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13 posts from September 2014

September 30, 2014

ELLIS SENT DOWN: Panthers send veteran goalie to San Antonio

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards


The Panthers sent veteran goalie Dan Ellis to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Tuesday leaving their training camp roster at 31 players.

Florida is expected to make eight more moves in the coming days and open the season with 23 players.

Ellis, 34, came to the Panthers from Dallas on trade deadline day in March in exchange for Tim Thomas. Ellis went 0-5 and stopped 84 percent of his shots faced to finish the 2013-14 season with Florida.

In July, the Panthers signed Al Montoya to backup Roberto Luongo although Ellis said he planned on doing the job.

Ellis stopped 14 of 17 shots this preseason. He cleared waivers on Monday but remained with the team in Dallas.


Wednesday: Practice at Coral Springs IceDen, 11 a.m.

Thursday: Preseason game vs. Tampa Bay, BB&T Center, 7:30 p.m.

Friday: Practice at Coral Springs IceDen, 11 a.m.


September 28, 2014

FLORIDA PANTHERS MAKE MOVES: G Dan Ellis placed on waivers, 13 others sent to San Antonio

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers' training camp has moved west to Texas -- and the team is leaving quite a few players behind.

Florida trimmed its preseason roster on Sunday morning, sending 14 of its 49 players to its AHL affiliate in San Antonio. A few more could be cut in the coming days.

The Panthers also placed veteran goalie Dan Ellis and defenseman Greg Zanon on waivers so they could be assigned to San Antonio. The Rampage opens camp on Monday.

"He's played fine,'' coach Gerard Gallant said of Ellis. "It's just a situation that we have with three goalies. We're securing the net position. He'll go down and play some games down there. None of our goalies have played poorly. We feel we're strong in net. It's a numbers deal right now.''

There weren't many surprises on players cut Sunday as the Panthers have just one or two roster spots to fill before the season opener on Oct. 9.

The players sent outright to San Antonio were: Forwards Connor Brickley, Steven Hodges, John McFarland, Brett Olson and Logan Shaw; defensemen Josh McFadden, Jonathan Racine and Shayne Taker; goalies Sam Brittain and Michael Houser.

Forward Joe Basaraba and defenseman Joshua Brown were also released from their tryout but invited to Rampage camp.

Four more players -- Joey Crabb, Ryan Martindale, Garrett Wilson and Bobby Butler -- were also put on waivers and could stay behind in Texas once they clear on Monday.

"We have plenty of guys who are getting better in their career,'' Gallant said. "We feel good about our depth. If something happens with our roster, we feel confident we have guys who can come up and step in.''

-- The Panthers try for their first preseason win of the year Monday when they take on the host Stars in Dallas.

Florida lost to the Stars 4-3 in a shootout last Wednesday.

After Monday's game, Florida has a home-and-home exhibition schedule with Tampa Bay before the season begins.

"We're getting close to having our team right now,'' said Gallant, whose team was swept by Nashville in Saturday's exhibition doubleheader.

"I thought we played well on Saturday. We have three games played and a lot of guys have played in two of them. It's a process. Overall we're real happy with the way we're playing. We're getting ready for the regular season.''


Where, When: AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas; 8:30 p.m.

TV, Radio: None.

September 24, 2014

PRESEASON GAME NO. 1: Dallas Stars 4, Florida Panthers 3 (SO)

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

WEDNESDAY -- Dallas 4, Panthers 3 (shootout): Ales Hemsky beat Michael Houser in the fourth round to lead the Stars to a shootout win.

Defenseman Shane O'Brien, in camp on a tryout, got the Panthers on the board in the second with a nice shot from the slot before center Dave Bolland made it 2-2 with 49.2 seconds left in the period.

The Panthers got a goal from Brandon Pirri early in the third before Alex Goligoski tied it off a pass from Tyler Seguin midway through the period.


Thursday: Off

Friday: Practice at Coral Springs IceDen, 10 a.m.

Saturday: Preseason doubleheader at Nashville, 4/8 p.m.

ELLIS LOOKS FOR CHANCE IN FLORIDA: Dan Ellis wants to stay with Panthers but so does Al Montoya

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards


Dan Ellis' place with the Panthers was compromised the day Dale Tallon signed Al Montoya.

Ellis says he has no plans to go anywhere. Montoya does as well.

With Roberto Luongo firmly entrenched as Florida's starting goalie, Ellis and Montoya are in camp vying to be the Panthers' backup although Tallon made it clear on July 1 that Montoya was signed to do the job.

"It's not a concern of mine,'' Ellis said before starting Wednesday's preseason opener against Dallas at BB&T Center. "It was a decision made by Dale and you have to respect that. But if I can lose my job in 20 days, I don't see why I can't win it back in 20 days. That's my focus and I don't worry about anything else.''

With Montoya and Luongo taking the night off, Ellis played the first two periods of Florida's eventual 4-3 shootout loss.

Things didn't start well for Ellis against his former teammates -- Ellis came to the Panthers from Dallas at the March trade deadline -- as the Stars scored twice in the first period.

Ellis stopped all five shots faced in the second and left with the score tied at 2.

Ellis' play at the end of last season all but forced Tallon to go out and get another goalie off the free agency market.

When he played in place of Luongo last spring, Ellis struggled to stop the puck.

Ellis ended the year going 0-5-1 with Florida, stopping just 84 percent of shots faced.

On Wednesday, Ellis said he wasn't surprised Florida went after Montoya -- who had two pretty good years in Winnipeg -- and suggested the competition is going to be good for him.

"Them signing Montoya has been the best thing for me,'' Ellis said. "I've really dove into myself, critiqued myself and things I need to improve on.''

If all three of Florida's top goalies make it through training camp unscathed, Ellis is expected to be sent to Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Coach Gerard Gallant said it's too early to begin speculating what the team will do in the coming weeks.

Both Montoya and Ellis would be paid their NHL salary if sent to the minors.

"This is what competition is all about,'' Gallant said. "We have three goaltenders with NHL experience and no one has said Montoya was brought in to backup anyone. It's about who wins the spot. You have to be fair to all your players.''

Ellis says he's been through goalie battles in the past and he's ready for this one.

So, too, is Montoya.

Right now, he most definitely has the edge.

"Nothing has changed for me,'' Montoya said. "This is where I want to be, this is the team I want to play for. I take it as my job. I'm here to push [Luongo], here to push myself and here to help this team out.''


September 23, 2014

TRYING TO TURN THINGS AROUND: Vinnie Viola, Doug Cifu talk about the future of the Florida Panthers, change in business practices

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers finished 29th out of 30 NHL teams last season both in the standings and in attendance figures.

Although the team expects to do much better on the ice, their ownership group said Tuesday they are prepared for even smaller crowds this coming season.

Owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu as well general manager Dale Tallon and the team's hockey operations department met with the team's beat writers on Tuesday morning and covered a variety of subjects.

One of those was the team's struggles at the box office and the team's change in the way it does business.

Cifu said the team has eliminated giveaways and deeply discounted tickets that have been a staple of the franchise for years.

"We are 100 percent ready for the reality that we'll have smaller attendance this season,'' Cifu said.

"We want people who are there to be paying a fair price, the same price and enjoying a great product on the ice. We can get 15,000 in there if we gave away 5,000 seats. We don't want to do that. It's not fair.''

By giving away so many tickets as well as dumping inventory onto the secondary market, Cifu said, the Panthers devalued their product and helped chase away season ticket holders upset by seeing the deep discounts others received as they paid full freight.

"There is total transparency,'' Cifu said. "Everyone in [a given] section is paying the same price. .-.-. All of the things that franchises which are [fighting] to sustain themselves have done, we think was an operational mistake.''

The team will tarp -- or more likely curtain -- off a good portion of the upper deck for non-marquee games this season further lowering their attendance figures. Capacity at BB&T Center will be around 15,000 for most games.

The Panthers averaged an announced 14,177 last year.

"We are trying to get people excited about hockey as when the franchise started,'' Cifu said. "We think once the fans see we are putting a quality team on the ice, have invested in it, they will respond.''

Last week, Viola and Cifu released a letter reiterating their desire to keep the franchise in South Florida.

On Tuesday, both realized talk of the Panthers moving north will start up again when the Ottawa Senators come to Sunrise for the second home game of the season.

Some of Florida's lowest attendance figures of any given season come when Ottawa visits (photo above was taken at last year's Ottawa game which fell on a Tuesday).

This year should be no different as that game is scheduled for a Monday night early in the season.

"We have nowhere to move nor the rights to move,'' Cifu said, adding that the team will honor the 14 years remaining on its lease with Broward County.

"We're committed to being here. This is a long-term investment. You don't fix a dozen years of a lack of success on the ice as well as doing things that weren't hockey-related and non fan-centric in one season. We have to earn the trust back in the community to get people back.''

Viola and Cifu said they are confident their business acumen as well as an improved on-ice product will help the Panthers turn "a manageable profit" in the coming years.

Cifu told Broward County commissioners in February that the team was losing $100,000 a day during the season and told FoxSports.com in August that the current losses were unsustainable.

With increased ticket sales in the future as well as NHL revenue and national television sharing, Cifu said the Panthers can work in South Florida.

"You can be very competitive and financially viable in a non-traditional hockey market,'' Cifu said.

"The Rangers, Maple Leafs and Canadiens can't outspend us like can happen in baseball. .-.-. We think the way the league is structured with capped salaries and revenue sharing can lead to a successful franchise. We just need people in the seats and the get the business community behind the team.''

-- Coach Gerard Gallant released his lineup for Wednesday's preseason opener against visiting Dallas with a mix of veteran and prospects going against the visiting Stars.

Florida's top two forward lines will consist of regulars with the majority of the lineup filled by those fighting for a roster spot.

Dan Ellis and Michael Houser will be in goal.

"We want to give all of our players a chance to make the hockey club,'' Gallant said. "We'll get more into our team in the final games.''


Where, When: BB&T Center, Sunrise; 7:30 p.m.

Radio: WQAM 560-AM


September 22, 2014

READY TO BOUNCE BACK: Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann want to put last year behind them for Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers had a season most would like to forget last year.

Tomas Fleischmann doesn't even want to talk about it.

"I've already forgotten about last year,'' Fleischmann said after Sunday's third day of training camp in Coral Springs.

Not only did the Panthers finish 29th out of 30 teams last year, but players such as Fleischmann and Tomas Kopecky struggled to score.

Fleischmann went from leading the Panthers in scoring during his first two seasons in Florida to potting just eight goals -- his lowest total since he became a full-time NHL player in 2007 with the Capitals.

"Every year is a rough one when you don't play good,'' said Fleischmann, who at one point went 22 games (Dec. 19-Feb. 27) between goals. Fleischmann also went through droughts of 14 and 10 games last season.

"As I've said, I've forgotten about last year. There's nothing I can change about it so I'm not going to think about it anymore. When I started working out for the next year, I never thought about it.''

Kopecky had a strong year in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, tying his career-high with 15 goals. Last season, however, was an absolute nightmare.

Not only did Kopecky struggle to score, but his season was cut short after he suffered a concussion thanks to a brutal hit during the Olympics.

For two months, Kopecky wasn't allowed any physical activity.

When he was medically cleared, Kopecky said he went all out in the gym in preparation for this season.

"I started preparing for this season basically in April,'' said Kopecky, who scored four goals in 49 games with Florida last season.

"Everyone knows what happened last year was unacceptable. For me, personally, I took it to heart. I tried to come to camp in the best shape and I'm healthy. This is going to be a big year for us. I'm super-excited.''

General manager Dale Tallon says the Panthers are counting on big bounce-back seasons from the likes of Fleischmann and Kopecky.

Of the large group of players Tallon brought in during his roster remake in 2011, only a handful remain.

Kopecky, Fleischmann and Scottie Upshall -- who had his rebound year last season -- are all in the final year of their contract making their production this season even more important.

"It's a new chance for those guys what with a new coaching staff and all,'' coach Gerard Gallant said.

"I think there was a lot of disappointment for individuals as well as a group and a team. They finished 29th [in the NHL] and no one was happy about it. They all want to bounce back. I don't look at the numbers .-.-. I know the players we have.''

Fleischmann says he's not worried about next year or a new contract.

"That's something my agent should think about, not me,'' he said.

Fleischmann adds just wants to get back to playing at the level he was and help the Panthers return to the postseason.

Like training camp in 2011, the Panthers are flush in new faces. Like that year, optimism for the new season runs high.

"This definitely feels similar to 2011,'' Fleischmann said. "There's excitement in the air, I mean we could be a playoff-team good. We can't wait to get the season started.''

Said Kopecky: "Last year is behind me. I had a good a summer, I have no symptoms [from the concussion]. I'm ready to go.''

-- Center Dave Bolland briefly left Sunday's scrimmage with a cut on his face but returned after a visit to the training room.


Tuesday: Dual practice sessions (split squad) at Coral Springs IceDen, 11 a.m.

Wednesday: Preseason opener v. Dallas Stars at BB&T Center, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday: Off day

Friday: Dual practice sessions (split squad) at Coral Springs IceDen, 10 a.m.

Saturday: Preseason doubleheader at Nashville Predators, 4/8 p.m.

September 17, 2014

CAMP OPENS: Florida Panthers invite 51 to start of training camp

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers report to the BB&T Center on Thursday morning for medicals and physical fitness tests.

The first official practice of the 2014-15 season under new coach Gerard Gallant comes Friday morning at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs.

The team will practice through the weekend with a FanFest at the training facility on Saturday and Sunday.

"I'm excited about getting back to work'' general manager Dale Tallon said last week. "This is a great time of year if you're in the hockey business.''


All practices at the Coral Springs IceDen unless noted

Friday: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Sunday: 10-11:15 a.m.; scrimmage 11-12:15 p.m.

Monday: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Tuesday: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Practice at BB&T Center, closed; exhibition game vs. Dallas Stars, 7:30

Thursday: Day off

Friday: 10-11:30 a.m.

Saturday: At Nashville


LETTER TO FANS: Viola, Cifu say Florida Panthers aren't moving, committed to South Florida

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

On the eve of the opening of training camp, Florida Panthers owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu said the franchise will remain in South Florida.

In a letter written to stem rumors of relocation, Viola and Cifu wrote that "as we close in on the one-year anniversary of our ownership of the Florida Panthers, we want to reiterate our commitment to Broward County, South Florida and our Panthers fans and business partners.

"As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida.

"Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.''

With the team trying to change its lease with Broward County and erase an annual $4.6 million bond payment -- Cifu told the county commission the team is "losing $100,000 per day" in a February meeting -- there has been speculation the team could be on the move especially with new arenas being built in Las Vegas and Quebec City.

The Panthers are locked into a lease with the Broward County-owned BB&T Center in Sunrise through 2028.

The team is asking Broward County to resolve it of its annual bond debt payment by having the two-cent tourism tax cover it in exchange for a higher profit sharing rate between the team and the county.

In the course of the lease, the team has only paid Broward County once when it made the playoffs in 2012.

The Panthers also want the county to take over insurance on the building.

Rumors about relocation took off when Cifu told FoxSports.com in August that "the current business model is not sustainable.''

Viola, the majority owner of the Panthers, bought the team for a reported $250 million last September. The team added plenty of payroll since re-acquiring goalie Roberto Luongo in a trade last March. Florida's payroll is currently estimated at $66 million which ranks 17th in the league according to capgeek.com.

"It is no secret that the Panthers and BB&T Center have lost tremendous amounts of money over the last dozen years,'' the owners wrote on Wednesday.

"We are working hard to address this situation.''

County auditor Evan Lukic has disputed figures provided by the team writing in a report before Viola and Cifu took over that the Panthers' organization made over $120 million in profits since moving to the arena in 1998.

Since the team moved north from Miami, however, it has changed hands a number of times. Viola and Cifu bought the team from Cliff Viner, who had been a minority owner but took over the franchise from Alan Cohen in 2009.

Here is the letter:

"As we close in on the one-year anniversary of our ownership of the Florida Panthers, we want to reiterate our commitment to Broward County, South Florida and our Panthers fans and business partners. As we said at the press conference when we bought the team, we view ourselves as stewards of the team for the community and our plan is to build an organization that makes South Florida proud and to win the Stanley Cup in South Florida. Despite media speculation to the contrary, we have no plans or intentions to move this franchise.

We made a commitment to the Panthers and to South Florida when we bought the team to build a successful organization on and off the ice. We have been working hard to live up to that commitment. Starting with the trade to bring Roberto Luongo, one of the world’s top goaltenders, back home to South Florida, and continuing with our committing over $80 million to new players, including bringing six talented veteran free agents to South Florida and resigning all of our restricted free agents, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the team. Off the ice, we continue to expand our community outreach initiatives and look forward to continue to contribute to the quality of life for residents.

It is no secret that the Panthers and BB&T Center have lost tremendous amounts of money over the last dozen years. We are working hard to address this situation, which we believe we can do with the support from our loyal fans, our business partners, the business community and our community-at-large.

We look forward to a winning season and bringing a Stanley Cup to South Florida.

With Warm Regards,

Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, Co-Owners"

Photo (Cifu on left, Viola on right) by WALT MICHOT/Miami Herald Staff


September 16, 2014

PANTHERS PROSPECTS WIN AGAIN: Florida goes 3-0 at Nashville tournament

Twitter: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers wrapped up the Nashville prospect tournament Tuesday with a 6-3 win over the Lightning. Florida went 3-0 in the tournament, sweeping the Bruins, Predators and Lightning.

In Tuesday's win, Florida took a 3-1 lead by the second break and rolled to the victory.

A good number of players who participated in the tournament will be on the ice when Florida opens training camp on Friday morning at the IceDen in Coral Springs.

On Tuesday, Florida got goals from MacKenzie Weegar, Logan Shaw, Jayce Hawryluk, Connor Brickley, Andrew Blazek and Juho Lammikko.

Here are some quotes courtesy of the Preds' PR staff:

Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning


Florida Quotes

Forward Jayce Hawryluk

On what he will take away from the rookie camp experience…

It’s been great. I’ve learned a lot, being here with the older guys, on the pro life and what it takes to make it to the next level. You learn a lot here, and I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a tricky camp, and I’ve enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. At the same time, it’s business and I feel like I’ve gotten better and I’ve learned some things about what it takes to be a pro.

On playing with the other rookies…

It’s been great. This team is awesome, and the guys are great. Everyone on the team is awesome. We gel well and we’re a good team. It’s fun.

On his second period power play goal…

It was a great dish by Trocheck to me back door. I just had to put it in upstairs. It was a great pass.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad

On today’s game…

I feel confident in the way I’m playing, and that’s always a good feeling. When you can go out there and try new things and make new plays, it’s always good. Obviously I’m really happy about the way I’m filling out here at rookie camp, and with this group of guys it’s great. We’re happy.

On the difference between this camp and Juniors…

The difference is huge. It’s crazy. The speed and the impacts out there is pretty crazy. I’m happy to get this experience here and hopefully it’s another good and positive step forward as well as another milestone to playing in the NHL.

On playing against former teammate Anthony Camara…

He’s a very creative player, and a lot of people don’t know that part of his game. He can make plays, he can score goals, he can deke guys out and he can beat goalies out. He’s not only the physical fireball that he is, but he has a lot of handles to his game, and I’m proud to call him a friend.

Goalie Sam Brittain

On today’s game…

It was different. Today was the third game of the tournament, but it was super early in the morning so we were going through the same thing they were. We had a quick jump in the beginning and were able to hold that momentum throughout the whole game.

On his experience at this rookie camp…

It was a great experience. It was the first time we all really get to play together and compete together. I think for me, the biggest thing is to make sure that I understand what the coaches want out of myself and the rest of the guys as well as what they want going into the season.




September 15, 2014


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PANTHERS NOTEBOOK: The gang's all here ... Prospects 2-0 in Nashville

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers are scheduled to have their first on-ice session of training camp on Friday morning in Coral Springs. That means just about everyone is in town now getting ready.

The team held its biggest informal skate of the offseason today with just about everyone taking part save, it seemed, for Dave Bolland. His gear is in his locker, however, so I would expect to see him out there tomorrow.

If you want to come out to the IceDen in Coral Springs to see the practice, Tuesday will likely be the final one before camp opens.

Roberto Luongo and a few guys usually come out around 9 a.m. with the majority taking the ice around 10.

I spoke with a few players today -- Luongo, Al Montoya (who has a sparkly new mask) and Brian Campbell among others -- and there seems to be genuine excitement about the upcoming season.

Big change from this time last year when everyone was looking around wondering what was going on.

-- The Panthers are 2-0 at the Nashville Prospect Camp after beating the Preds on Sunday night. Florida isn't playing today but play the finale on Tuesday against the Lightning.

Here is a recap with quotes from the first two games courtesy of the Panthers and Preds PR departments:


Sunday -- Panthers 3, Nashville 1: With the win, the Cats rookies now own a 2-0 mark in the prospects tournament.

Vincent Trocheck scored the game-winner for the Panthers in the third period, when he picked up the puck along the boards and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.

After a scoreless first period of play, the Panthers prospects took an early lead after F Logan Shaw redirected D Aaron Ekblad’s shot from the blueline past Nashville netminder Rob Madore.

Late in the middle frame, Nashville tied the game at 1-1 on goal from F Colton Sissons. F Stephen Hodges picked up his third point (2-1-3) of the tournament with an empty net goal with just under one-minute to play in regulation.

Panthers G Sam Brittain stopped 19 of 20 shots in 40 minutes of action, while G Clarke Saunders made 11 saves in the final frame.

Nashville Predators vs. Florida Panthers


Florida Quotes

Goalie Clarke Saunders

On tonight’s shootout…

It was fun, I haven’t done a shootout since junior hockey, so it’s been five years! We practiced in college all the time the day before a game, so I got some practice there. I really enjoyed it.

On playing with this team…

They’re great. They were so supportive today, especially since I didn’t play much last year I haven’t really had a game in some time. I felt a little rusty going in, especially not starting and going in during the third period, but the guys were awesome and made me feel comfortable out there and did a great job on the ice.

On the upcoming season…

It’s a fun time entering my first year of pro hockey; I’m looking forward to it. I’m not too sure where I’m going to end up yet, but I’m just working hard everyday.

Forward Vincent Trocheck

On tonight’s game…

It felt good, like a start to the season. I’m very excited, everybody’s dream is to play in the NHL and that’s what I’m fighting to do here so I’m excited to see what happens.

On the rookie tournament…

It’s been fun. The last couple of years we haven’t been winning as much as we have been in this rookie tournament, and now we are 2-0, so that’s definitely more fun than losing. We have a great group of guys and I’m just trying to be a leader.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad

On tonight’s game…

I felt really good. It’s about the team, it’s about the win, and that’s what is most important here. I’m very happy to have gotten that win and we are on the right track to finish this tournament in a winning style.

On staying positive…

You always want to feel good and put yourself in the right mindset before you go into a game like that. It’s a last ditch effort for everyone to show their stuff and prove that they are ready to play.

On playing with this team…

It’s been good to build new relationships and friendships; it’s always huge in the game of hockey. It’s very easy to step into a room of 25 guys and build a strong bond. It’s important since these are the guys coming up in the organization like myself and I’m getting to know them and become familiar with faces. When you are nice and respectful, a lot of people give you support along the way if you do those things.

Saturday - Florida 2, Boston 0: Rookie netminders Sam Brittain and Jacob DeSerres combined for a 30-save shutout, while F Steven Hodges and F Cody Payne scored goals for the Cats prospects.

After a scoreless first period of action, Hodges put the Panthers prospects on the scoreboard first when he slipped a shot inside the pipes past Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban.

The Cats prospects took a two-goal lead late in the second period when the South Florida native Payne banged a puck past Subban. Neither team would score in the final 20 minutes of action.

Brittain made 13 saves on 13 shots, before being replaced by DeSerres, who stopped all 17 regulation shots that he faced. Hodges finished the game with a goal and an assist, while F Jayce Hawryluk and D Mackenzie Weegar notched assists.

Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers


Florida Quotes

Goaltender Sam Brittain

Thoughts on the game…

It was a good game. It’s the first time we’ve been out there as a group. We’ve been together the past couple of days, but it felt good and it was a lot of fun. It was great.

On his strategy going into the game…

I just wanted to take it one shot, one minute at a time. I didn’t want to look ahead. I just wanted to do what I could do, show everyone where I belong and help the team win. I think that’s the biggest thing in these things. You want to do well individually, but you also want to do well as a team.

On what he hopes to bring to the team this season…

I think no matter where I end up playing and what I do, I have to make sure I give my team the best chance to win at every level. I’ve just got to do my best and keep progressing as a player.

Center Steven Hodges

Thoughts on the team’s performance...

I thought we did pretty well. We got better as the team went on. The first half of the game, we didn’t get as many shots as we wanted to. Once we started to get the puck towards it, we got more success and that’s something we can build on next game.

On his mindset when scoring the goal…

I just got a great pass from Weegar. He did a great play. Rocco [Grimaldi] did a great play driving right down the middle and gave Weegar a lot of room, gave myself a lot of room. Leger gave me a nice soft pass right on my tape and I had plenty of time to put it away.

Thoughts on team improvement during the pre-season…

I think just getting our intensity up. You can tell Boston is a pretty physical team, and we were okay to play with that. We are a fast-skilled hockey team, but we have a lot of grit and a lot of spark with the guys on our team as well. And that’s something we can incorporate into our team as well that will definitely make us a stronger competitor.



September 12, 2014

PANTHERS NEWS, NOTES: Prospect camp opens ... Panthers headed back to West Point

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers opened up their prospects camp on Friday morning with 26 players working out in Coral Springs.

Afterward, GM Dale Tallon spoke with the media before heading out with the crew to the airport for a flight to Nashville.

The junior Panthers open their prospect tournament game against the Bruins Saturday in Nashville.

Tallon said top pick Aaron Ekblad would likely play in the opening game and then they'll see where they go from there.

Ekblad suffered a concussion last month in Quebec but has been medically cleared although Tallon says Florida knows what Ekblad can do so they're not going to run him too hard in the prospect tournament.

-- Tallon told me that although the Panthers haven't hired an assistant general manager, don't worry, the job is being done.

Eric Joyce and Mike Dixon of the hockey ops department are doing the job and will continue to do so. Tallon added that he and scouting director Scott Luce will be more involved with the AHL operation in San Antonio as well.

-- Shane O'Brien, the veteran defenseman joining training camp on a try out, is in South Florida and working out in the informal veteran skates.

Tallon says Florida may bring in another forward on a PTO for camp, although he's happy with what the Panthers will open camp with next week.

-- Florida will play its final exhibition game of the preseason on Oct. 4 in Tampa and then head off for a few days of team building at West Point in New York.

The team is planning to fly back to Fort Lauderdale and hold a practice here before heading back to Tampa for the season opener on Oct. 9.

The Panthers have been to West Point before as Jacques Martin took the team there prior to its 2007-08 season opener against the Rangers.

With Vinnie Viola now the owner of the team, it was only a matter of time before the Panthers returned to the U.S. Military Academy for some work.

Will have more on the West Point trip when it becomes official.


September 03, 2014

AARON EKBLAD: Signed, sealed and ready to deliver for Florida Panthers


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

With just a week before its prospects camp opens, the Panthers signed top draft pick Aaron Ekblad to a three-year entry-level contract on Wednesday.

Ekblad, the first overall selection of the 2014 NHL draft, is expected to make the Panthers roster out of training camp but the team could still send him back to his junior team in Canada.

On Wednesday, Ekblad said he's going to make it so the Panthers don't exercise that option.

"I'm very confident and believe in myself,'' Ekblad said in a conference call. "I believe I can be on this team on opening night and I'm confident in that. I'm ready and I couldn't be in a better position than where I am.''

The Panthers have revamped their defense heading into the upcoming season with Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen the only full-timers returning from last year.

Florida signed veteran Willie Mitchell and will have young defensemen Colby Robak and Alex Petrovic working for a spot as well.

It was learned on Tuesday that Florida invited former Tampa Bay and Colorado defenseman Shane O'Brien to camp on a try out.

If Ekblad looks like he's ready to play at the NHL level, the Panthers aren't going to stand in his way.

"We're hopeful and we think he can,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. "He's big and strong enough, has the ability. It's just adjusting to the pace. Timing is everything. Moving from junior to the NHL is a big step, especially on the back end defensively.''

Said Ekblad: "I have a lot of hard work left to make the team and I'm excited about it. I couldn't be happier to be put in this position. I know Florida is going to have a good team this year and in the future. I'm excited to be part of that process.''

On Wednesday, Ekblad said he had healed up from a concussion suffered last month with Tallon saying Ekblad has been medically cleared to practice although the team may bring him along slowly through prospect camp.

"We'll take our time because it's a marathon so we'll be careful,'' Tallon said. "He seems to be 100 percent so we'll see how it goes in the first few days of camp. If he's willing and healthy, we'll let him go. But we'll be careful.''

-- Tallon said the Panthers were talking to a couple of other players who may come to camp on a professional try out. Florida opens training camp Sept. 19 in Coral Springs.

O'Brien, 31, is the only player Florida has formally invited to camp so far.

"Shane [O'Brien] gives us some size and toughness,'' Tallon said. "He called me and was sort of begging for the opportunity to come and play for us. .-.-. We'll give him a shot and see what happens. You can never have too many tough defensemen.''