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Extra Special Florida Panthers/Montreal Canadiens Pregame Notebook! Talking Kopecky, Rangers 'Meatheads,' Theodore, Clemmensen, Goc and Much, Much More!

MerrynewyearMerry New Year! 

Hope you all are enjoying a beautiful South Florida Saturday and not trapped in your home like me. Hey, I'm still trying to get over something so a day laying around isn't too bad.

Have to get ready for the big game tonight.

Anyway, the Panthers had an optional skate today and had a pretty good showing with almost everyone out there.

One player who wasn't was Tomas Kopecky. All is well Kopeckythough, as Kevin Dineen said Kopecky spoke with NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan where he was told there would be no suspension for last night's antics. Dineen said Kopecky would be fined. 

On Saturday afternoon, the league announced both Kopecky and Michael Del Zotto would be fined the maximum $2,500.

“I was really irritated last night and that was very upsetting,'' Dineen said. “I give the powers that be a lot of credit because they analyzed the situation, looked at a lot of video.

"I was chomping at the bit at the whole situation, especially [Mike] Rupp working his way around to jump [Kopecky] and get him. At the end of it, there will be fines handed down to both Tomas and some of their players. There is still some evaluation as far as their actions.

“There is no suspension.''

-- Krys Barch got a game misconduct when he came out for the face off following the scrap. Why was Barch on the ice at that time?

“All of a sudden [the Rangers] threw out some more Meatheadmeatheads at the end of the game,'' Dineen said, “and when they do that, you don't have a choice but to .-.-. there were only seven seconds left in the game.

"If they're going to put those kind of guys on the ice, we're going to come with the best response for us. The officials did a good job of controlling the situation, although there wasn't much to it.''

Guess who is really looking forward to the rematch next week at the Garden?

YouppiYeah, this guy.

-- Here are the 'Meatheads' on the ice for the Rangers at the time of the face-off: Brandon Prust, Jeff Woywitka, Brian Boyle and Stu Bickel.

Here are the guys -- are they Meatheads as well? --Dineen sent out: Barch, Shawn Matthias, Tim Kennedy, Erik Gudbranson and Ed Jovanovski.

-- Jose Theodore will be back tonight to take on his former Canadiens. Theodore gave up a goal on 11 shots in relief of Scott Clemmensen last night. 

Dineen had yet to pull a goalie in the middle of a period during his short tenure with the Panthers. Said he didn't do it much in the minors, either.

“It's a natural tendency to look in the rear view mirror with a woulda-coulda, but you make your decision on where your team is and what gives you the best chance to win,'' Dineen said.

Clemmdevils“Rarely if ever do I pull a goalie in the middle of a period. Sometimes I've taken them out just to put them right back in, just give them a little rattle of the cage. Unfortunately that was a case in which I felt we had to do it.''

Dineen had this to say about Clemmensen's performance after last night's game: “There were some breakdowns in front of him. But at the end of the day, his job is to stop the puck and he didn't Dickclarksucceed in that early in the first. That's the first time I've pulled someone in the middle of a period, but we needed better goaltending to give us a chance against that team tonight.''

Two of the three goals Clemmensen gave up were deflected in front of him, either by a Rangers player or by a teammate (Matt Bradley). 

-- Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson worked out on their own before the optional skate with Goc staying on to work out with his teammates. Dineen says he still has a number of clearances to go through before he can play.

“It's exciting news to have those guys out there,'' Dineen said. “There was a flatline, especially from Marcel for a month and a half, and he's been Obparade1progressively been having positive days. That's a good sign. [Goc] has some testing to go through before we make some decisions. It's all up to when the doctors deem him cleared to play. Then we'll check his conditioning. It's been a long time off.''

-- Although Dineen would love to join former Hartford teammates Joel Quennville and Dave Tippett as Jack Adams Award winners as NHL Coach of the Year, he says that's the last thing he's working toward this season. We're not at the half way point yet. Close, but not there. 

“This season is a marathon. It's a long year,'' Dineen said. “I have great friends in Joel and Dave who have won that award. I don't think they remember the first 40 games of that season. There's a lot of hockey to play, a lot of work to be done.''

-- Dineen on the Panthers play of late; Florida has lost eight of 14 this month going 6-5-3. The Panthers are 1-2 in their five-game run against Original Six teams and have been outscored 15-6.

Florida's lead in the Southeast is down to four over Winnipeg with the Jets playing host to the Leafs tonight. Washington is now just five back after winning its past two games. The Capitals are in C-bus tonight.

“We're playing good hockey teams, but I'm not happy with the way we're playing some of the top tier teams in the league particularly Boston and the Rangers,'' Dineen said. “Phoenix, who I think is a very solid team, I thought we played a game where we kept it close but I don't think our overall style of play was good enough to have success.

“Montreal is a another team that has played solid since their Chicago game; they've played better hockey. Obviously we look at where we've been, but when you have a game in less than 24 hours, we're not looking at the big picture. We just want two points to solidify where we are.''

-- As far as tonight being a road game? Dineen says the more the merrier. Dineen welcomes a new Hatconference/divisional rivalry with the Canadiens in the near future as the league re-districts itself.

“We invite all the great people of Montreal to come on down for a game,'' Dineen said. “It may be cheaper to get a plane ticket and a ticket here than it is to get a game ticket for the Canadiens. Rivalries happen and we look at Tampa as our natural rival.

"But the more you see a team, the more a rivalry will build. I think it will be enjoyable for years to come.''