jokinen said. "Even though Montoya gave up five goals, he made some really big saves especially at the end.''
Montoya gave up five goals a few days after flying across North America. Montoya's wife Annie gave birth to a son on Monday morning in South Florida and Al flew to Vancouver on Wednesday.
"It's great, I'm glad we won and I'm not going to think too much about it,'' Montoya said.
"These guys battled for me. My hat is off to them. They stuck with it and believed we were going to win this game. Not every team can do that. This team believes in each other.''
-- Gallant said Saturday that there was no update on Kulikov or Barkov's condition but he hoped they could play Sunday.
-- The Panthers have won three of their first four in the six-game road trip that continues Sunday.

Sunday: Panthers at Oilers
7 p.m.; Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Edmonton leads 13-8-3
Noteworthy: The Panthers have won their past two in Edmonton and haven't won here since 2008. The Oilers have won two of four this month -- with wins over the Islanders and Blackhawks -- after losing 12 of 14 in December.



January 09, 2015

JUST IN TIME: Vincent Trocheck hurries to Saddledome, makes late substitution for Aleksander Barkov

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
CALGARY -- Panthers' coach Gerard Gallant knew Dmitry Kulikov was going to miss Friday's game with a case of the flu but the team's second victim came as quite a surprise.
Aleksander Barkov was forced to come off the ice during warmups. The Panthers quickly called Vincent Trocheck to tell him he was playing.
Since he thought he was a scratch, he and Brandon Pirri were taking their time in getting to the arena.
Trocheck would quickly get on his horse.
"We left the hotel at 6:30, grabbed some dinner. Luckily I stayed light and got a salad,'' said Trocheck, who was sporting a nasty cut near his right eye after being checked into the boards in the first.
"There was a ton of traffic on the way here and we were going slow. Then they wouldn't let us into the gate and we had to walk with all of our luggage. It was a day, I guess. That's a first.''
Trocheck made it to the Panthers bench just as the anthems had finished. He took Barkov's spot centering Huberdeau and Boyes.
"I literally ran through the halls,'' Trocheck said. "I was in the cab at 6:57 and on the ice by 7:04.''


CRAZY NIGHT IN CALGARY: Panthers get late goal from Tomas Fleischmann, hang on to top Calgary 6-5 ... Al Montoya makes big saves at the end to hold second straight win

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
CALGARY -- Al Montoya sat in his locker stall, half of his gear on the floor.
The Panthers' goalie was battered and exhausted Friday night, yet he mustered a smile when talking about his teammates.
Most goalies wouldn't be in a talkative mood after giving up five goals. But when your team scores six, well, that makes it easier to move on.
"It's great, I'm glad we won and I'm not going to think too much about it,'' Montoya said after Florida's wild 6-5 win over Calgary at the Saddledome.
"These guys battled for me. Some nights you feel great and can't get a win. Tonight I didn't feel great and they got me one. My hat is off to them. They stuck with it and believed we were going to win this game. Not every team can do that. This team believes in each other.''
Friday's game had six lead changes and would not be confused for a goaltending exhibition.
Both the Panthers and Flames seemed to score whenever needed as the lead changed hands six times.
When Florida gets into a track meet game, the results usually aren't positive.
"I had a rough night,'' said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team won in Vancouver the night before.
"It was a long night and a frustrating night but I thought we played well coming off a back-to-back. We put a lot of pucks at the net. I was satisfied.''
Friday, the Panthers kept coming and coming. Calgary's Jonas Hiller definitely fared worse than a jet-lagged Montoya did.
Montoya's wife gave birth to a son on Monday morning and he flew from South Florida to Vancouver on Wednesday. At times, it looked like it.
"I think they had one shot for eight minutes in the first period and they scored on it,'' said Brian Campbell, whose third period goal gave Florida a short-lived 5-4 lead.
"We outplayed them but made some mistakes and it cost us. Things just snowballed on us.''
The game was tied at 4 heading into the third and it appeared Campbell was going to give the Panthers a win when he scored a controversial goal.
Campbell's 50-foot shot may or may not have hit the high stick of teammate Sean Bergenheim before hitting Hiller and finding the back of the net.
The play went to review in Toronto but it was ruled inconclusive whether Bergenheim's outstretched stick made contact with the puck.
Campbell said he saw the puck fly and hit Hiller's blocker before popping behind him; Bergenheim didn't want to comment. Although with the game in the books, he really can't self-incriminate himself now.
"Well, yeah, I have no comment,'' Bergenheim said. "I don't want to even speculate on it. They see on the video what's true and what's not. I knew it was a long review but I didn't think it wouldn't count.''
Added Campbell: "That's the first bounce I've had on the offensive side this season. I'll take it.''
Regardless, Florida's lead once again didn't hold up for long as the Flames tied it with 3:54 remaining.
As they had all night, the Panthers kept coming and grabbed their final lead of the game less than a minute later when Dave Bolland fed Tomas Fleischmann in the slot.
Fleischmann shoveled the puck past Hiller and the Panthers were up 1 with 3:09 left.
"It was so good to see that,'' Campbell said. "Flash works so hard. He needed some puck luck there.''
The final few minutes matched the previous 58 for intensity as Calgary got a late power play chance and had six skaters attacking Montoya with an empty net.
Florida held tight -- Jussi Jokinen made a huge block on a T.J. Brodie shot -- and escaped with another road win.
"That was back-to-back for us and we really battled back,'' Jokinen said. "Even though Montoya gave up five goals, he made some really big saves especially at the end.''
The Panthers are 3-1-0 through the first four of this six-game road trip which continues Sunday in Edmonton and concludes Tuesday in Winnipeg.
"We did alright out west in California and need to keep this thing going,'' Campbell said. "It's a good challenge to see how many points you can get, how many wins you can take.''
-- The Panthers trailed 1-0 just 2:42 into the game but took a 2-1 advantage on first period goals by Jonathan Huberdeau (his third in two nights) and Brad Boyes. Calgary tied it going into the second on Brodie's first.
Florida got goals from Bergenheim and Jimmy Hayes in the third to tie the score going into the third.
-- Florida had nine players on the scoresheet with Huberdeau (goal, assist), Boyes (same), Fleischmann (ditto), Bergenheim (two assists) and Bolland (two helpers too) hitting the sheet twice apiece.
-- The Panthers and Calgary seem to enjoy high-scoring affairs with one another as the Flames topped the Panthers 6-4 in November.
In two games this season, the Flames and Panthers combined for 21 goals.
-- The Panthers are 3-0 this year when scoring six goals and have now beaten Anaheim, Toronto and Calgary when doing so.


PANTHERS FIND HOME FOR SHORE: Drew Shore dealt to Calgary as Corban Knight returns to the Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

CALGARY -- The Panthers finally found a home for center Drew Shore, trading him to Calgary in exchange for former Florida draftee Corban Knight.
Shore, 23, played in 67 games with the Panthers but has been stuck in the minors since last season. Shore can play one NHL game before being waiver eligible so instead of losing him for nothing, the Panthers re-acquired Knight.
"We tried to fit him into the mix here but we've been healthy and had a busy offseason signing [Dave] Bolland and [Derek] MacKenzie,'' GM Dale Tallon said.
"We're very deep the middle. It was frustrating on both ends that we couldn't get him more action. This is an opportunity for him. I have nothing but good things to say about the kid. He's very valuable, but we have a lot of depth.''
Knight, 24, will replace Shore on the AHL San Antonio roster. Knight, who basically became a free agent when he didn't sign with Florida in 2013, played nine NHL games with Calgary.
-- Dmitry Kulikov missed Friday's game at Calgary with the flu. Erik Gudbranson returned to the lineup after missing the first three games of the road trip.


January 08, 2015

BIG NIGHT FOR LUONGO, PANTHERS: Florida rallies behind its goalie with two goals from Jonathan Huberdeau in 3-1 win at Vancouver

TWITTER:@GeorgeRichards VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- On a night in which his eight mostly-successful seasons here were celebrated, Roberto Luongo got the thing he most wanted. A victory. Luongo, who was winless in three previous games against the Canucks, made 32 saves and held off Vancouver for a 3-1 victory. Luongo, who tied Dominik Hasek for 11th all-time with his 389th victory, has now beaten all 30 teams in the NHL. Vancouver, before Thursday, had been the only team Luongo had never beaten. Luongo does have four wins against the Panthers. "This was special,'' said Luongo, traded back to the Panthers from Vancouver last March. "The whole night they were cheering me on. I'm very thankful for the support and very happy things went the way they did. We got the win and I was able to enjoy a great night." The trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Brad Boyes were all over the ice on Thursday, creating one scoring opportunity after another. Down 1-0 in the first, Huberdeau picked up his first goal of the night by scoring off a loose puck not long after the Canucks celebrated Luongo's time here with a 45 second video on the scoreboard. Luongo didn't seem to want to watch the piece, saying he didn't want to get too emotional. Luongo did acknowledge the mostly positive reaction from the sold-out crowd. "I didn't want to get too emotional and have to fight that afterward,'' Luongo said. Added coach Gerard Gallant: "I thought we played a pretty good game after the six minute mark. Lou played an outstanding game and was great for us. He was outstanding. Definitely the No. 1 star." In the second, Barkov got his first goal since Nov. 11 by deflecting a long shot from rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Barkov had originally been awarded Florida's first goal as it appeared he knocked in a loose puck. The scoring was changed during the intermission although Barkov didn't seem to mind. "Big win for us,'' he said. The Panthers took a two-goal lead into the third period when Huberdeau got his second of the night. Dmitry Kulikov caught Huberdeau streaking up the ice with a crisp long-distance pass and Huberdeau walked in on Ryan Miller and scored top shelf. "I got the puck, saw him in front of the defenseman and laid it out there for him to skate into,'' Kulikov said. "I love making plays like that, especially when we scored. That made it hard for them to come back. It was huge. Everyone showed up today. Huge win.'' Said Huberdeau: "Things were working for us. We worked the puck in, got behind the net and got some bounces. We won the 1-on-1 battles and didn't have to play much defense. We were in our zone the whole night.'' This was Luongo's night, however, as despite Huberdeau's three-point night, the Florida goalie -- who was cheered for much of the night -- was named the game's top star. After the Panthers killed off a four-minute penalty (one in which they were down two skaters for 40 seconds), Luongo was run over by Derek Dorsett. Luongo took umbrage to being hit again and threw punches at Dorsett before Huberdeau jumped in to defend his goalie. "I thought he was going to fight,'' Huberdeau said with a smile. "The most important thing for us is to protect our goalie. We're always going to protect him. He's been great for us.'' Said Luongo: "That was the third or fourth time I got knocked over. I had just had enough.'' Luongo ended up finishing things off without much problem after that and was mobbed by his teammates when the final horn sounded. After they all skated toward the locker room, Luongo made his way to the bench to a rousing ovation. Luongo took off his mask, waving his stick in the air in salute to the cheering throng that remained. After Huberdeau was announced as the game's second star, the 'Lou' chant got louder. Everyone knew who would be coming back out of the tunnel to be awared the player of the game honors. "It was nice to receive that acknowledgement,'' Luongo said. "I played here for eight years, gave my heart and soul the whole time. There were some ups-and-downs obviously but I'm glad the positive was remembered more than the negative.''


MONTOYA RETURNS: Al Montoya back with Panthers after 'blur' of a few days ... Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky back in lineup v Canucks

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Goalie Al Montoya flew to Vancouver on Wednesday night after his wife Annie gave birth to the couple's second child on Monday morning.
Montoya left the team following Sunday's loss in Washington and was there for the birth of Henry Silva Montoya.
The Montoyas' also have a daughter -- 2-year-old Camila Marie.
"It was amazing. The past couple days have felt like a blur,'' said Montoya, who will likely start Friday's game in Calgary.
"The wife was amazing. But this is what it is being a hockey player; you pop out for a couple days and have a baby and get back to work. You enjoy it when you get home. It all worked out great.
-- The Panthers got a number of players back into the lineup Thursday as Tomas Fleischmann and Tomas Kopecky returned.
Erik Gudbranson, who was hurt during the morning skate on Jan. 2 in Buffalo, participated in Thursday's workout and is probably close to coming back as well. Shane O'Brien was schedule to play Thursday.

Friday: Panthers at Flames
9 p.m.; Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta.
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Calgary leads 14-9-3
Noteworthy: Calgary scored three goals in the third period and topped the Panthers 6-4 on Nov. 8 in Sunrise. Calgary has lost two straight -- both at home.


HOMECOMING DAY: Roberto Luongo not the only former Canucks player in Florida lineup as Willie Mitchell and Shane O'Brien also return

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Despite such a large geographical distance, the Panthers and Canucks share much history.
Arguably Florida's biggest trades over the past two decades have been with Vancouver.
Because of that, some of the most recognizable names in both team's history have worn the Florida and Vancouver sweater including Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo and Ed Jovanovski.
On Thursday night, Luongo returned to face Vancouver for the first time since the Panthers reacquired him last March.

Although much of the focus of Thursday's game surrounded Luongo, it was a also a homecoming of sorts for two other players now representing the Panthers.
Neither Willie Mitchell nor Shane O'Brien were acquired by the Panthers in a trade with Vancouver even though both share much history with Luongo and the Canucks.
Both played here during Vancouver's big years when the Canucks were racking up 100 point seasons, winning the President's Trophy and were considered one of the top teams in the NHL.
Mitchell left the Canucks in 2010 after missing the second half of that season because of a concussion that put his career in doubt.
He ended up signing with Los Angeles and won the Stanley Cup twice in his four seasons with the Kings.
Watching the Canucks lose in the 2010 playoffs while hurt -- and in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals to Boston while he was with the Kings -- Mitchell figures he could have helped bring this city its first Stanley Cup.
"I don't think you get to this point if you don't believe you can impact a team,'' Mitchell said. "You have to that belief you're going to win every night or it's not going to happen.''
Mitchell, who has faced the Canucks numerous times since leaving, signed on with the Panthers as a free agent in July and was named captain of the team just before the season opener.
Like Los Angeles, Mitchell feels he can help this young team become a contender.
"I basically went with what I thought was the right fit,'' said Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Canucks and grew up in nearby Port O'Neill, British Columbia.
"It's been great, really good. New ownership, new coaches here and when you're part of something, you take a sense of pride in it.''
O'Brien spent two seasons with Vancouver with the team being knocked out of Stanley Cup contention both times by Chicago.
Although Mitchell got his revenge on the Blackhawks while with Los Angeles, O'Brien hasn't had the same chance.
"We had some hard-fought series with Chicago,'' O'Brien said. "They got the better of us.''
O'Brien was with Calgary last season and landed in Florida after earning a two-way contract after a training camp try-out.
O'Brien started this season in the minors and because of Florida's lack of injuries among defensemen, didn't make his season debut until last week in Buffalo.
With Erik Gudbranson missing a third straight game on Thursday, O'Brien was in the lineup in familiar territory.
"I had two great years here, we had great teams, won the division both times,'' he said. "I love this city. I have a lot of friends here, a lot of great memories.''


January 07, 2015

HIGHLIGHT REEL: Canucks to honor Luongo during first period on Thursday ... Injury updates ... Trocheck fined

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
VANCOUVER -- The Canucks are planning to honor Luongo with a highlight video during one of the first stoppages in play on Thursday night.
Luongo spent parts of eight seasons with the Canucks after being traded to Vancouver by the Panthers in 2006.
Sports network TSN, whom Luongo did some work for this past spring, was also putting together a top-10 special featuring Luongo's Vancouver highlights.
"I think it's going to be emotional,'' Luongo said Wednesday. "I'm flattered that they're doing it and I told them it wasn't necessary. But a little recognition is probably good for both sides I would guess.''
-- Everyone was on the ice Wednesday as the Panthers get closer and closer to being completely healthy.
Even Shawn Thornton, whose been out a month with a groin injury, got in a long on-ice workout. Thornton isn't expected to play until the Panthers return home at least.
"Everyone is pretty much coming back,'' Gallant said.
-- Vincent Trocheck was fined $2,000 by the league on Wednesday for embellishing his fall when tripped by Washington's Mike Green on Sunday.
The penalty gave the Panthers a 5-on-3 chance and Trocheck was skewered by both Green and Washington coach Barry Trotz in postgame comments.
"I watched the video, and honestly, it doesn't look good,'' Trocheck said. "It does look like I embellished. But, I'm a pretty honest kid. If I took a dive, I would admit it. It wasn't that [Green] hit me hard but it was he hit me. He hit me right on a nerve and sent a shock through my entire left leg. I went down and when I got back up it locked up. I couldn't do much about it.''
Thursday: Panthers at Canucks
10 p.m.; Rogers Arena, Vancouver
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Vancouver leads 12-7-6
Noteworthy: The Panthers have won two of the past three meetings between the two including a shootout here last November.


BLUEPRINT IN PROGRESS: Dale Tallon has turned over Panthers roster, working toward future success

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
VANCOUVER -- Dale Tallon promised changes when he took over the Panthers almost five years ago and, if nothing else, he's delivered.
Since Tallon was named general manager in 2010, the Panthers have been completely overturned and overhauled.
When Tallon traded to get Roberto Luongo back last March, he sent two players (Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias) to Vancouver who weren't picked by him.
On the current roster, only Dmitry Kulikov was selected or acquired by the Panthers by someone other than Tallon.
A complete overhaul, he said, wasn't the original intent.
"I was trying to identify the best players who would give us the best future and sometimes you have to pay a price for that,'' Tallon said.
"We're always looking to do what's best for the franchise's present and future. I didn't trade guys because they weren't 'my guys.' That would be a stupid way of doing business. But I only know how to do things the way I did them before. Although most of the guys are gone, that wasn't pre-planned.''
Kulikov is the final leftover from the previous management team as he was drafted by Randy Sexton in 2009.
Matthias and Markstrom were either acquired or drafted by Jacques Martin.
Just weeks after taking the reins of the Panthers, Tallon asked players whether they wanted to be part of the rebuild. Some weren't so keen on the idea, so, Tallon traded them away.
In his first four years, Tallon traded the likes of Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Mike Weaver as well as let Stephen Weiss walk away during free agency.
"I think he had to do that,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "When he first started, he brought a lot of guys he knew from the Chicago organization and it has turned over pretty quick. I think the success we're having this year is helped by the six veteran guys we brought in over the summer.''
Kulikov, now in his sixth season with the Panthers says he has gotten used to having a new team every year. The Panthers have also had plenty of coaching turnover as well.
"Every year is a new year and many have been completely new from coaches to the players,'' said Kulikov, who is on his fourth coach with the Panthers.
"You get used to getting to know guys during training camp. I don't really think about although some may take it as a shock. I'm used to it. I just want to win. We've had some great groups of guys but we've come up short.''


January 06, 2015

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Peter Horachek interim coach again, this time with Maple Leafs


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- Last year, Peter Horachek was coaching Florida's AHL team in San Antonio when the Panthers fired Kevin Dineen and made him the interim coach of the big squad.
On Tuesday, Toronto fired Randy Carlyle and tabbed Horachek -- who was brought on to Carlyle's staff after being let go by the Panthers -- as an interim coach of the Maple Leafs.
How long will this gig last? Who knows. Darren Dreger of TSN writes that he thinks Horachek will stay on throughout the year with Steve Spott staying on as his top assistant. Spott is also interim coach for the time being.
As always, there are plenty of ties to the Panthers here -- aside from Horachek.
Spott replaced Pete DeBoer as coach and GM of the OHL's Kitchner Rangers when the Panthers' hired DeBoer in 2008. There has been talk that Spott may join the Panthers as an assistant at some point although that never happened.
Rumors abound that DeBoer, himself now a free agent after being fired by the Devils the day after Christmas, could be a candidate for the full-time job in Toronto. Dineen's name has also been thrown out there.
We'll see what happens here. Trust me, there won't be a lack of coverage.
Anyway, good to see Peter Horachek get another chance at being a head coach even if it's only for a short time.
Again, who knows?
Below is Horachek meeting with the Toronto media earlier today.


ON FROZEN PHONE: Roberto Luongo meets the Vancouver media


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

VANCOUVER -- Below is a link too the first six minutes of Florida Panthers' goalie Roberto Luongo talking to the Vancouver media ahead of Florida's game here on Thursday.

Props to Billy Lindsay and Steve Goldstein for finding the Fox Florida backdrop and adding some color to the presser.


READY TO MAKE NICE: Roberto Luongo hopes boos turn to Lous when Panthers visit Vancouver on Thursday ... Cats getting healthy ... Brittain recalled from Cincy

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo doesn't exactly know how the Canucks' faithful will greet him when he steps onto the ice Thursday night.
In his typical smart-aleck way, Luongo says it will be fine whether they offer cheers or jeers.
"Lou's and boos all sound the same,'' Luongo said Tuesday afternoon.
"I won't be able to tell the difference. I just want to enjoy the game.''
Luongo was back on the ice at Rogers Arena for the first time Tuesday since Vancouver traded him back to the Panthers last March.
For three years, Luongo had faced scrutiny as he had gone from savior of the Canucks after arriving here from Florida in 2006 to being just another goalie -- albeit one with a massive contract -- fighting for playing time.
After Vancouver lost the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals to Boston, faith in Luongo eroded.
The Canucks held a 3-2 series lead before the Bruins stormed back.
"I've moved on, but my time here was great,'' Luongo said. "I'm just disappointed I wasn't able to bring a Cup here. This market wants one more than anything. That's the one thing I'm disappointed about.''
First, Cory Schneider found himself playing more frequently, putting Luongo on the bench more than he had ever been in his professional career.
Then, after Schneider was traded to New Jersey before the 2013-14 season, Eddie Lack became the Canucks' new favored goalie.
Luongo made it clear he was ready to leave what had become a toxic situation, but the Canucks and general manager Mike Gillis couldn't find the right landing spot.
A big reason for that was Luongo was adamant he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause for just anyone.
Coming back to the Panthers, where he played from 2000-06, was his top priority.
"There was a point in time where I had given up on it,'' said Luongo, who was traded by Florida's Mike Keenan to Vancouver in 2006.
"I was focused on playing here [in Vancouver] and just see what would happen with teams and trades.. At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason. This one worked out.''
The situation came to a head when then-coach John Tortorella announced Lack -- and not Luongo -- would start in the much-anticipated Heritage Classic at B.C. Place.
Luongo was so incensed at the snub, agent Pat Brisson went to Gillis demanding a trade.
Gillis allowed Brisson to shop his client and his first call was to Florida general manager Dale Tallon.
A few days after the Heritage game was played in the large dome -- which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics as well as being the home of the CFL's Lions -- Luongo was headed back to Florida.
"I had given up on it,'' Luongo said.
Tallon had conversations with Gillis about acquiring Luongo in the past, but nothing ever went through.
Luongo had heard the rumors he would be heading back to Florida before, so he didn't pay much heed to the latest talk between the two teams.
Tallon, however, now had the financial backing of new ownership not to mention a much lower pricetag for Luongo's services.
Vancouver had been asking for some of Florida's top prospects -- most notably Nick Bjugstad -- in previous talks.
In March, all Tallon had to give up was center Shawn Matthias and goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom to bring Luongo back to South Florida.
When the trade was finally agreed to, Brisson called Luongo in his hotel room in Arizona. He woke him up from his pregame nap with the big news.
"This deal was 2 1/2 years in the making,'' Tallon said Tuesday.
"It was close, then it wasn't, then it was revitalized. We were elated to get it done. Everyone knows how great he is, what a great pro he is. He's a world-class goalie but a world-class guy. That's just as important to me. I'm elated he's a Panther.''
The deal has worked out for both teams although Gillis and Tortorella were both let go following Vancouver's dreadful season.
Even though the Canucks were left without a true No. 1 goalie when the trade was made, they snared All-Star Ryan Miller in free agency.
Lack is now the backup although he started Tuesday's game against the Islanders.
Although Matthias says he loved playing for the Panthers and still stays in close contact with many of his former teammates, Vancouver offered a fresh start and new opportunities.
This year, Matthias -- who spent parts of six seasons with the Panthers -- has seven goals and 12 points.
Matthias even has ties to the original Luongo trade as then-general manager Jacques Martin acquired Matthias from Detroit in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi back in 2007.
"I've really enjoyed my time here, it's a beautiful city and great organization,'' Matthias said. "Being a Canadian kid playing in Canada, well, it feels like home.''
-- The Panthers had a full house at Tuesday's afternoon practice at Rogers Arena.
Tomas Kopecky, who has missed the past four games, was back on the ice as was Tomas Fleischmann and Erik Gudbranson. The only regular missing was Sean Bergenheim.
"It was a maintenance day for him,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "It was good to have everyone else back. That's a good sign.''
-- The Panthers recalled goalie Sam Brittain from their ECHL affiliate in Cincinnati on Monday.
With Al Montoya back in South Florida as his wife gave birth to a son, Florida needed a second goalie for practice.
Montoya is expected to fly to Vancouver on Wednesday and be back in time for Thursday's game.


THE LUONGO TRADE(S): Where are they all now?

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Florida Panthers acquire Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen from New York Islanders for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.

Olli Jokinen: Became captain of the Panthers before being traded to Coyotes in 2008. Currently with Nashville.
Mark Parrish: Retired in 2012, currently television analyst for St. Cloud State in Minnesota.
Oleg Kvasha: Last played in NHL in 2005-06; still playing in KHL.
Islanders GM Mike Milbury: 'Resigned' from New York in 2006; currently television commentator in Boston and for NBC Sports.
Florida GM Bryan Murray: Fired by the Panthers in Dec. 2000; currently GM of Ottawa Senators.

Florida Panthers trade Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver Canucks for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen.

Lukas Krajicek: Last played in the NHL in 2009-10; currently playing in the KHL.
Todd Bertuzzi: Was traded to Detroit in 2007, played with Red Wings until last season.
Alex Auld: Spent one season with Panthers, final NHL season in 2011-12; currently living in Vancouver.
Bryan Allen: Spent next five seasons with Panthers; was put on waivers by Montreal on Monday.
Florida GM Mike Keenan: Was fired by Panthers two months after Luongo trade. Coached Calgary Flames, led Magnitogorsk to KHL championship last season.
Vancouver GM Dave Nonis: Left the Canucks and replaced by Mike Gillis; currently GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Florida Panthers acquire Roberto Luongo and Steven Anthony from Vancouver Canucks for Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias.

Steven Anthony: Reported to Florida's ECHL team in Cincinnati last year and wasn't offered a new contract.
Jacob Markstrom: Spent the end of last season with Canucks; currently with Vancouver's AHL team in Utica, New York.
Shawn Matthias: Has seven goals and five assists for Canucks through first 35 games this season.

Vancouver GM Mike Gillis: Fired by Vancouver following the 2013-14 season.