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3 posts from November 2012

November 26, 2012

SKATING AGAIN: #FlaPanthers Erik Gudbranson Back on Ice, Talks About Shoulder Injury


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

About 40 minutes into a workout on Monday morning, Erik Gudbranson made himself at home at center ice, plopping down to rest and using the dasher boards as back support.

It was obvious Gudbranson's first on-ice workout since September had taken its toll.

"I'm not going to lie,'' the Panthers' 20-year-old defenseman said, "this is tough.''

Gudbranson, the third overall pick of the 2010 draft who completed his first NHL season last year, joined a number of his teammates at Glacier Ice Arena in Lighthouse Point for the first time since he injured his shoulder in September.

Gudbranson says he has been working out his lower body since having surgery at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, but he hadn't strapped on the skates in almost three months.

He may have been gassed but was happy to be back on the ice. Gudbranson didn't do much more than skate as he gingerly lifted soft shots toward goalies Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun.

"It felt really good to be out there. I'm a little surprised at how good it felt,'' Gudbranson said after the workout with teammates such as Tomas Fleischmann, Ed Jovanovski and Stephen Weiss as well as NHLers Marian Hossa and Radek Dvorak.

"Things are coming along. The training staff I've been working out with at home [Ottawa, Ontario] are great. This is a tough thing, but I'm excited about it getting better.''

Gudbranson is still a long way away from being hockey ready, although he says his legs have never been stronger as he has added 10 pounds of muscle since the injury.

When he's able to play -- his timetable is sometime in January -- Gudbranson is expected to start the season with the Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio even if the lockout is over.

Had Gudbranson not gotten injured, he most likely would have joined the Rampage for training camp in September since he is now eligible to play minor league hockey even during the lockout.

Only Gudbranson got hurt. And, because the injury didn't happen on the ice, he's locked out -- and not being paid -- like everyone else.

Gudbranson's injury has been shrouded in secrecy as teammates declined to talk about it, saying "you need to speak with Erik.''

On Monday, Gudbranson finally came public about how he got hurt, telling The Miami Herald is happened while wakeboarding on a lake in Ontario with his buddies.

"I wasn't being stupid, it was just an unfortunate, awkward fall,'' Gudbranson said.

Gudbranson said he talked to general manager Dale Tallon about the injury, stressing to Tallon that alcohol played no role in the accident. Gudbranson said that he and his pals went out to wakeboard -- which is a combination of surfing and water skiing -- for years.

The accident, Gudbranson said, happened early in the morning on the first run of the day. He pulled up when the rope he was holding onto as he was pulled by a boat slacked up. Gudbranson ended up slamming into the water and dislocated his shoulder in the process. "I should have let go,'' he said.

Gudbranson seems very contrite about the injury and said he has repeatedly apologized to the Panthers -- and called each of his teammates individually after it happened. Gudbranson said his wakeboarding days are done. He even sold his wakeboard.

"I wasn't hurt playing hockey. I have learned from my mistakes,'' Gudbranson said. "I needed to be honest with them. The players have been transparent during the lockout and I felt it was my duty to the Panthers to be transparent and honest with them. I hurt myself and it was unfortunate. I learned something the hard way. But I'm everything I can to get back on the ice.''

Upon finding out how Gudbranson got hurt -- there had been speculation it happened on the ice in Coral Springs during a workout before the lockout started -- the Panthers declared it a non-hockey related injury.

Had Gudbranson been hurt doing something hockey-related, it's possible the Panthers would have continued to pay him as they supervised his rehabilitation as was the case with Kris Versteeg.

After starting the lockout under the care of the Panthers, Versteeg has since been cleared and released for contact. He is no longer being paid and is locked out like the rest of his teammates. Versteeg is back in his native Alberta, working as a volunteer assistant coach while he attends classes and skates with the team at the University of Lethbridge.

"There is obviously an element of danger in [wakeboarding] and I wasn't very smart. And the timing couldn't have been worse,'' Gudbranson said. "But I could have been playing beach volleyball and blown out my knee. I'm disappointed. I worked very hard this summer and was in the best shape of my life. But I don't think it's right just to sit around during the offseason and do nothing.''

Gudbranson has been in contact with his surgeon in Miami but cannot speak to Panthers' head athletic trainer David Zenobi because of the NHL lockout.

Instead of having a workout sketched out by Zenobi, Gudbranson is basically on his own. He said he was heading back to Ottawa and would continue his on-ice workouts there.

The Panthers won't comment on individual players during the lockout.

"I'm very sorry this happened, but I'm working hard and I feel great now,'' Gudbranson said. "Now it's all about skating and getting ready to play some hockey.''

SKATING AGAIN: #FlaPanthers Erik Gudbranson Back on Ice, Talks About Shoulder Injury

SKATING AGAIN: #FlaPanthers Erik Gudbranson Back on Ice, Talks About Shoulder Injury

November 12, 2012

ED JOVANOVSKI: HOFer Pavel Bure 'Worth the Admission'


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Pavel Bure is scheduled to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony Monday night in Toronto.

The South Florida resident spent parts of four seasons with the Panthers from 1999-2002 after being acquired in a blockbuster trade from Vancouver on Jan. 17, 1999.

Bure, who won the league scoring title twice with the Panthers, officially retired from hockey in 2005. He becomes the fifth player with ties to the Panthers to be inducted into the hall.

"Seeing him go into the Hall of Game, it's well deserved. He was one of the most electric players to play the game,'' said Ed Jovanovski, who was drafted by the Panthers in 1995 and traded to the Canucks for Bure.

"They made a splash bringing him here. As a player it was sick to see him play. He was a player who brought fans out of their seats. He was worth the admission.''

STEPHEN WEISS: No Negotiation on New Contract If Lockout Ends


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

As the NHL lockout is now in its third month, there is growing concern the entire 2012-13 season could be lost.

If that's the case, there's a possibility Stephen Weiss may have played in his final game with the Florida Panthers.

Weiss, who has played in more games than anyone in franchise history, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013. Weiss will be in the final season of a six-year deal that averaged $3.1 million if the lockout ends and hockey begins again.

If the season is lost, players will likely burn a year off their contract making Weiss a free agent when the lockout eventually ends.

Weiss said on Monday that he and the Panthers had brief conversations before the lockout began about his future plans. Weiss has stated, and reiterated this on Monday, that he wants to remain with the Panthers. General manager Dale Tallon said over the summer that the Panthers aren't all that concerned Weiss will leave.

Weiss said that even if the season were to begin, he doesn't plan on negotiating a new contract with the team until the following offseason. Teams cannot offer contracts to players during the lockout.

"Things got stalled during the summer,'' Weiss said after yet another informal workout at the Glacier Ice Arena in Lighthouse Point.

"I don't want to do anything during the season. I just want to focus on the season and take care of business. We'll revisit it during the summer and see what happens.''

When asked if he understood the ramifications of playing the 2012-13 season as a pending free agent, Weiss nodded emphatically. The Panthers, like the Cavaliers with LeBron James, have been burned by pending free agents.

Florida, if it was out of the playoff race at the trade deadline, may be tempted to trade Weiss instead of potentially losing him for nothing. Of course, that's a long way away.

"I know what it means, but it's my decision,'' Weiss said. "I don't want to be a distraction during the season for myself or anyone else to be honest. I know for me, when I've gone through this in the past that it's never an easy situation. It sits on your mind. I just want to play and worry about that stuff at the right time. First we have to get on the ice.''

In 2009, Florida lost All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester for virtually nothing as he refused to re-sign with the Panthers.

Bouwmeester's case, however, was much different. Bouwmeester made no secret of his dislike for South Florida and the dysfunction of the Panthers organization at the time as his agent actually gave then-GM Jacques Martin a list of teams Bouwmeester would like to be traded to.

Weiss, who is from Toronto, enjoys living in Florida and is seen as being very loyal to the Panthers.

Florida made Weiss the fourth overall pick of the 2001 draft held in Sunrise.

"I want to end my career with the Panthers,'' Weiss said. "This organization has been very good to me. We're starting to see brighter days ahead with the kids we have coming up and some of the draft picks we've stockpiled. There's nothing but good days ahead for this team. I believe that. I would like to stay and be a part of it.

"But at the end of the day, this is a business. And if it comes time to move on, maybe that's the case too.''

Weiss is one of a handful of Panthers players still working out in South Florida as the lockout drags on.

On Monday, former Panthers assistant coach Jim Hulton was on the ice running players through hockey and conditioning drills. With Hulton watching over things, Monday's workout had a more structured feel to it.

"I want to make a good impression for the coach,'' Marco Sturm joked as he skated off the ice dripping in sweat.

There are currently nine members of the Panthers working out at Glacier -- which was the Panthers' original training facility back in the 1990s -- as well as former Florida players Radek Dvorak, Tomas Vokoun and Sturm.

Vokoun had reportedly signed with a Czech team, but Monday he said he changed his mind and would remain in South Florida. Tomas Kopecky left to play in Czech but injured his shoulder. He's back working with his teammates but says he will head back to Europe if the lockout continues.

"I might go back, you never know,'' Kopecky said. "Sitting out the whole season isn't good for anyone. We'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.''

Weiss said he would love to play in Europe but won't because he is in contractual limbo.

"I'm chomping at the bit and would love to play somewhere very badly,'' Weiss said. "But I have to be smart and take care of myself.''