« Panthers Thunderstruck Again, Lose Third Straight to Lightning; Cats Outplayed, Outhustled in 5-1 Loss | Main | Southeast Division Shakeup: Bruce Boudreau, Paul Maurice Fired ... Dale Hunter to Coach Caps, Kirk Muller in with Canes »

Panthers Try to Avoid Being Road Weary as 'Garbage' Schedule Gets Tougher

OscarTAMPA – Whomever came up with the Panthers schedule this season should probably steer clear of their locker room.

“It's a garbage schedule,'' Kris Versteeg said shaking his head. “But you can't complain about it, you just have to go out there and play hard every night and not worry about that. It's been pretty tough though with the games so far and the travel. I think we've done great with what we've been given.''

Said Stephen Weiss: “I don't even try and figure it out. I don't try to look too far down the schedule. It gets to be too much, a little too annoying.''

Only five teams – Winnipeg, Vancouver, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Edmonton – have played more road games than the Panthers.

InnoutFlorida is in the middle of a strange road trip, one that started Saturday in Tampa, brought them home for a Monday practice before resuming in Raleigh, N.C. From there, the Panthers fly cross-country to play in Los Angeles on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday.

The Panthers then fly all the way back home to play one game against Washington before hitting the road again.

It's a stretch of games that is almost reminiscent of Florida's old preseason schedule where the Panthers would seemingly travel anywhere for a paycheck. Almost. 

Planestrains“Well, at least they aren't back-to-back-to-back,'' Weiss joked. “It's another tough stretch. Carolina is always tough at home then we head west with no time to recover. We have to be sharp.''

Coach Kevin Dineen knows this is a crucial stretch of games and managing the schedule is something that has weighed on his mind.

Florida will fly through the night to Los Angeles after playing Carolina on Tuesday; with a game Thursday, there's no way around that. But Dineen decided, after consulting with his players, that the team will stay over in San Jose after Saturday's game and fly home Lucyon Sunday. With a game that following Monday against the Capitals, it's really a no-win proposition. 

The Capitals, meanwhile, will likely hold a practice in South Florida while the Panthers make the five-plus hour flight home from northern California. 

“It's a tough road trip. A really tough road trip,'' Dineen said. “I spent way too much time this summer wondering what we were going to do after the game San Jose. I went back and forth between flying home right after the game, wait until the morning, fly halfway. You can analyze it until the cows come home. It's going to be tough playing that Washington game. It's a lot of action in a short period of time.''

In Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Lightning, the Panthers definitely looked like a tired bunch one that had played five games in a span of eight nights. Things aren't going to get any easier. Starting in Carolina on Tuesday, the Panthers will play seven games in 13 nights. Only one of those comes on home ice.

Dineen gave the team Sunday off so they could relax with their families. They aren't going to see them for a while. 

Duedate“When you are tired, you have to play smarter than we did [Saturday],'' Sean Bergenheim said. “We have Sunday off to spend time with the family and that's a time to recharge yourself. We need to have more energy in the games coming up. That's the plan. Look at the big picture. We've played good, but looked a little tired in the past two games. That happens to everyone. We'll get over it.''

() Saturday's game was the fifth of six meetings Stormybetween Florida and Tampa Bay, meaning 22 percent of the Panthers games this season have been against the Lightning.

Aside from games against the Lightning, the Panthers haven't seen much of their divisional brethren this season playing Winnipeg twice and Washington once. Tuesday's game will be Florida's first of the season against Carolina.

“You have to get points where you can and we're going to see those teams a lot in a short period of time,'' Dineen said.