« Florida Panthers 2, New York Islanders 0 ... Cats Get Goals from Weiss, Garrison ... 27 Saves for Theodore | Main | Happy 13th Birthday to The Billboard! Florida Panthers Arena Officially Opens on Oct. 9, 1998 »

Jose Theodore Pitches Shutout in Florida Panthers Debut ... More News, Notes

TheodoreNYI About to watch some football with family here on a gorgeous day in Columbus, Ohio.

So, before the games get going -- and I'm unfortunately stuck watching the Bengals although spared a Dolphins Sunday thanks to the bye week -- here is some stuff for you Panthers fans still fired up over Saturday's season opening victory. 

(Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Jose Theodore surrendered seven goals in the Panthers final exhibition game of the preseason in Dallas, eight days before Florida's season opener.

Any concern there?

“That's why they call it the preseason,'' defenseman Mike Weaver joked.

Actually, the Panthers were a little worried about how Theodore would open up Saturday against the host Islanders.

After the loss in Dallas, coach Kevin Dineen said that even though Theodore had a rough couple of outings, he was sure once the season started that the veteran netminder would come to play.

Indeed he did. Bolstered by an improved defense, Theodore kicked back 27 shots as the Panthers beat the Islanders 2-0. The shutout was No. 31 for Theodore. 

“Things didn't go as planned during training camp,'' Dineen said, “but he's a professional. He has played in Montreal where everything is magnified to such a high level. He's patient.''

The Panthers have a new look to their defense with last year's opening night starters Bryan McCabe and Dennis Wideman replaced by Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski.

Florida's defense was smothering early on, with Theodore not having to do much work for long stretches. But there were times when the Islanders put pressure on Theodore. He came up strong. 

Theodore now has six shutouts against the Islanders, more than any other team he's faced.

“I didn't know that. Maybe it's the building, it's a fun building for me to play in,'' Theodore said. “Everyone was pumped up for the first game of the season. I said I wanted to challenge the shots and the [defense] was great at clearing the rebounds. We worked well as a unit, me and the D. Playing the puck behind the net was good, they were letting me see the puck. We were all on the same page.''

-- Dineen is the 11th coach in Panthers history and the sixth to take over the team for a start of a season.

Of those six, only Dineen, Terry Murray and Jacques Martin won their Florida coaching debuts.

“I'm more focused on my family, my dad and family back home,'' Dineen said. “It's exciting for a family. There was a lot of transition [going from player to coach] in this hockey business. They enjoy the wins as much as I do. On a personal level, it's nice [to win] but it's nice to share it at home and here with this group.''

Even though the Panthers have gone through 10 coaches in franchise history, things have been stable the past few seasons. Martin took over and coached the team for three seasons before being fired (but retained as general manager) in 2008.

Pete DeBoer held the job from 2008 until being fired a day after Florida's season finale in April. 

“I have tremendous respect for Peter DeBoer,'' Dineen said. “Every coach does things a little differently. At the end of the day, we have a different look, have different personnel.''

-- Rookie Erik Gudbranson made his NHL debut on Saturday, starting the game with Jovanovski and playing 10:59 off 20 shifts.

Even though Gudbranson had the lowest ice time of any defensemen, assistant coach Gord Murphy was happy with his performance. 

“You try to put him in position to have success,'' Murphy said. “That contributed . He didn't show any kind of first game jitters that you would expect. He was in control. That was an excellent first game. [Jovanovski] did a great job with him out there.''