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39 posts from January 2010

January 31, 2010

Homecoming for Olli? Not So Fast

Olli3 Word out of Canada is that the Flames aren't done wheeling and dealing. It looks like the Jokinen Clan may be heading to Broadway.

That's right, Olli Jokinen to the Rangers.

Olli, the Cats former Capitan, is scheduled to play at The Billboard on Friday for the first time since the JM coup of 2008 succeeded but cost him his spot on the team.

JM, who lost his coaching gig but stayed on as GM, sent Olli west to Phoenix later that summer.

We'll see what happens. Olli and Torts? Awesome....

-- If this trade does happen, and there have definitely been some holdups, Olli's return to Sunrise would come in April when the Rangers come to town.

Panthers Get Best of Islanders ... Tomas Vokoun for D-Man of Month? ... LIVE! Coverage of Ducks on Monday


David Booth made a triumphant return to the ice Sunday afternoon, charging hard into the corner on his first shift.

On one of his last shifts of the first period, however, is where he looked like the Booth of old. Booth, who missed 45 games with a concussion, drove in on goalie Rick DiPietro and whiffed on a shot. He quickly recovered and fired a shot off the goal cage. Moments later, Jordan Leopold picked up the puck and scored Florida's first goal, a goal that would be the game-winner.

Thanks to another outstanding job in goal by Tomas Vokoun, Leopold's goal was all the Panthers needed Sunday as Florida beat the Islanders 2-0 at BankAtlantic Center. Booth got the second assist on Leopold's goal.

“There were a few rusty parts, but I just enjoyed being out there,'' said Booth, injured Oct. 24 in Philadelphia. “Winning is fun and I enjoyed it. This is the first step. I still have a long way to go. I'm going to keep pushing myself to be back where I need to be.''

Said coach Pete DeBoer: “He took a few bumps out there. There was nowhere to hide. He wasn't shy. He was giving and taking hits. It was good to see him jump in with both feet.''

The return of Booth was expected to boost the Panthers sagging offense, but on Sunday, it was Florida's defensemen who did the damage to the slumping Islanders. Florida made a strong charge against DiPietro in the second period but couldn't get anything through until Keith Ballard fired a shot from the left side that zipped past and snapped the net.

Ballard's goal gave Florida a 2-0 lead with 9.6 seconds left in the second period. The Panthers went into the second break on a nice high.

“They were desperate for a win and at ice level, it was a very physical game,'' said DeBoer. “We talked between the first and second that the grittier team was going to win. We played a smart game. .-.-. We limited their opportunities and we created more and just didn't finish some of them.''

The Panthers may have played their best hockey of the day in the second period, but that couldn't be said for the third. The Panthers took a couple of bad penalties in the third and put Vokoun to the test. Florida ended up killing off three power plays in the period as Vokoun ended up setting a career high with seven shutouts this season.

Vokoun stopped 33 shots for his fourth shutout in January.

“It's nice because we've been playing good and winning,'' said Vokoun. “It was a nice bonus. We played well, aside for taking some unnecessary penalties in the third. Obviously that second goal was huge, getting it late in the period.''

The Islanders looked to cut their deficit in half early in the third when Freddy Meyer shot a puck off the post. The puck bounced back and hit Vokoun; Meyer continued to charge in and was tripped up by Shawn Matthias. Meyer's momentum threw him into the cage and dislodged it. The puck slid past the line, but replay officials at Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed it and declared it a no goal.

Florida's win vaulted them back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race as the Islanders again lost ground to the Panthers. Florida won three of four against New York this season and captured seven of eight possible points.

“This was a four point game,'' Vokoun said. “There are six or seven teams fighting for three or four spots. Whenever you can beat someone close to you in the standings, it's big.''

-- Vokoun set a career high with his seventh shutout of this season and also tied the franchise record for most shutouts in a single season. Roberto Luongo also had seven shutouts with the Panthers, those coming in the 2003-04 season.

Ballard suggested that the team's Defenseman of the Month Award for January should be given to Vokoun. He recorded four shutouts in the month.

“What can you say? He's been great,'' said DeBoer. “Adversity reveals character and we've had some pretty significant adversity. We've gotten a lot of character performances from a lot of guys and he's at the top of that list.''

-- The Panthers set a franchise record for most home points in a month of January. Florida's 13 points last month (6-0-1) surpassed the 1999-2000 Panthers (6-2-0) who had 12.

The Panthers have won five straight at home after a rough stretch of not winning games in Sunrise.

-- As the Islanders were shipping out of BankAtlantic Center, the Ducks were ready to move in. Their equipment bags were stacked out outside the visitors dressing room as the Islanders gear was taken out. Florida plays host to Anaheim on Monday.

There is no television coverage of any kind for Monday's game. The game can be heard on AM-790 or online.

So guess what? Going LIVE! right here kind of like we did during the preseason games. Should be fun. Will be basically a LIVE! Panthers chat during the game.

Probably won't be much news up until game time tomorrow, but make sure you come back here then.

Tanks for Nuttin!

A New Blog: Say Hello To Annie

Anniepanth In honor of Kids Day here at The Billboard, my niece Annie has graciously volunteered to give her opinions on today's game.

Remember, she's the one who gave this pretty accurate scouting report on Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk last year: "He's a ball hog. He never passes.''

I think the Panthers are doing awesome right now, but they need some more goals. It was nice seeing David Booth out on the ice. I miss Nathan Horton though. He's a good player. I like the music, but I don't like the dancers. I just don't like their outfits. They should wear hockey jerseys in honor of the Panthers. And the horn is too loud.

I like Kids Day. I like it because we get to see the kids announcing and everything. It's fun. And I like sitting in the press box because it's so high. Meeting Gordie Howe was really neat. My uncle said he was a great player. He was very nice to me. He told me not to become a newspaper reporter like my uncle but to become an actress. I agree with him.

And I can't stand that announcer guy Murphy. He's a real dope*.

(*) Annie didn't say that. I did.

More after the second period.

Gmanjacob -- More Fun! Here's my buddy Jacob's take on tonight's game:

I love hockey. The Coke is cold but the buzzer is too loud. My favorite player in Horton. I hope he gets better soon. My favorite dancer is Tatiana. I like her for her dancing.

-- Annie's Back: I had fun hanging out with Jacob and it was a good period for the Panthers. They had a lot of chances to score. Their goalie is good. And then the Panthers scored. The horn is still very loud.

Now I'm eating some chicken fingers. My uncle says $10 is way too much for chicken fingers, but he paid it anyway. They are good. He's having a hot dog. I don't know how much that cost (it was six bucks Annie).

See you later!

Kid's Day in Sunrise: Gordie Howe Says Hello

Gordie2 Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to a Sunday afternoon of hockey in Sunrise.

Speaking of hockey, Mr. Hockey himself was just up in the press box with Stu Siegel checking out the South Florida scene. Yup, Gordie Howe at a Panthers game.

Looks like he wants to skate a few shifts too.

Stu was trying to get him to trade in his Red Wings cap for one with a Florida cat on it, but good luck with that.

Class act.

-- Rick DiPietro in net for the Islanders today. Oh, Tomas Vokoun too.

-- The team just did a welcome back introduction for Booth on the big screen. Nice touch.

-- Your very own Craig Minervini is filling in for an ill Howie Rose on the Islanders television broadcast today. Good for him. Craig grew up rooting for the Isles in New York so this has to be a thrill for him.

But I just met Gordie Howe. So there Minervini.

Shake Up in T.O. ... Isles In Town, McArdle Not

TO The Toronto Maple Leafs were quite busy today.

First, they acquire All-Star Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie from Calgary in exchange for Matt Stagan, Nik Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White.

Then, the went to Anaheim and picked up goalie Jean-Sabastien Giguere for Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake.

So good for the Leafs.

And good for the Flames. They got yet another former Panther on their roster in Hagman.

Word on the street is they are thinking of bringing Mike Keenan back to coach, with Doug MacLean and Jacques Martin serving as assistants. Bryan Murray is also in talks to come in and run the joint.

PS: The Florida Flames come to town on Friday.

-- Speaking of being in town, the Panthers play host to the Islanders today at 4 p.m. It's a special start time because of the Pro Bowl, if you consider 4 p.m. special. It's Kids Day at The Billboard today, so bring the kids and watch other kids do grown up type stuff at the game. I know Goldie is going to get his kids involved in the broadcast, and I'm going to have a special in-game blog going with plenty of special guests.

So come on back, ya hear?

-- I will also be blogging live from the Pro Bowl after tonight's hockey game.

OK, I won't.

-- Kenndal McArdle has been sent to Rochester in order to make room for some forward who is coming back from a concussion, I believe.

January 30, 2010

David Booth Will Play vs. Islanders

Booth2 ARLINGTON, Va. -- It appears the wait is over.

David Booth, out since Oct. 24 with a concussion, is expected to play Sunday against the Islanders.

According to Pete Pelegrin, Booth said that he will lace 'em up and make his comeback on home ice.

More when I get it although that may take a bit; we're in line to de-ice and could be in the air by the time I get some quotes from Pete.

Booth, as you know, was Florida's leading goal scorer last season and was a big part of the top line. It will be interesting to see if he goes back up to the top of the heap or starts out on the third line.

Michael Frolik hasn't scored much of late, so it's very possible Pete DeBoer may want to get that line going and Booth could be an answer.

But, Booth is by no means a cure-all for the Panthers offensive woes. He only had two goals and an assist before getting blindsided by Philly captain Mike Richards. In a sense of irony, it appeared Booth was just warming up. One of his two goals came in that Philly game. He had been getting tons of chances, but hadn't been finding the back of the net.

So Booth scored in the first game of the season and what has been his last. And that's been it.

But this anemic Florida offense sure could use something.

After Friday's loss, DeBoer was asked if it was good to see Stephen Weiss get off his scoring slide, DeBoer rolled his eyes.

 “Yeah,’’ he said. “If you’re looking for a silver lining, there isn’t much. There’s a lot of guys I’d like to get going. Steven Reinprecht doesn’t have a goal in [12] games, Michael Frolik has one in [13]. We could go on and on.’’

Weiss tied a career-high by scoring his 20th goal in the second period of the Washington game, his first goal in seven games and second in 15. But, as DeBoer tersely pointed out, Weiss isn’t the only player the Panthers need to get hot.

In Florida’s past six games, it has scored just seven goals. With Tomas Vokoun playing lights out, the Panthers have survived their scoring slump.

You can read all about David Booth here, here and here.

Snow Day, Not Fun Day: Mike Green Skates, Suspended for Three Games

Dcsnow ARLINGTON, Va. -- Greetings from Runway 4 at Ron Reagan Jr. Washington interNational Airport where I have been stuck on the runway along with Steve X. for the past few hours.

Seems that the snow storm we were all anticipating finally hit. When I say all, I mean everyone except for the airport crew that was supposed to clear the runway.

So here we sit.

A few miles away at the Capitals practice complex, our pal Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post reports that Mike Green (knee) came out to skate at the end of the Caps practice.

Green left Friday's game after getting hit hard by Dmitry Kulikov. The two collided and smacked knees. Green did not return to the game.

Regardless of his knee, Green will miss the Caps' next three games for what he did in the first period.

Green's elbow of Michael Frolik cost him two minutes in the box, and I don't know if he felt shame or what. But he's been suspended for it after having a disciplinary meeting with the league earlier this morning.

For what it's worth, Green did offer an apology for the elbow after last night's game.

If you want to keep up with Green and all the latest Caps news, follow Tarik on Twitter.


You can also follow me on Twitter as well. Talking about the snow all day!


-- As far as the Panthers go, they are scheduled to skate at Incredible Ice today at noon. I have Pete "Pete" Pelegrin covering and if anything happens, I will update. I don't see myself leaving this runway anytime soon. At least they have Biscotti. For now.

I wouldn't be surprised if David Booth says he's playing tomorrow. He looked like he was ready to go last night and with Pete as ticked off as he was, he might just let him.

January 29, 2010

Randy Moller: Sweetheart of the District ... High Flying Capitals Next

Molls WASHINGTON -- Woke up this morning on a cold and raw DC morning. Grabbed The Washington Post and a cup of coffee. And guess who's on the front page of the Post sports section? No, not Dave Sheinin.

Randy Moller.

Yeah, the Moller radio craze has hit the capital. By mid afternoon, it's the second-most read sports story on the Post website just under a story on the mess that the Washington Wizards have become.

From what I hear*, even President Barack Obama mentioned it at his luncheon with House Republicans in Baltimore today.

"What are you going to do about unemployment?'' one GOP leader asked.

"Drop it like it's hot!" the President exclaimed."Oh yeah, he shoots he scores! Panthers lead 1-0."

(*) My hearing is pretty off...

-- The Panthers are going with their same lineup tonight against the red-hot, high-flying Capitals. That means Nick Tarnasky is the healthy scratch.

Going to be a fun night, me thinks. Look at how the Washington offense matches up with Tomas Vokoun.

-- Washington: Has won eight straight games (streak started with that comeback win over Panthers earlier this month). In those games, Caps have only scored three goals once (win over Detroit). They have outscored their opponents 40-18. Panthers are only team to score four goals during that span.

-- Tomas Vokoun: Has made 13 straight starts and is 7-4-2. He has stopped 427 of 449 shots with three shutouts. In his past five games, Vokoun has given up just three goals on 150 shots.

Something has to give.

-- Here is Moller Part III thanks to the guys over at the Le Batard Show. Photo courtesy of The Palm Beach Post.

David Booth Close to Return ... Team USA: A Long Shot

Dc WASHINGTON -- David Booth is "close" to a return to the Panthers lineup, with it possibly coming as early as next week.

Neither coach Pete DeBoer nor Booth would put a timeline on it, but DeBoer repeatedly said Booth was close to coming back.

"Every day is a day closer,'' Booth said this afternoon. "If I can keep going in this direction, we're looking at games before the Olympic break.''

Booth seemed to agree with my theory that this weekend's games might be too soon, but Friday's game against the Calgary Jokimeesters could be the target date. That gives him a full week to get his timing and conditioning.

And DeBoer completely ruled out Booth going down to the AHL for a conditioning stint as expected. The Panthers don't want to see him get hurt down in Rochester.

DeBoer says if Booth comes back and looks good and IF he was picked for the Olympics, he would have the organization's blessing to go. The Panthers wouldn't mind seeing him play competitive hockey during the break.

Booth seems to think a spot on Team USA is a real long shot and he's OK with that. "We have a real good team,'' he said. "They're going there to win the Gold. If I can join them, I would jump at it. It's the highest honor in hockey, in sports, to represent your country. But my biggest commitment is to the Panthers. We're in a tight race. I want to get in a few games here, then get the rest and make the big push into the playoffs.''

January 26, 2010

Big Win for JM's Panthers


Jacques Martin, or, JM the former GM, didn't look very happy walking out of the visiting coaches locker room Tuesday night.

Nor should he.

Without a doubt, the Canadiens can blame their coach for Tuesday’s loss to the Panthers.

Martin, the first-year coach of Montreal, not only traded for goalie Tomas Vokoun while working as general manager of the Panthers, but brought in Shawn Matthias and Michal Repik too.

Those three were instrumental in Florida’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens at BankAtlantic Center.

Martin may have left the Panthers over the summer, but he didn’t take their players when he headed north.

After Tuesday, he probably would love to have had that option.

Matthias scored both of Florida’s goals and Vokoun made 16 saves for his fourth straight win at home. Montreal, up 1-0 after two periods, had been 16-0 when leading going into the third this season.

“Jacques made a lot of decisions for this organization, brought me and a lot of guys in here,’’ Matthias said. “It’s always good to beat your old coach or GM. It’s a nice feeling. You never like to lose to people you played with.’’

The Panthers have struggled mightily against the Canadiens of late, losing three of four to Montreal last season and the first two meetings of this one.

Those three losses last season were costly as well, as Montreal and the Panthers had identical records and tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Head-to-head record was the tiebreaker that cost the Panthers a spot in the postseason.

These two teams are jockeying for a playoff slot this season as well, with the Panthers moving into a four-way tie for sixth place in the east with the win. Montreal, the Rangers and Philadelphia are also there.

Yes it’s very early, but the Panthers can take some satisfaction of being in this hunt.

“It’s an important two points,’’ said coach Pete DeBoer, hired by Martin in 2008. “There’s no doubt this is motivation. The thing was, jump into eighth or drop to 13 or 14. It’s so tight. No doubt it’s a mental up when you walk into the locker room and you see you’re above that line and in the playoffs.’’

Tuesday, Matthias scored the Panthers first penalty shot since Radek Dvorak scored one off Montreal last January. That penalty shot – he broke free of the Montreal defense and was pulled down by Josh Gorges – came at 3:01 of the third and tied the score at 1.

A few minutes later, Matthias scored again, banging in Repik’s rebound through with 7:01 left.

Montreal led 1-0 when Tomas Plekanec scored on the Canadiens’ lone power play of the game, 1:13 left in the second. Aside from that goal, Montreal didn’t do much of anything all night.

“It was a gutsy effort,’’ said captain Bryan McCabe -- another JM import not called a Lexus.

“Vokoun has given us a chance to win every night and this was no different. We’re getting different guys to step up. Tonight it was Matthias. Hopefully that continues.’’

-- Vokoun set the franchise record for longest home shutout streak at 202:16. Roberto Luongo held the record of 169:35 set in 2003.



Welcome to Sunrise, Quebec: Canadiens @ Panthers, 7:30 p.m. (RDS) ... A Whopper is on a Bun, Tomas Vokoun a Roll ... Repik IN, Nick OUT


Greetings from high atop Le Panneau-Publicitaire (The Billboard) here in southeastern Quebec.

It's Canadiens Night here in Florida!

The Panthers have struggled against Montreal in the past, but are always happy when they make a visit to the sunny southern province.

This joint may not be packed to the rafters like on New Year's Eve, but judging on the traffic getting in, should be a very good -- and bilingual -- crowd. 

In a big shock, Tomas Vokoun -- the one-time Canadien -- is in net for la Floride.

Vokoun hasn't been off since Dec. 27.

By giving him a game to rest, DeBoer gave Vokoun almost a full week to get ready for a stretch of heavy work. Vokoun hasn’t been off since that Christmas break. Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens was his 13th straight start – including four games that came on back-to-back nights.

There is no goalie 1 and 1-A unlike in past seasons when Craig Anderson was chomping at the bit and jostling for playing time. If the Panthers are playing, Vokoun is the goalie.

“He’s been outstanding for a few months now,’’ said DeBoer. “We have to make hay and win games when he’s playing like this. .-.-. Our tandem last year worked. This year, we have a clear cut No. 1 guy and it’s working too.’’

It’s obvious Vokoun digs the situation. DeBoer’s faith in his goalie was brought into question a few times last season but you don’t hear those whispers anymore.

DeBoer praised Vokoun’s work ethic this summer when Vokoun came to South Florida a month earlier than usual to get a jump start on his workouts and hasn’t been quick to pull Vokoun as he had earlier in their relationship.

And why not? When the Panthers won two of their first 10 games to start the season, very little blame was thrown Vokoun’s way. In his previous 12 starts, Vokoun has only six wins to show for some fantastic goaltending as he has stopped 411 of 432 shots faced (95 percent stopped).

In the four games before Tuesday’s game, Vokoun had two shutouts and surrendered two goals on 133 shots (98 percent). Vokoun came into the night with the second-highest save percentage in the league, although he’s faced almost 100 more shots than leader RYAN Miller of Buffalo. His six shutouts (three since Jan. 9) are second most in the league, one shy of Martin Brodeur.

 “It’s always nice when you get on a roll and play a lot,’’ said Vokoun. “I’m not doing anything different if I wasn’t playing good or we weren’t winning. Sometimes you get focused and find some luck. It’s working right now. I hope it keeps going.’’

(*) Rookie Michal Repik was recalled from the minors but Steven Reinprecht (foot) is out there and looks to be OK. BUT, Pete is going with Repik instead of Nick Tarnasky.

(*) A reporter from the Associated Press asked DeBoer if he knew that President Barack Obama was scheduled to give his State of the Union address on Wednesday.

DeBoer did not (he did admit to knowing about the Conan O'Brien/Jay Leno spat, however). DeBoer did offer up a nice unscripted State of the Panthers address to the gathered media.

“I think a lot like the country, we’re on the rebound, we’re in a good spot,’’ said DeBoer. "There's light at the end of the tunnel here. We have some great players coming back sooner than later. .-.-. We have great opportunity here over the next two, three months.''

-- Almost had a record tonight as Graham did the Anthem in 1:52, two seconds off his personal best. He did O! Canada in a crisp and clean 1:15.

And that rhymed.

Just in Case

Steven Reinprecht is expected to be at today's morning skate. but Michal Repik has been recalled from Rochester just in case.

January 25, 2010

David Booth Practices: Team USA Still a Possibility? ... Steven Reinprecht should play vs. Canadiens


David Booth is making good progress from a concussion suffered in October and could possibly return to the Panthers lineup before the Olympic break.

Booth, out since getting wiped out in an open-ice hit by Philadelphia captain Mike Richards on Oct. 24, went through his first full-scale practice with the Panthers on Monday since the hit. “There’s no place in the game for that,’’  Booth said of the hit.

Booth worked on the third line with Gregory Campbell and Kamil Kreps and said he felt good afterward.

“It was pretty cool being in practice again doing some drills,’’ Booth said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done that so it was pretty special. It’s been tough doing all these skates and doing nothing but getting in shape. That’s tough. But the fun’s coming. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’’

Coach Pete DeBoer and the Panthers are being very cautious with Booth and DeBoer warned against rushing Booth. When asked when he would like to see Booth play again, DeBoer grinned. “Tomorrow,’’ he said. “Yesterday.’’

If Booth could get through a week of practices without any setbacks, it’s possible he could be back for the final few games before the Panthers take a two week break for the Olympics. Florida’s final game before the break is Feb. 13. After Tuesday’s game against Montreal, the Panthers have eight games left before the break.

“He’s doing more every day and getting closer,’’ said DeBoer. “I don’t have a time line on it exactly but we’re taking more steps and he’s taking some battle and contact. We’ll see how he deals with that.’’

If Booth were to return early and look good in doing so, it’s possible he could be a late addition to the U.S. Olympic team. Booth was left off the opening Olympic roster because of the injury, but he said he spoke to Team USA general manager Brian Burke this past weekend and there is a possibility Booth could be on the final roster when it’s set just before the Olympics.

For that to happen, not only would Booth have to prove he’s ready to play at such a level, but another forward on the roster would have to be hurt. Burke is also the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in town last weekend to play the Panthers.

“I hope to get a chance but don’t want anyone to get hurt or anything like that,’’ said Booth. “You never know what can happen. It’s unfortunate I got hurt but that’s how the plans go and there’s nothing I can do about it. If it happens, so be it. If I not, I’m fine with it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s no greater honor than playing for your country.’’

(*) DeBoer said center Steven Reinprecht missed practice Monday because he was getting his injured foot looked at. Reinprecht was struck by a puck shot by teammate Dennis Seidenberg in the third period of Saturday’s game and didn’t return.

“He took a shot off the foot,’’ said DeBoer. “He was walking around alright today. Hopefully it’s confirmed it’s negative and he’ll play.’’

(*) Defenseman Jason Garrison apparently strained his intercostal muscle in Sunday’s AHL game in Rochester, N.Y., after he broke his stick while taking a shot. The Panthers say the injury is not serious.


When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WAXY-790

The series: Montreal leads 29-28-6

The game: Montreal has won both meeting between the two this season and five of the past six. The Canadiens got a 2-0 victory in the previous meeting earlier this month in Montreal. The Panthers will roll out goalie Tomas Vokoun who has shutout wins in each of his past two home starts. Montreal is expected to counter with Jaroslav Halak.

January 24, 2010

Happy Pre-Super Sunday ... Kenndal McArdle's Big Day ... Lotsa Hockey in Rochester


Today is one of my favorite days of the year.

It's NFL Championship Sunday.

I love the Super Bowl, who doesn't?, but today is where the real excitement is. Who is going to make the big game? We'll know in a few hours.

I like the Saints and the Colts, although I don't really care who wins.

As long as it isn't the Jets.

Although I think Rex Ryan's Super Bowl press conferences would be an absolute riot.

-- Big night for Kenndal McArdle on Saturday, eh?

McArdle made a triumphant return from the injured list on Saturday as the Panthers rookie scored his first NHL goal against his hometown team as friends and family throughout Canada watched on television.

Mcardle When McArdle walked into the locker room after Saturday's 2-0 win over Toronto, he took off his sweat-soaked jersey, took a swig of Gatorade and sat at his locker stall smiling waiting for the media to pay a visit.

“There isn't anything greater than scoring your first NHL goal in a game your team won,'' he said. “I'm just really happy to get the win and obviously to get that goal. We wanted to take it to them. We needed that second goal and I was glad to get it for us.''

Coach Pete DeBoer loves McArdle's work ethic and passion for the game and seems to be honestly rooting for him to succeed. It has taken McArdle a while to get to this level – the Panthers picked him 20th overall at the Sidney Crosby draft inside an Ottawa hotel in 2005 – and he bounced from the minors to the Panthers over the past three seasons.

McArdle was a fill in for the Panthers last year and only appeared in three games. This year, he was one of the last cuts. A big scorer in junior hockey, McArdle was told when the Panthers sent him to the minors that he needed to play a harder-nosed game, and not only accept a role as a third or fourth line player but embrace it.

McArdle wasn't happy when he was cut in October and told DeBoer that he would be back.

He kept good on his promise – but also came back ready to do the things the Panthers wanted him to. He was recalled on Oct. 28 and played in 16 games before suffering a shoulder injury while fighting Nov. 28 in Nashville. After almost two months of rehab, McArdle returned Saturday on a retooled fourth line with Shawn Matthias and Nick Tarnasky.

“He's been working hard, being in the gym and getting back in shape,'' said Keith Ballard. “I didn't envy him, seeing him on the ice. [Coach Mike] Kitchen puts them through the ringer pretty good. It's tough. A lot tougher than playing in a game. It's good to see him back and have some success.''

McArdle's brought energy and plenty of passion to his shifts. With the Florida offense stuck in neutral, the Panthers could use his line to produce a little. If he were to start putting in pucks like he once did, the Panthers probably wouldn't object.

“He gave us some great minutes and was a shot of energy when that fourth line was out there,'' DeBoer said Saturday. “We have to find a fourth line that can contribute and change momentum. .-.-. Great goal for him. He took the long road to the NHL. But he's earned his job up here.''


After playing in games against the Devils and Rangers on successive nights, rookies Jason Garrison and Victor Oreskovich were sent to the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

The Americans kicked off the first of three games in three nights on Friday and Garrison and Oreskovich were in the lineup.

The two also played Saturday night and were expected to be in the lineup Sunday as well.

That's five professional games in five nights. And while Garrison and Oreskovich didn't play huge minutes with the Panthers, they are logging heavy time with the Amerks.

-- The Panthers could call up another forward from Rochester on Monday depending on the severity of Steven Reinprecht's injury. Reinprecht left Saturday's game after getting hit in the skate area by a Dennis Seidenberg shot.

Jeff Taffe, who is a center, is a possibility. He scored two goals with an assist for the Amerks on Saturday. Winger Michal Repik (14 goals, 16 assists) is also an option as is Oreskovich.

-- Enjoy the football.

See you tomorrow.

-- Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter. Let me warn you, I post stupid ramblings on there at times. Will have my thoughts on the football today as well. Check 'er out. It's free.


January 23, 2010

Panthers Down Leafs: Dennis Seidenberg gets Stitched up then hits Steven Reinprecht with Shot


Those hoping to see an exciting, up-and-down hockey game with one end to end rush after another left the Sunrise arena disappointed on Saturday night.

Those who only cared that the home team won walked out more than satisfied.

The Panthers played a typical road game at home Saturday as they took a lead in the second period and sat on it, smothering the Maple Leafs in the process.

With Tomas Vokoun continuing to sparkle and Toronto not offering much to challenge, that game plan was enough for victory as the Panthers won 2-0 at BankAtlantic Center.

For the Panthers, a team missing two of its top offensive forwards because of injury, ugly wins are just fine. And those who don't like this style may not want to watch future games.

We usually don't have many pretty wins and we're not the most exciting team to watch,'' Keith Ballard said. “This is perfect for us. We don't mind this at all. You want to watch an up-and-down team? Watch Washington. As long as we win, I could care less how we do it.''

Of course, Vokoun's play is worth the price of admission alone these days.

Saturday marked his sixth shutout of the season – second in the league and tying a career high. Three of those have come in the past eight games.

We had Booth and Horton out of the lineup, it was our seventh game in 10 days. It was a gutsy win,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “Our goaltender was great early, got us out of the first period. .-.-. We have to play close to the vest.''

With the Panthers offense running on empty of late, DeBoer decided clamping down and trapping the struggling Leafs was the only way to go. After Cory Stillman scored a power play goal early in the second period, the Panthers all but shut things down and let their defense – and mostly Vokoun – do the hard labor in trying to get two points.

Since scoring five goals against Tampa Bay on Jan. 16, the Florida offense has gone cold and has a grand total of four goals in four games. Thanks to Vokoun and an increased defensive pressure, however, the Panthers have survived. In those games, the Panthers got five of an available eight points.

If the Panthers can win games without flash, well, that's fine with them.

"This is how we have to do it,'' DeBoer said.

DeBoer pointed out that the Panthers played with plenty of grit, and there's little doubt about that. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg left the game after blocking a shot with his mouth, returning after having his upper lip rearranged and stitched together in the locker room.

Florida did lose center Steven Reinprecht to injury in the third after he took a shot off the skate. The puck came off the stick of the luckless Seidenberg.

On Thursday, a Seidenberg shot struck teammate Nathan Horton in the leg and ended up fracturing his tibia. Horton is out four to six weeks; DeBoer didn't have an update on Reinprecht.

Florida opened the game up a bit in the third as Kenndal McArdle – in his first game back from injury – scored his first NHL goal. McArdle scored with 6:45 left on a 3-on-1 taking a Gregory Campbell pass.

That second goal gave the Panthers enough cushion as they cruised from that point forward. Vokoun made 39 saves in the win.

We're winning hockey games. The last time we were in here, we beat Atlanta 1-0,'' said Stillman. “That's what we're going to have to do. We're not a high scoring team. We depend on our goalie and special teams. Down the stretch, that's going to be the difference.''

-- How good has Vokoun been?

Saturday was his 12th straight start. He's 6-4-2 during that span. He had three shutouts. He has stopped 430 of 451 shots.

Bad News Cats: Nathan Horton out 4-6 Weeks ... Sexton, DeBoer: Horton and Booth Hopefully back Post-Olympics

Horton Nathan Horton, the Panthers leading scorer this season, will miss the next four to six weeks after fracturing the tibia bone in his left leg during Thursday's loss to the Islanders in New York.

Horton was struck in the leg on a hard shot from teammate Dennis Seidenberg and crumpled to the ice. Horton crawled to the bench as play resumed around him and had to be lifted through the bench door by athletic trainer David Zenobi because he could not stand.

Horton was seen limping through the locker room after the game with his left leg wrapped in ice. He was not using crutches and the Panthers initially figured his injury was a deep bruise.

The Panthers did not make a roster move for Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs at BankAtlantic Center because both Nick Tarnasky (knee) and Kenndal McArdle (shoulder) are available.

Horton will not need surgery.

"There's never a good time for this, but especially at this time of year,'' said general manager Randy Sexton.

"This is an opportunity for other guys to step up and show that they belong and carry some of the offensive load. The silver lining is two weeks of Nate's rehab will be done during the Olympic break. It's unfortunate, but it's a fact we have to deal with and move on.''

Sexton and coach Pete DeBoer hope Horton (17 goals, 29 assists) will be back in March;
the Panthers play 10 more games before the two-week Olympic break.

Florida plays its final game before the break on Feb.‚13 and doesn't return until March 2.

David Booth, out since Oct 24 with a concussion, could also return about that time.

The Panthers started the season with a top line of Horton and Booth on the wings with Stephen Weiss at center. With Horton out, Weiss will center Cory Stillman and Michael Frolik for the time being.

"We'll have to get through it without him,'' DeBoer said. "With [Horton] and Booth on the sidelines, we're going to have to be really good defensively.''

Horton is the third Florida player to be injured by his own teammate this season. In November, goalie Tomas Vokoun suffered a badly lacerated ear when he was struck by defenseman Keith Ballard. Later, winger Gregory Campbell suffered a concussion when he and defenseman Bryan Allen collided at full-speed near center ice.

"I hadn't thought about that, but yeah, it's a little odd,'' said Weiss. "That's hockey. Things happen so quickly. If you block a shot from your team or the other team, that can happen.''

Seidenberg felt bad about the accident after Thursday's game and said he apologized to Horton.

"Me shooting the puck at him doesn't make me feel better about the situation, but things happen,'' said Seidenberg, coincidentally the league leader in blocked shots this season with 149.

"I broke his leg, but I didn't mean too. He was in front of me, I was in motion already. It was bad luck. I was trying to get the puck in. It was me trying to make the puck go deep and it would have if Nathan hadn't been there.''

Nathan Horton Out

Just got word that Nathan Horton is out tonight and possibly will miss some time this week as well. Will be meeting with Randy Sexton at the skate and have an update in a bit...

See y'all Tomorrow



January 22, 2010

Back to Rochester

STUCK IN QUEENS -- Figure I can do a quick post while sitting in traffic...

Team had the day off with Victor Oreskovich and Jason Garrison going to Rochester.

The Leafs and Hockey Night in Canada invade The Billboard tomorrow...see you there...maybe

Back to Rochester

January 21, 2010

The Panthers Lose on the Island ... Nathan Horton Should be Fine

Islandergirls2 UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It was somewhat of a surprise when Islanders coach Scott Gordon announced that his goalie on Thursday would be Dwayne Roloson considering his most recent past against the Panthers.

Gordon must have known something. That, or he has been watching the Panthers offense the past few games.

Florida's offense sputtered again Thursday, scoring just once as Roloson and the Islanders pulled out a 2-1 shootout victory at Nassau County Veterans Coliseum.

The Panthers have just two goals in their past three games and have now lost two straight despite terrific goaltending from Tomas Vokoun.

“We need to score goals in this league to win,'' said Stephen Weiss, who fed Nathan Horton for Florida's lone goal.

“It's just too tough of a league. One isn't going to cut it. With the way Vokoun is playing, we definitely should be getting points right now. It's on the forwards to get pucks to the net, find a way to get it done. Our goaltending is unbelievable. We should win easy every night if we just get a couple.''

Roloson was a much different goalie Thursday than he was back on Dec. 14, the night the Panthers lit him up for five goals and sent him to the bench early. This time around, Roloson stopped 33 shots in the first 65 minutes and stoned both Rostislav Olesz and Michael Frolik in the shootout. The Islanders scored on two of their first three in the shootout as Florida dropped to 5-7 in such endings.

The Panthers now trail the Islanders by three points in a very crowded playoff race.

“We had chances and they had chances,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “It was a great game. Yes, it's tough not to win in overtime, but it's better than losing in regulation. You had two teams you could tell were looking at the standings. The level of play is different in the second half of the season.''

The Panthers had a scary moment late in the game when Horton was struck in the left leg by a Dennis Seidenberg shot. Horton hit the ice hard and as play continued around him, he crawled to the bench unable to stand up. Horton was eventually pulled into the bench area by athletic trainer David Zenobi.

Zenobi worked on Horton on the bench as the Florida winger grimaced in obvious pain but it appears he is fine. Horton was struck on the side of the left knee and isn't expected to have any structural damage. He walked into the dressing room from the training room with no crutches – just a limp, his knee wrapped in ice.

“It's just a bruise,'' said DeBoer.

Horton's goal in the second gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead, but it wouldn't stand up as the Islanders tied it later in the period. After a scoreless third, one in which the Panthers went 0-for-2 on the power play, Florida squandered a terrific scoring chance in overtime as Blake Comeau (who tied the score) was called for a penalty 1:36 in.

Florida had a 4-on-3 advantage and watched a few shots get knocked away by Roloson. But the Panthers didn't generate as much as it should have in that situation -- especially considering that Jack Hillen was playing without a stick.

Vokoun, who has been terrific of late, gave up one goal on 36 shots one night after giving up a goal in a shutout loss to the Devils. Vokoun made his 11th straight start and is 5-4-2 since Dec. 31 with stops on 391 of 412 shots (95 percent).

“We're not a high scoring team,'' Keith Ballard said. “We've got lots of goals, but it seems like we score one or two for a stretch and then we go periods where we score three to five. We have to find more consistency.''


Rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was really starting to play well when the 19-year-old injured a knee in a game against Carolina on Dec. 18. On Thursday, he made his way back to the lineup.

“He's a young guy with good legs,'' DeBoer said. “If his timing is alright, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get right back to the 20 minute mark. We're definitely not going to limit his icetime. We hope he has good energy. I don't think that's an issue. It's his timing. This kid has passed every test we've given him.''

-- The start time for the Panthers home game against the Islanders on Jan. 31 has been moved up an hour to 4 p.m. because of the Pro Bowl being played in Miami Gardens.