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KOPECKY STILL SOLID: Goal Scoring is Done, Defensive Play is Not

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Tomas Kopecky isn't scoring at the rate he did last year although he said Sunday that he is OK with the role he plays with the Panthers.

Kopecky tied a career-high with 15 goals last season, doing so in just 47 played due to the lockout-shortened campaign.

Although Kopecky is doing many of the same things he's done in the past, the scoring hasn't come as he hoped. He feels like things are going to even out.

In Saturday's 5-4 shootout win over the visiting Predators, Kopecky scored his fourth goal of the year before ending the contest in the sixth round of the shootout.

"Each year is different and I'm playing against the other team's top lines,'' said Kopecky, who got the shootout-winner in Florida's 10-round marathon against Washington on Dec. 13.

"The priority is on the defense. Last year I was playing on the first power play and this year I'm not. Whatever helps the team win. I learned a long time ago not to feel sorry for yourself, just accept your role. Obviously it's more fun when you're scoring goal. But I'm putting the priority on shutting the other guy down.''

Kopecky's forte is creating traffic in front of the net and playing tough defense.

"He and Marcel Goc have been doing a lot of our penalty killing duties,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "He's a smart guy, a big body who you put in a lot of responsible situations like late in the game. He's come up big in a few shootouts and has been a guy who gets you 10, 15 goals. He's a guy who look at who has some skill and think he could hit that 20 goal plateau sometime.''

As for Kopecky moving up higher in the Panthers' shootout pecking order, don't expect that to happen anytime soon. Florida's top three of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes are pretty solid with Nick Bjugstad a nice option if a shootout goes longer.

Kopecky is 3-for-7 in shootouts over his career with both game-deciding goals coming this season.

"You have to have a feel for what you have,'' Horachek said.



When, Where: 7 p.m.; Bell Center, Montreal

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Panthers lead 36-34-6

Scouting report: The Panthers, one of three teams in the NHL with an all-time winning mark against the Canadiens, have won the first two meetings of the season. Montreal has lost three of its past four games.