Welcome |Account|Sign Out 
NEW! SIGN IN WITH YOUR SOCIAL PROFILE
OR
Username or EmailPassword
 
2014 NHL Draft
SHARE
Posted On Saturday, 04.12.2014 / 1:17 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blue Jackets can clinch top wild card against Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Columbus Blue Jackets will know by the time they step on the ice to face the Florida Panthers for their regular-season finale Saturday night whether they still have a chance to finish third in the Metropolitan Division.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 6:26 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Luongo to return against Maple Leafs

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo will be back in the lineup for the Florida Panthers when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, but he'll have a different backup and will be facing a goalie making his first NHL start.

Luongo, sporting a new mask, was the only Panthers goalie at the morning skate after Dan Ellis was sidelined with an upper-body injury sustained in practice Wednesday. Ellis was an emergency starter Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers when Luongo was scratched after leading the Panthers onto the ice for warm-ups.

With Ellis out, the Panthers recalled veteran Scott Clemmensen on an emergency basis, but he didn't skate Thursday morning because his equipment failed to arrive with him on his flight from San Antonio.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 7:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers goalie Luongo scratched from start

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was scratched from his start against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night because of an upper-body injury.

Luongo led the Panthers onto the ice for warm-ups, but was ruled out shortly before game time. He is in uniform and on the bench.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.08.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Poised to clinch, Flyers get Downie back

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have forward Steve Downie back in the lineup Tuesday when they try to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After going 1-7-0 to start the season, the Flyers will clinch a playoff spot with a victory against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

"It's really special for us," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after the morning skate. "The start of the year was really tough on us, and for us to kind of battle back and be able to be in the position we are right now, we've got to be proud of that."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 04.04.2014 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers add Luongo to lineup; Boyes sidelined

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo will be celebrating his 35th birthday Friday by returning to action for the Florida Panthers.

Luongo was the first Panthers goalie off the ice at their morning skate in preparation for their game against the Calgary Flames at BB&T Center. Luongo has missed the past three games after being injured in a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 27.

Luongo said after practice Thursday he sustained a mild concussion as a result of his collision with Carolina forward Radek Dvorak. Luongo has a record of 4-5-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage since coming back to the Panthers in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks on March 4.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 1:39 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Gilbert to miss rest of season

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert's first season with the Florida Panthers is over.

Gilbert, who signed in late September after going to training camp on a professional tryout, underwent sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Gilbert had played in all of Florida's first 73 games, totaling three goals, 25 assists and a minus-5 rating. His average ice time of 21:20 is second on the Panthers behind defense partner Brian Campbell, who is averaging 27:17.

"He's been dealing with it for a while and playing through it, having to take therapy and medicine," Panthers interim head coach Peter Horachek said after morning skate in preparation for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. "It was to a point where something needed to done."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 03.14.2014 / 1:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Devils' Schneider, Panthers' Luongo face off again

SUNRISE, Fla. -- For Cory Schneider, facing Roberto Luongo is nothing new. But there's a different twist to their third goaltending battle of the season.

Nine months after they were teammates with the Vancouver Canucks, Friday will mark their first game as opponents in a game that doesn't involve the Canucks. Schneider will be starting for the New Jersey Devils, Luongo for the Florida Panthers.

"It's the third time I've played him this year. I think it's the most I've played any other goalie this year," Schneider said after the Devils' optional skate. "It's becoming old news. Maybe we'll become good rivals. Who knows?"

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.11.2014 / 12:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers get good news on injured Gudbranson

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson's lower-body injury isn't as severe as the team feared, but Gudbranson will be out of the lineup for at least two weeks.

Gudbranson will miss the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at BB&T Center on Tuesday and will be joined on the sidelines by forward Jesse Winchester, who is out with a lower-body injury.

Gudbranson, the third pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, was injured in the third period of a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Sunday when he collided with Bruins forward Brad Marchand near the Panthers blue line. The two appeared to bump knees and Gudbranson's leg appeared to bend awkwardly as he fell to the ice.

"The scans came back better than we anticipated," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said after the morning skate Tuesday. "I don't really have the exact timeline. We'll have to wait to see where it is, but in the short term we got good news with the scan [because we were] fearful that there was more than we thought."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 03.07.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Luongo ready for return engagement with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo talked at length about his return to the Florida Panthers the past two days, but Friday was time to get ready for his first game with his old/new team.

Luongo didn't address the media after the morning skate Friday, but his coach and teammates had plenty to say about Luongo's first game back in a Panthers uniform.

"It's a big game for our fans to see Roberto back in net and for us here to play a big game in front of him," forward Scottie Upshall said. "It's a big match."

The first game of Luongo's second stint with the Panthers will come Friday against the Buffalo Sabres at BB&T Center. It comes a little less than eight years after Luongo was traded from the Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks after five seasons in Florida.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.27.2014 / 2:26 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Capitals' Green, Grabovski in; Johansson uncertain

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals will have defenseman Mike Green and center Mikhail Grabovski back in the lineup Thursday night when they try to pick up where they left off before the Olympic break, but the status of center Marcus Johansson was still up in the air after the morning skate.

Johansson skated with his teammates Thursday morning after arriving at the team hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. After competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Johansson had to fly to Sweden to resolve a visa issue and spent 20 hours traveling Wednesday to Miami after making a stop in London.

"I don't feel great right now," Johansson said. "Obviously when you travel like that for 20 hours or whatever it was, it takes a little toll on your body, but you get a good nap in and a good meal, I think it'll help me a lot."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 1:38 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Canada coach Babcock thrilled to have St. Louis

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will play for the United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, summed up pretty well the news that Martin St. Louis would replace Steven Stamkos on the Canadian squad.

"They replace a great player with another great player," Howard said after the Red Wings' morning skate in preparation for their game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. "It's as simple as that."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was more directly affected by the change because he'll be the head coach for the Canadian team.

"I feel bad for [Stamkos]," Babcock said. "He's one of the best players in the NHL. I love watching him play. High-powered kid. He's really learning how to play the game 200 feet. He would have been a real asset.

"In saying that, St. Louis has had a great year. He's had four great years since the last Olympics. It was really hard decisions when we were picking the team. He goes in as a group of one of 14 and then he's got to carve out whatever he can carve for himself, just like the rest of the guys. We're thrilled to have him. He's a great person. He competes hard. He's ultra-competitive and we want him to bring that."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.06.2014 / 1:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings' Datsyuk to get pre-Olympic tuneup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk declared himself ready to go after the morning skate Thursday and will make his return to the lineup against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

Datsyuk, out the past 14 games with a knee injury, will play for the first time since the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Day. Datsyuk will skate on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.

"Sooner or later, I needed to start," Datsyuk said. "I waited enough. We'll see what happens tonight."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.04.2014 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maple Leafs' Clarkson ready to hit reset button again

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Between suspensions and injuries, David Clarkson's first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been something of a nightmare. He's hoping things finally start heading in a positive direction when he returns to the lineup Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Clarkson, who signed a seven-year contract with the Maple Leafs during the summer after spending his first seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, missed the past eight games because of an elbow injury. He missed the first 10 games of the regular season after being suspended for his part in a preseason altercation involving the Buffalo Sabres, later had a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka and missed another game because of a foot injury.

Clarkson said after the morning skate Tuesday he was hoping to be able to hit the reset button on his season.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 01.24.2014 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche get Tanguay back; Panthers minus Barkov

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran forward Alex Tanguay will be back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2 when the Colorado Avalanche face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center Friday. But there will be no second matchup this season between the first and second selections in the 2013 NHL Draft because Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is out with a lower-body injury.

Barkov was injured in the first period of Florida's 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night and didn't return to the game. He didn't practice on Thursday and wasn't on the ice for the morning skate Friday.

Interim head coach Peter Horachek said Barkov would be evaluated on a daily basis and no decision had been made yet on whether to take him on a four-game road trip that begins Sunday with a game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Barkov, the No. 2 pick last June, leads the Panthers with 24 points and had played in every game this season.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stalock to start for Sharks; Huberdeau back in place

SUNRISE, Fla. -- San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock will get a rare start Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

Stalock, a fourth-round pick (No. 112) in the 2005 NHL Draft who made his first NHL start Oct. 27, will make his seventh start of the season but only his second in the past 12 games.

Antti Niemi gave up three goals in the past three games, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it was part of a plan to keep his goalie fresh for the playoffs, particularly with Niemi competing for Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Stalock allowed two goals on 35 shots in his previous start, a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 5.

Stalock will be going against veteran Tim Thomas, who will make his seventh consecutive start in net for the Panthers. Thomas hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his past four starts.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 2:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Streaking Islanders to play Panthers without Hamonic

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Islanders will try to extend a couple of impressive streaks Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, but they will have to do so without the services of defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Hamonic, who is second on the Islanders in ice time at 24:57 per game, will miss his first game of the season. Coach Jack Capuano said Hamonic was day to day with an upper-body injury that kept him out for the third period of a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

The Islanders already are without defensemen Radek Martinek, who has missed the past 21 games due to back spasms, and Lubomir Visnovsky, who hasn't played since Oct. 19 because of a concussion.

Matt Carkner, a healthy scratch the past two games, will move into the lineup to replace Hamonic.

"Losing a guy that's played 25 minutes, that's a huge loss for our hockey team," Capuano said. "We're going to have to make some adjustments as the game goes on, there's no question."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers coach Horachek faces old boss, friend

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Barry Trotz and Peter Horachek reminisced about their nine years working together with the Nashville Predators when they went to dinner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday night.

It's all business Saturday, though, when the Predators face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center and Trotz goes up against his former right-hand man for the first time.

"Obviously we didn't share any secrets," said Trotz, the only coach the Predators have had since they joined the NHL in 1998. "That's taboo. It was the first time I got to see Peter since he left the organization. I would do the same if it was vice versa or he was coming to Nashville. We just caught up on old times."

Horachek was an assistant on Trotz's staff for the past nine seasons, serving as associate coach the last two.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.04.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Jovanovski erases doubts, excited for return

SUNRISE, Fla. — Ed Jovanovski admitted Saturday morning there were several times during the past several months when he wondered whether he would ever play another NHL game.

His perseverance has paid off, and the Florida Panthers captain is set to make his season debut Saturday against the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center.

"I'm excited, for sure," Jovanovski said after the Panthers' morning skate. "It's been a long while. For me, there's been a lot of days where it beats up on you, but it's all worth it for having the opportunity to play a game again."

Jovanovski will be playing his first game after having hip resurfacing surgery April 5. He played six games last season, none after March 16.

The veteran defenseman first was injured Jan. 29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and missed 22 games. He came back for the one game in March against the New York Islanders, but his return lasted less than two periods.

"For the most part, I remained positive throughout this whole process, listened to the doctors, listened to our trainers," Jovanovski said. "I was on a pretty good program to get to where I am today. Hopefully all that hard work and all the listening that I had hopefully is going to pay off for me."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 1:22 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Zetterberg, Abdelkader back in Red Wings lineup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Just like the Detroit Red Wings' first visit to BB&T Center on Dec. 10, they will have one of their star players back in the lineup Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.

Center Henrik Zetterberg will be in action for the first time since Dec. 1 after missing 11 games because of a back injury.

"I'm glad to be back playing," Zetterberg said. "It's been a while. Just to come back and play with the boys, it's going to be fun."

The Red Wings also are expected to have forward Justin Abdelkader back after he missed five games because of a concussion.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 12.23.2013 / 7:31 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Gudbranson has surgery; Petrovic recalled

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his orbital bone Monday.

Gudbranson sustained the injury during a 5-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, though he never left the game. He played 18:12 against the Jets and was on the ice when the final buzzer sounded.

A timetable for his return will be announced in the near future. A complete recovery is expected.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.13.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Thomas day-to-day with lower-body injury

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas will miss the game against the Washington Capitals on Friday because of a lower-body injury, but will be on the team's Canadian trip next week. He's considered day-to-day.

Thomas, who has started 15 of the Panthers' past 16 games, was injured during practice Thursday. It's the third time this season Thomas has been injured.

Thomas missed four games in mid-October after being forced to leave in the first period of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. In his third game back, he left the ice late in the third period of a 3-2 shootout loss against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"With him, needing him in this situation, we just want to be overly cautious," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said after the morning skate. "We just want to be extra safe."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.10.2013 / 2:53 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings' Weiss makes initial return to Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit center Stephen Weiss didn't try to downplay the significance of his return to South Florida.

The Florida Panthers' all-time leader in games played and assists will face his former team for a second consecutive game Tuesday night, but this one will be his first game back at BB&T Center, where he played the past decade.

"First time back, real excited to get the game underway," Weiss said after the Red Wings' morning skate. "The last few days I've been thinking about it quite a bit. I'm just real excited to start.

"It felt strange for sure [walking into the arena]. I really didn't know which way to come in the building, didn't know really where to go when we got in. A different feeling for sure coming to the rink. Just excited to get the game underway, but it certainly feels a little bit strange being on the other side."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.10.2013 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings get Datsyuk back in lineup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk will make his much-anticipated return to the lineup Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

Datsyuk will be back after missing seven games because of a concussion he sustained as a result of an elbow from Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen on Nov. 23.

The Red Wings managed to post a 5-2-0 record during Datsyuk's absence, but have lost two of their past three. In their most recent game, the Red Wings lost to the Panthers 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

"It means a lot [to have Datsyuk back], but it means a lot over the long haul," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after his team's morning skate. "If we're looking at Pavel and counting on Pavel to get 'er done, that's not how it works. We have to be way better than we were last game. The bottom line is Pavel gives us lots of confidence, he's a real good player, but the rest of us gotta play better than we did."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 12.05.2013 / 12:41 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Jets minus Kane again; Kulikov back in for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets will play a second consecutive game without left wing Evander Kane on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, but he should be back in the lineup before too long.

Kane, who was injured in a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers this past Friday, will be evaluated on a daily basis after tests didn't reveal any structural damage.

"We didn't see anything there that would cause us to be alarmed," Jets coach Claude Noel said before his team's optional skate Thursday. "He's just day-to-day. He's got to work his way through this. He won't be a player in tonight's game, but we'll just take it one day at a time."

With Kane sitting out, the Jets beat the New York Rangers 5-2 Monday to improve to 3-1-0 on their season-long six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday with a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.03.2013 / 1:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers to scratch Kulikov against Senators

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, a former first-round pick who recently has been the subject of trade rumors, will be a healthy scratch Tuesday when the Florida Panthers play host to the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center.

The move comes after a series of costly turnovers in recent games, the latest an errant pass in his zone that led to a Pittsburgh Penguins goal in a 5-2 loss Saturday.

"I think that's a good thing for a lot of players," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "They have to go through this process. They have to be accountable to their teammates, and when we decide that it's best for him, sometimes it's good just to sit back and see it. And you come back with a whole new approach to the game. Nobody wants to be in that situation, but sometimes it's just necessary."

The 14th selection in the 2009 NHL Draft, Kulikov, 23, has three points and a minus-9 rating this season, his fifth in the League. Kulikov said he was surprised by the decision.

"I don't think I've been playing bad enough to get thrown out of the lineup," Kulikov said. "But it's a coach's decision. I'm disappointed. That's the only way to describe it. I'm going to work hard to get back in the lineup."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 11.30.2013 / 12:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Winchester back for Panthers against Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers will have right wing Jesse Winchester back in the lineup Saturday when they try to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins at home for the second time this season.

Winchester missed the past four games because of a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 21. Winchester, signed as a free agent this summer after he spent all of 2012-13 playing in Europe, was one of Florida's most productive forwards earlier this season.

He had a run of five points in six games (three goals, two assists) before serving a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly.

"He works hard in all three areas of the rink," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said after the morning skate Saturday. "He's not afraid to go into the hard areas. He's pretty good on the walls. That's one of the areas before I got here that he was one of the players who were doing what they needed to do and living up to their responsibilities. He's a good kid, he works hard, and he's kind of a workhorse that people can follow and use as an example."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 11.25.2013 / 7:46 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers place Kopecky, Gilroy on injured reserve

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers placed forward Tomas Kopecky and defenseman Matt Gilroy on injured reserve Monday.

Kopecky, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 4-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, will miss games against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers and be eligible to return for a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Gilroy was injured in a 4-3 shootout loss against the Calgary Flames on Friday and won't be eligible to return until a game against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 3.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 11.25.2013 / 1:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Olsen set to make Panthers debut vs. Flyers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will have both of the prospects they acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks 11 days ago in the lineup when they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.

Defenseman Dylan Olsen will make his Panthers debut against the Flyers, joining forward Jimmy Hayes. The two were acquired on Nov. 14 in the trade that sent veteran forward Kris Versteeg to Chicago.

Hayes immediately joined the Panthers after the trade and played in the last four games of Florida's five-game road trip.

Olsen had been playing with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League until he was called up on Sunday.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 11.12.2013 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Ducks without Getzlaf as they go for historic start

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Anaheim Ducks will be without center Ryan Getzlaf as they try to make franchise history Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Getzlaf will miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury sustained during a morning skate Friday. He went on that night to record a hat trick in a 6-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres, but sat out Sunday when the Ducks beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 to finish a three-game homestand.

"Make no mistake about it, we missed the big fella coming in there," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday. "He is our straw that stirs the drink. When he's playing he controls the power play, he kills penalties, he usually plays against the other team's best checking line. We miss him."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 11.05.2013 / 2:01 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Oilers, Panthers welcome returning players

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The struggling Edmonton Oilers will get a couple of key players back when they face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Veteran forward Ryan Smyth returns after missing five games because of a groin injury and goalie Devan Dubnyk will make his first start since Oct. 24.

Dubnyk appeared in relief of Jason LaBarbera against the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 25 but left after 39 seconds due to an ankle injury.

The Oilers have lost their past five games, including back-to-back shutouts against the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-0) and Detroit Red Wings (5-0). They face a Florida team also in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 11.05.2013 / 1:49 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Oilers' Fedun perseveres to reach NHL debut

SUNRISE, Fla. -- A little more than two years after sustaining a nasty leg injury in a preseason game, defenseman Taylor Fedun will make his NHL debut when the Edmonton Oilers face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Fedun, who sat out the entire 2011-12 season after sustaining a broken right femur against the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 30, 2011, was called up Monday from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.

"From that moment on, this was what I've been looking toward for the last couple of years now," Fedun said after the Oilers' morning skate. "It's a pretty special feeling to finally be here. The nerves are definitely going to be present, but quite frankly I'd be a little more worried if they weren't present. I think that'll be a good thing. Just get out there and just play the game. I'm excited."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 11.01.2013 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues want to re-focus Lapierre's energy

SUNRISE, Fla. -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock still wants to see the same kind of energy from center Maxim Lapierre as he returns from his five-game suspension. He just wants to see it applied a different way.

Lapierre will play Friday against the Florida Panthers for the first time since he was suspended for a hit on San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle in a game Oct. 15.

"He brings a different energy that's winning energy on the road," Hitchcock said after the Blues' optional skate Friday. "He plays hard. He draws our fourth line into a game that we need our fourth line to play in. It just adds stability to our lineup. He's a guy that can kill penalties.

"We're asking him to kind of channel his energy in a little bit different direction here than he's used to. I think he's really adapted to that. It's unfortunate because he was playing great until the incident. Our hope is he just gets back on the bike and just starts playing again like before that incident with Danny."

Lapierre said he understood the message.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 10.25.2013 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Bergenheim eager to finally get back on ice

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Almost 18 months after his last game with the Florida Panthers, forward Sean Bergenheim will make his long-awaited return Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Bergenheim hasn't played in an NHL game since Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Panthers and New Jersey Devils, missing all of last season and the first 10 games this season because of abdomen, groin and hip issues.

"It's been a while, but I don't feel that it's been that long," Bergenheim said after the Panthers' morning skate. "When I look at how many months it's been since I played, I don't feel that on the ice. I don't feel it's been that long. I'm really happy to be back. For sure, I missed this.

"I'm not nervous right now, but I'm sure I'll get some butterflies before the game here. … [I'm] just feeling really good and ready. That's the feeling I have right now."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 10.22.2013 / 1:20 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers not worried about Kopecky's slow start

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After leading the Florida Panthers in goals last season, Tomas Kopecky still is looking for his first point after nine games.

The veteran forward is frustrated about the drought, but coach Kevin Dineen said he has no issue with Kopecky's performance so far this season.

"Kopy is fine," Dineen said Tuesday after his team's morning skate in preparation for a game against the Chicago Blackhawks at BB&T Center. "He's a diverse player. I don't judge his games as much on what it shows on the score sheet at the end of the night. He has value in many different ways and a lot of that is in his leadership. That's not chirping in the room, that's going out there and playing the way that we have to play on a consistent basis to win."

Kopecky led the Panthers in 2012-13 season with 15 goals in 47 games. That tied his career high, which he had accomplished in 81 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010-11.

However, he failed to score a goal in the last nine games of last season, meaning his drought has reached 18 games.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 10.22.2013 / 1:14 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers' Campbell happy with shift back to right side

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Brian Campbell will be going to a familiar spot Tuesday when the Florida Panthers face his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

After playing on the left side for most of the season, Campbell will be shifting to the right side with his new defense partner, Dmitry Kulikov.

"It's kind of good," Campbell said after the Panthers' morning skate. "It moves me back over to the right side, which I've played probably for eight years in a row now. It's been an adjustment going back to the left side. Now going to the right, I feel like I can contribute more offensively hopefully. It's more of a comfort for me. I do enjoy that."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 10.19.2013 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild, Panthers experiment with forward lines

SUNRISE, Fla -- The Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild will go into their matchup Saturday with almost entirely new line combinations.

For Florida, the only line staying intact is the top trio of Tomas Fleischmann, rookie Aleksander Barkov and Brad Boyes.

For Minnesota, the only line unchanged is the fourth unit of Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka and Stephane Veilleux.

"We need to try to find some offense here," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after his team's morning skate. "We've got to try to get more balance through our lineup."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 10.17.2013 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers aiming for strong start to homestand

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After stumbling to a 2-5-0 start, the Florida Panthers are hoping their longest homestand of the season can help turn things around.

After playing five of their first seven games on the road, the Panthers' game Thursday against the Boston Bruins will be their first of six straight at BB&T Center.

The homestand also includes visits by the Minnesota Wild (Oct. 19), Chicago Blackhawks (Oct. 22), Buffalo Sabres (Oct. 25), Tampa Bay Lightning (Oct. 27) and St. Louis Blues (Nov. 1).

"This is a good test for us," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's a quality hockey team. We look at this, it's a window. We want to play at home, we want to be here and get things going in the right direction. Nothing better than a good, stiff challenge like Boston."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 10.11.2013 / 1:55 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Panthers hoping to make home opener memorable

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After starting the regular season with four consecutive road games, the Florida Panthers finally have their home opener Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Panthers returned home with a 1-3-0 record following a 7-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. With the back-to-back games, the Panthers did not have a morning skate on Friday.

The game Friday night comes almost exactly 20 years after the first home game in franchise history, a 2-1 loss to the Penguins on Oct. 12, 1993. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise, the Panthers are planning festivities throughout the season starting with a special "throwback" night Friday.

Original Panthers captain Brian Skrudland and first draft pick Rob Niedermayer will be on hand for the special occasion.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 10.11.2013 / 1:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins to give Zatkoff first NHL start vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- More than seven years after being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, goalie Jeff Zatkoff is set to make his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Zatkoff, 26, got the word Thursday night that he would be in net for the Penguins for their game against the Florida Panthers on Friday.

"Obviously excited, first one," Zatkoff said after the Penguins' morning skate. "Been waiting for this for a while, but once the game starts it's another game, another two points that we need to get in the standings."

Marc-Andre Fleury started the Penguins' first three games, all victories, but Pittsburgh faces a back-to-back set against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 10.11.2013 / 1:19 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Letang skates with Penguins; no return date yet

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Letang will miss his fourth consecutive game Friday night, but the Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took an important step toward his return at the team's morning skate.

Letang, who has yet to play this season because of a lower-body injury, skated with his teammates at practice for the first time prior to the team's Friday matchup with the Florida Panthers.

After his teammates left the ice, Letang stayed on and did work that involved contact.

"Today's practice won't be an indication that he's ready to go or not ready to go, but he's progressing and contact on the ice is the next step for him," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He was able to skate and he looks good in that regard, in terms of getting up and down the ice and skating ability. I watched him practice yesterday as well and he's looking good right now, but in particular with this being an injury that he hasn't been able to play or practice yet, [we're] probably taking a little more time precautionary-wise than if this was a midseason situation."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 09.12.2013 / 1:16 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Panthers prospect Bjugstad sidelined by concussion

CORAL SPRINGS -- Florida Panthers rookie center Nick Bjugstad missed the first practice of training camp because of a concussion.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Bjugstad was injured in the last game of the Panthers prospect tournament last weekend.

"Nick has been diagnosed with a concussion that started at rookie camp and he's going through the NHL concussion protocol right now," Dineen said. "It happened a little bit toward the end of the third game and he was feeling good. Unfortunately, that's the sport. He's under care by our medical staff and it's a daily evaluation. That's where he's at."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 3:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Boyes ready for new beginning with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran forward Brad Boyes arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, on the eve of the Florida Panthers' first training camp practice.

He's hoping his stay is an extended one and the Panthers turn his professional tryout into a contract.

"I am looking forward to it," Boyes said. "The opportunity should be there, so that will be exciting. I know a few guys on the team, guys I've played with before, so I'm looking forward to that too. It's something that for me it's an opportunity and I want to make the most of it."

Boyes, who turned 31 in April, played last season with the New York Islanders, but remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent. He said the Islanders offered him the opportunity to attend their training camp as a tryout player, but he didn't want to go that route. Boyes also said he had a couple of other tryout offers.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 1:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Panthers expect Huberdeau to skate Thursday

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau is expected to be on the ice when the Florida Panthers hold their first training camp practice Thursday.

He should be joined by all of his teammates, except for captain Ed Jovanovski.

That was the rundown provided Wednesday by general manager Dale Tallon, whose team struggled through an injury-ravaged 2012-13 season. Huberdeau had hip surgery following the season, while Jovanovski (hip) was one of 10 players who underwent procedures during the season.

Along with Huberdeau, others expected to make their return Thursday include forward Kris Versteeg, who played only 10 games last season and underwent knee surgery in March, and forward Sean Bergenheim, who missed all of last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 04.25.2013 / 1:22 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs want to build momentum for playoffs

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After suffering a 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs held an optional morning skate at BB&T Center in preparation for their game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

A total of 15 players, including captain Dion Phaneuf and second-leading scorer Nazem Kadri, went on the ice.

The surprisingly large turnout could be attributed to two important reasons.

First and foremost, the Maple Leafs still have a shot at passing the Montreal Canadiens for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Second, the Maple Leafs want to build some momentum entering the playoffs after losing three of their past four games.

"It just shows that the guys are willing to work to get back to where we were," Kadri said. "I don’t think we're far away from that. It's something that's very easy to correct, but at the same time we've got to be willing to work and execute the game plan."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 12:16 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Rangers look to keep up surge against Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Rangers will look to continue their march to the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night when they face the Florida Panthers for the second time in less than a week.

The Rangers can clinch a playoff berth with a victory combined with a regulation loss by the Winnipeg Jets against the Washington Capitals.

The Panthers, who have been outscored 30-8 during their current six-game losing streak, would clinch the worst record in the NHL this season with a loss.

Florida will look different Tuesday from the team the Rangers beat 6-1 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.13.2013 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Still no timetable for Penguins' Crosby to skate

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Penguins will play a sixth consecutive game without Sidney Crosby Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, and coach Dan Bylsma said after the morning skate there is no timetable for when his star center will resume skating.

Crosby has been out since sustaining a jaw injury when he was hit by a slap shot March 30 against the New York Islanders.

The Penguins also again will be without the services of defenseman Paul Martin and left wing James Neal. Martin will miss his seventh consecutive game because of a hand injury, while Neal will miss his third game because of a concussion.

Pittsburgh has a five-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings, but the Penguins aren’t likely to take the last-place Panthers lightly after what happened in their last visit to BB&T Center.

Florida scored four power-play goals, the most allowed by Pittsburgh all season, in a 6-4 victory on Feb. 26.

"We talked about the fact that they did beat us," Penguins wing Pascal Dupuis said. "We weren’t ready. We weren’t physically involved. They had four power-play goals. We definitely have to be better in our penalty killing. They’re a group of guys that play a fast game, they play a high-tempo game. We’ll have to be ready."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 04.07.2013 / 11:56 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Anderson to make first start back for Senators

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Ottawa Senators have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season, but they’re hoping the return of goaltender Craig Anderson can make a difference Sunday against the Florida Panthers.

Anderson, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.952), will be in net for the first time since Feb. 21 when he sustained an ankle injury against the New York Rangers.

"It can certainly help the psyche of your team, for sure," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We can use that boost right now."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.06.2013 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Laich out for Capitals, Bjugstad in for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla.Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich will sit out Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, but coach Adam Oates said it was more as a precaution than anything else.

Laich played in Washington’s past nine games after missing the first 28 because of a groin injury, but he did not play in the last 9:26 of regulation or overtime in a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday against the New York Islanders.

“He didn’t really aggravate it,” Oates said after the morning skate Saturday. “He’s just sore all over, just from playing so much since he got back and fighting through it. I think we just need to give him a little rest.

“He probably could play today. But he’s getting a little weaker. He played fine the other night. I shut him down just because he got hit. He wasn’t feeling good all over.”

Oates said Laich’s status was day-to-day.

Martin Erat, acquired from the Nashville Predators before the NHL Trade Deadline Wednesday, will replace Laich on the second line alongside Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.30.2013 / 1:27 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Markstrom goes against former coach DeBoer

SUNRISE, Fla. — Things have come full circle for Florida Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

The talented Swede made his NHL debut in a relief appearance against the New Jersey Devils Jan. 23, 2011. His coach at the time was Pete DeBoer.

Now Markstrom is set to face his former coach when the Panthers play host to the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at BB&T Center.

Markstrom’s appearance in the 2011 game, when he replaced Scott Clemmensen after the first period of a 5-2 loss, was his only NHL action that season. After bouncing back and forth between Florida and San Antonio of the American Hockey League the past two seasons, Markstrom has become the Panthers’ starting goalie.

He’ll make his sixth start in the past seven games and had allowed only six goals in four starts before four deflections got by him in Thursday’s 5-4 shootout victory against the Buffalo Sabres.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 12:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Vanek out, Brennan set to face former team

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Buffalo Sabres managed three goals and 32 shots in their past two games combined, and now they'll have to face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night without their leading scorer.

Coach Ron Rolston said after the morning skate Thursday that wing Thomas Vanek would miss the game because of an upper-body injury he sustained in Tuesday's 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

While Vanek will sit, struggling forward Drew Stafford will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.16.2013 / 1:07 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers captain Jovanovski back against Islanders

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski is expected back in the lineup for the first time since January when they face the New York Islanders on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

The Panthers captain has missed the past 22 games since sustaining a lower-body injury in a 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 29.

Jovanovski took part in the morning skate for Thursday's game against the Boston Bruins and again Saturday morning.

"Jovo looks like he's a go there for tonight," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's a heck of an addition to have our captain back in the lineup. He's been sorely missed and he'll be a great addition to have back.

"He makes a big difference with our group. Obviously, I took my time deciding which direction I was going to go captain-wise, but at the end of it Jovo just kept sticking out. And as much as his leadership ability was his on-ice play. It was a mixture of both of those last year. We're looking forward to having both his leadership and his play back on the ice."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 1:14 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lightning add Gudas for extra physicality on defense

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Radko Gudas, called up by the Tampa Bay Lightning from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Monday, will make his NHL debut Tuesday when the Lightning visit the Florida Panthers.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was hoping Gudas would bring a physical presence to the Tampa Bay lineup -- he's fourth in the AHL with 207 penalty minutes, along with leading the league with a plus-32 rating.

"He's got a major upside in terms of his physicality," Boucher said. "He's one of those guys that will be compared to [former New York Islanders defenseman Darius] Kasparaitis, if you remember him. He's a major menace and threat on the ice. He hits guys extremely hard at moments they don't expect. He's a warrior. What's good, too, is that the last two years he's made his game a little calmer in the sense that he chooses those moments now a lot better than he used to."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 1:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lindback, Markstrom take long-time friendship to NHL

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Anders Lindback and Jacob Markstrom grew up as buddies in the small town of Gavle, Sweden, and Tuesday the two goalies will face each other in the NHL for the first time when the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

Markstrom was the first goalie off the ice when the Panthers had their morning skate, and Lightning coach Guy Boucher confirmed Lindback would be his goalie after he sat out a 4-3 loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 03.10.2013 / 3:50 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Prust out 10 days with minor shoulder separation

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Montreal Canadiens will be without wing Brandon Prust when they face the Florida Panthers on Sunday at BB&T Center.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Sunday that Prust would be out approximately 10 days after sustaining a mild shoulder separation in Saturday's 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In his first season with the Canadiens, the 28-year-old Prust has proven extremely valuable with four goals, nine points and an NHL-leading 81 penalty minutes in 25 games.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Friday, 03.08.2013 / 7:16 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Versteeg back in Panthers lineup

Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg, who hasn't played since a Feb. 12 game against the Washington Capitals, returned to the lineup Friday for a home game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Versteeg's return was confirmed by the team's Twitter page. The team's third-leading scorer last season missed the past 12 games with an upper-body injury, which he is believed to have sustained while being hit from behind by Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 6:50 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Byfuglien will play for Jets vs. Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien made it to the BB&T Center in time for Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers.

Byfuglien flew home Monday to attend to a personal matter, and Jets coach Claude Noel said after Tuesday’s morning skate that the defenseman was scheduled to land in Fort Lauderdale shortly after 5 p.m. ET.

Byfuglien leads the Jets in average ice time at 24:43. He has three goals and 10 points in 16 games.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kovalev done with Panthers, future to be determined

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran forward Alex Kovalev's status remains unknown.

Kovalev still is property of the Florida Panthers, but he no longer figures in the team's plans, and general manager Dale Tallon said Tuesday that Kovalev was "still weighing his options."

"It was just a mutual agreement that we wanted to go in a different direction, that's all," Tallon said.

Tallon said he was hoping for a resolution sometime this week. Kovalev, who was out of the NHL last season, could agree to be sent down to the American Hockey League, accept a buyout or retire.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 12:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Another NHL debut, as Panthers recall Rheault

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As the result of the Florida Panthers' rash of injuries, Tuesday's game against the Winnipeg Jets will mark the NHL debut for a fifth player this season.

This time it will be forward Jonathan Rheault, who was recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Tuesday after news broke that center Stephen Weiss would undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads the team with 10 goals, and defenseman Michael Caruso made their NHL debuts opening night. Center Drew Shore has stayed with the Panthers after being called up from San Antonio early in the season, and prospect Quinton Howden was sent back to San Antonio after making his NHL debut Jan. 26 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 12:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets prepared to play with or without Byfuglien

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was scheduled to rejoin his teammates shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, or a couple of hours before the start of their game against the Florida Panthers.

Byfuglien missed Monday's practice after flying home for personal reasons. Coach Claude Noel said Monday that Derek Meech, recalled last Wednesday from St. John's of the American Hockey League, would take Byfuglien's place if he doesn't make it to the game on time.

Byfuglien averages a team-high 24:43 of ice time per game, but Noel wasn't fretting at possibly having to go without him.

"We'll see," Noel said. "I'm not too concerned with Dustin. If he's here, he's here; if he's not, we've got to win the game. There's other ways to win the game, so I'm not concerned. We'll just deal with it however it's dealt."

Forward Antti Miettinen, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury and has appeared in one game this season, will be back in the lineup for the Jets and is expected to play on a line with fellow Finn Olli Jokinen.

Forward Kyle Wellwood, a healthy scratch the past four games, also is expected to suit up.

Noel also confirmed that Ondrej Pavelec would make his 10th consecutive start in net.

Here are the Jets' projected lines:

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.05.2013 / 10:13 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers call up Rheault

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The slumping and injury-riddled Florida Panthers called up forward Jonathan Rheault from their American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio on Tuesday.

Rheault, who could make his NHL debut Tuesday night when the Panthers face the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center, led the Rampage in scoring with 17 goals and 20 assists in 50 games.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 03.03.2013 / 6:43 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers goalie coach relieved as backup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas served as his team's backup goalie for the first 16:16 of Sunday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes before his place was taken by Jacob Markstrom.

Tallas, 39, was signed to a one-day tryout after Markstrom's equipment was left off his flight from San Antonio to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. Markstrom had been called up from San Antonio, the Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate, to replace Jose Theodore, who sustained a leg injury in Saturday's 6-2 loss against Carolina.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 03.03.2013 / 4:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Hurting Panthers recall Markstrom, Yonkman

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After losing three players to injury in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers called up two players up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League for Sunday's rematch at BB&T Center.

Goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Nolan Yonkman were recalled, and goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov were placed on injured reserve.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss back with Panthers following tough few days

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Stephen Weiss was back with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday morning and looking forward to Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres after a few tough days personally and professionally.

Weiss missed the Panthers' prior game, a 6-4 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins, after flying to Toronto to attend his grandmother's funeral.

Weiss flew to Canada on Monday, one day after he was benched for most of the third period of Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

After taking part in the Panthers' optional morning skate Thursday, Weiss was asked whether he was getting a fresh start.

"Yeah, it was definitely nice to go back home and see the family," Weiss said. "Anytime something like that happens, it kind of refocuses you. I'm kind of looking forward to playing tonight."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 12:55 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Scott in, Foligno likely out for Sabres

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Buffalo Sabres enforcer John Scott will be in the lineup Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.

Scott was a healthy scratch the past two games, but Sabres coach Ron Rolston said the 6-foot-8 wing would play because of the anticipated presence in the Florida lineup of enforcer George Parros.

Scott and Parros had a fight when the teams met in Buffalo on Feb. 3, a game the Panthers won 4-3.

With Scott in the lineup, left wing Marcus Foligno is expected to be a healthy scratch.

On defense, the Sabres again will be without veterans Jordan Leopold and Alexander Sulzer.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 11:30 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss, Kuba likely back for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will have some players back in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

In addition to center Stephen Weiss returning after missing Tuesday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins to attend his grandmother's funeral, defenseman Filip Kuba could be ready to play after missing the past two games because of an upper-body injury.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 1:20 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss missing as Theodore returns to Panthers' net

SUNRISE, Fla. — The injury-riddled Florida Panthers will be further shorthanded Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins with the absence of center Stephen Weiss, who flew to Toronto to attend his grandmother’s funeral.

Weiss will be one of six regulars missing from the lineup, along with defensemen Ed Jovanovski (knee) and Filip Kuba (upper body) and forwards Scottie Upshall (ankle), Kris Versteeg (upper body) and Sean Bergenheim (lower body).

That doesn’t even include veteran forward Alex Kovalev, who coach Kevin Dineen said would be evaluated Tuesday afternoon. Dineen declined to address the nature of Kovalev’s injury, going as far as telling reporters to call him a healthy scratch.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 12:39 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Vokoun to start against former team in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Former Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, whose family still lives in South Florida, will get the start against his former team Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins play at BB&T Center.

Vokoun, who spent four seasons with the Panthers (2008-2011), will be making his seventh start of the season. He began his career with the Nashville Predators before moving to Florida in a 2008 trade and has a 4-2-2 career record against the Panthers with a 1.79 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Defenseman Mark Eaton, signed by the Penguins on Monday, will not be in the lineup. The 35-year-old veteran of 627 NHL games was signed after playing six games with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 12:20 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

No physical activity or timetable yet for Malkin

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday that star forward Evgeni Malkin is still refraining from physical activity while he recovers from a concussion sustained in Friday night's 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers.

Bylsma said there was no timetable as to when Malkin could start skating again.

"There's not a specific schedule for that right now in terms of physical activity," Bylsma said. "The protocol and resting with a concussion, he's following that right now."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 10:43 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss to miss Tuesday's game for personal reasons

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss will miss Tuesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins to attend his grandmother's funeral.

The Panthers on Tuesday recalled center Scott Timmins from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

Timmins centered a line with Shawn Matthias and Tomas Kopecky at the Panthers' morning skate.

Timmins, a sixth-round pick of the Panthers in the 2009 NHL Draft, had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 47 games with San Antonio this season. He has played in 19 NHL games, all with Florida (2010-11), scoring one goal.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 02.24.2013 / 8:22 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers' Weiss watches most of third period

SUNRISE, Fla.Stephen Weiss has been a key player for the Florida Panthers for several years, but he was relegated mostly to the role of spectator in the third period of Sunday's 4-1 loss against the Boston Bruins.

Weiss received only 1:14 of ice time in the third period on only two shifts. He didn't play in the last 6:01 while the Panthers were trying to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

The longest-tenured member of the team, Weiss still leads all Panthers forwards in ice time, as he did in the last two seasons.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 02.24.2013 / 2:59 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Markstrom to start for Panthers vs. Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla. — A strong effort Friday night in his first appearance

of the season earned Florida Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom a second

consecutive start Sunday afternoon against the Boston Bruins.

Markstrom, who was called up from San Antonio of the AHL on Wednesday, stopped 37

of 40 shots in Friday's 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 23-year-old Swede, considered one of the top goalie prospects in

the NHL, appeared in eight games with the Panthers over the last two

seasons. He was 16-15-2 with a 2.65 GAA and a .920 save percentage

with San Antonio this season.

As was the case Friday night, Jose Theodore is serving as Markstrom's

backup against Boston, with Scott Clemmensen a healthy scratch.

Defenseman Filip Kuba and forward Alex Kovalev, celebrating his 40th

birthday, are the other Florida scratches.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 7:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Gunnarsson returns to Leafs' lineup

SUNRISE, Fla.Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is back in the lineup Monday night against the Florida Panthers.

Gunnarsson had missed the previous eight games because of a hip injury. He took part in the morning skate Monday and coach Randy Carlyle said he would become available soon.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 1:39 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers recall Santorelli

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have recalled center Mike Santorelli from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

Santorelli began the season with the Panthers and had no points in three games. He also was a healthy scratch three times in the team's first six games before being loaned to San Antonio on Jan. 30.

In seven games with the Rampage, Santorelli had two goals and three assists and a plus-2 rating.

The Panthers face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night and it's uncertain whether Santorelli will be in the lineup. Florida had 12 forwards at its morning skate.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 1:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Leafs' Kostka learned a lot from Panthers' Dineen

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was instrumental in the development of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Kostka, and Monday night he'll get to see first-hand how well his former player has developed.

The 27-year-old rookie has been one of the biggest revelations for the surprising Maple Leafs this season after spending the last four years in the American Hockey League. Recalled from the Toronto Marlies after the lockout, Kostka not only has stuck around after making his NHL debut in the Maple Leafs' season opener, he has impressed.

Kostka ranks second on the Maple Leafs in ice time behind only captain Dion Phaneuf at 24:16 per game, and leads the team in blocks with 31.

Dineen coached Kosta for two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10) with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, and again during training camp and the 2011-12 preseason with the Panthers.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 12:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Leafs use same lineup; Gunnarsson nears return

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Winners of five of their last six, the Toronto Maple Leafs will stick with the same lineup when they face the Florida Panthers Monday night.

The Leafs, however, could have defenseman Carl Gunnarsson back soon.

Gunnarsson, who has missed the last eight games because of a hip injury, took part in the morning skate.

"He's going to be an option for us very shortly," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We'll have to think that one through because we've got some people that have been performing fairly well for us. These are decisions that are tough ones but good ones for the organization going forward."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 12:06 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers working overtime, but not seeing results

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers can make NHL history Monday night, but they want no part of it.

The Panthers will enter their home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs having lost their last three in overtime, tying a record previously done eight times.

Florida joined Nashville (2010-11) as the only teams to ever lose three straight in overtime with all three games at home.

Even more painful for the Panthers is the fact they squandered 5-3 third-period leads Tuesday against Washington and Saturday against Tampa Bay, when the Lightning tied the game with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Monday, 02.18.2013 / 11:37 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Versteeg will miss third straight for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Right wing Kris Versteeg will miss his third consecutive game Monday night when the Florida Panthers play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Versteeg, who hasn't played since sustaining an upper-body injury in last Tuesday's 6-5 overtime loss against Washington, did not take part in the team's morning skate and coach Kevin Dineen said he was definitely out.

Versteeg has one goal and two assists in seven games after finishing third on the team with 54 points last season.

The Panthers also continue to be without defenseman Ed Jovanovski (knee), Sean Bergenheim (lower body), Scottie Upshall (ankle) and Michael Caruso (wrist).


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 1:07 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Canadiens always feel at home playing in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Montreal Canadiens will not travel farther to face an opponent this season than BB&T Center, where they play the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

In terms of atmosphere, though, it might be the closest thing the Canadiens have to a home game away from home.

As is always the case when the Canadiens play in Sunrise, a large crowd is expected Thursday and it's a safe bet a good portion of those in attendance will be wearing Montreal jerseys and rooting for the road team.

"We're very lucky to get as much support as we do when we come down here," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It's great to see. The Montreal Canadiens organization has been around for a very long time, the fan base is spread out throughout the world, but it is a little surprising to come here and see so many fans show up."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 12:26 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Canadiens vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Fourteen players took to the ice Thursday when the Montreal Canadiens held an optional skate at BB&T Center.

Among those who skated were defensemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban.

After the skate, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he was going with the same lineup as the previous game, a 4-3 shootout victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 11:04 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers' Versteeg out of lineup against Canadiens

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will be without right wing Kris Versteeg when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

Versteeg, who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's 6-5 overtime loss against the Washington Capitals, did not take part in the team's morning skate. Versteeg also didn't take part in Monday's practice and coach Kevin Dineen said he was day-to-day.

Versteeg's spot on the top line alongside Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann was taken by Shawn Matthias.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 2:10 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Capitals chase first road victory, consecutive wins

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Fresh off their most impressive showing of the season, the Washington Capitals now are looking to build on Saturday's 5-0 victory against the Florida Panthers.

With a rematch against the Panthers at the BB&T Center coming up Tuesday night, the Capitals are hoping they've finally turned things around after their miserable start.

"Hopefully it's one of those turnaround games where we had our rock-bottom moment a few weeks ago and we wanted to be better, to a man," said wing Troy Brouwer, who scored twice in Saturday's victory. "Going into our last game, guys were real excited wanting to turn the season around. We feel we've taken the right steps toward moving forward here and we've got to continue that."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 2:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers get immediate opportunity for payback

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers start an important four-game homestand Tuesday night and get an opportunity to avenge an embarrassing loss in their previous game.

The Panthers get another shot at the Washington Capitals, who shut them out 5-0 Saturday night at Verizon Center.

"For us, having come off a loss to them, a tough loss where it was a pretty lopsided score, that doesn't sit well with us," said Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who is expected to get the start Tuesday. "We're looking forward to getting another crack at them."

The game brought a disappointing end to what otherwise was a productive four-game road trip for the Panthers. Before the loss at Washington, Florida had gone 2-0-1, with victories at the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers and an overtime loss at the Winnipeg Jets.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 12:43 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Upper-body injury sidelines Capitals' Johansson

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson did not make the trip along with his teammates and will sit out Tuesday night's game against the Florida Panthers.

Johansson sustained an upper-body injury Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins and sat out Saturday's 5-0 victory against the Panthers at the Verizon Center.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 11:02 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kovalev likely to return for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers forward Alex Kovalev likely will be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Washington Capitals after being a healthy scratch the previous two games.

Kovalev, who turns 40 later this month, worked on a line with Tomas Kopecky and Marcel Goc during the morning skate.

Kovalev, who was signed after being invited to camp on a tryout basis, had been benched in favor of Jack Skille for Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory at the Philadelphia Flyers and Saturday's 5-0 loss at Washington.

Skille scored Florida's first goal in the victory against the Flyers. He'll stay in the lineup, with Jerred Smithson relegated to the press box.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 7:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets scratch Byfuglien vs. Panthers

Dustin Byfuglien
Defense - WPG
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 25 | +/-: 0
SUNRISE, Fla. - Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was scratched from the lineup for Thursday night's game against the Florida Panthers.

After Byfuglien did not take part in the morning skate, coach Claude Noel said a determination on Byfuglien's status would be made later, but the defenseman did not take part in pregame warmups.

"He aggravated something previous to the morning skate," Noel said.

Byfuglien played a team-high 28:26 of ice time in the Jets' 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday. The Jets did not practice on Wednesday.

Byfuglien is tied for the team scoring lead with Evander Kane and

Tobias Enstrom with seven points.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers want Gudbranson to finish rehab in AHL

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson will start his season in the American Hockey League and how well he plays will determine how long he'll be away from the NHL.

Gudbranson, the third pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury which occurred during the summer while wakeboarding, and the Panthers sent him to the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday.

Gudbranson is scheduled to make his AHL debut Friday night when San Antonio plays host to the Rockford IceHogs.

After spending the 2010-11 season in the Ontario Hockey League, Gudbranson went straight to the NHL, where he played in 72 games for the Panthers last season.

Florida coach Kevin Dineen said there was no set number of games he wanted Gudbranson to play in the AHL.

"It depends on what we think of him," Dineen said. "We'll see where he's at. We'll watch the game tomorrow night and see how he's doing and go from there. He's got to go down and establish his play, and play."

Gudbranson was one of two Panthers players loaned to San Antonio, the other being forward Mike Santorelli.

After clearing waivers before the start of the regular season, Santorelli opened the season playing on the first line but was dropped to the third line after the game and was a healthy scratch three of the past four contests.

Santorelli didn't have a point in three games this season. He had 20 goals in 82 games in 2010-11, but had nine goals and two assists in 60 games last season.

"I've always been a believer that Santo is a top-six player," Dineen said. "That's his skill set, as a higher-end skilled forward. Unfortunately, we don't have that fit for him right now. He's got to either diversify his game or get a major dose of confidence. I feel that some time in the American League is going to give him that jolt and that quality ice time that he'll need to get things turned around.

"That book is not closed yet, but he's got to go down there and expand his game and as much so get his confidence back."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Here are the projected lines for the game Thursday between the Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets at BB&T Center.

JETS

Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Bryan Little

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood

James Wright - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Ron Hainsey - Zach Redmond

Grant Clitsome - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Injured: Zach Bogosian, Antti Miettinen

Scratches: Paul Postma, Anthony Peluso, Mark Scheifele

NOTES: Forward James Wright will face the Panthers for the first time since being claimed by the Jets after he was waived by Florida before the start of the season.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Kris Versteeg

Jonathan Huberdeau - Drew Shore - Peter Mueller

Alex Kovalev - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky

Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Stephen Weiss, Ed Jovanovski, Sean Bergenheim

Scratches: Scottie Upshall

NOTES: Defenseman Tyson Strachan is set to make his first appearance since the Jan. 19 season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes as he replaces the injured Ed Jovanovski.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Byfuglien's availability Thursday uncertain for Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets could be without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien on Thursday night when they face the Florida Panthers.

Byfuglien did not take part in the morning skate, and coach Claude Noel said a determination on Byfuglien's status would be made later.

"He aggravated something previous to the morning skate," Noel said, "so we're going to see with him and make a game-time decision on whether he'll be in or not."

Byuglien got a team-high 28:26 of ice time in the Jets' 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday. The Jets did not practice on Wednesday.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jovanovski joins Weiss on sidelines for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers again will be without center Stephen Weiss on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, and he'll be joined on the sidelines by captain Ed Jovanovski.

The veteran defenseman sustained a knee injury in Tuesday night's 5-2 loss at Tampa Bay.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Jovanovski wouldn't play at Buffalo on Sunday, either. If there's any good news regarding Jovanovski, it's that an exam Wednesday revealed no structural damage.

"It's going to take a few days here, but the guy's heart is pretty big," Dineen said. "It's hard to put a number on how many days he'll be out."

As for Weiss, he continues to be sidelined by a groin injury and will miss his fourth consecutive game.

Dineen said the issue isn't conditioning, but rather making sure that Weiss isn't rushed back into action before he's ready.

"If it was conditioning, Weisser would be right into the thick of things for us, but I want to make sure a player as important as he is to our lineup is with us the next 40 games instead of for a short-term snapshot," Dineen said. "If Stephen Weiss was making the decision, it probably would be a different look to our lineup tonight. He's an important guy and we want to make sure that he's healthy."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 1:18 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers get Goc back in lineup against Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Center Marcel Goc will make his season debut for the Florida Panthers Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Goc missed the first six games because of a lower-body injury sustained while he played in Germany during the lockout.

Goc is expected to center the top line between Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg.

"No injury comes at a good time, and this one came just a few days before the lockout was over," Goc said. "It was really bad timing, but you can't predict that. Things happen. I had to do my rehab work and I put the time in, and now I'm back, I'm excited and I hope I can help the team."

The Panthers are off to a disappointing 1-5 start, and have missed Goc's versatility.

"He's not a kind of player that you notice a heck of a lot during the course of the game, but boy, we use him in a lot of different situations," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He kind of gives us one more bullet in the chamber to throw out in many different situations.

"In any sport there's a level of trust that gets into coaching when you're looking for that player that's going to make a difference, whether it's a faceoff or making a responsible play or can go out and give you a quality play on offense. Marcel is pretty diversified. He can do a lot of things."

While the injury was disappointing, Goc said he enjoyed playing in Germany because it gave him the opportunity to play on the same Manheim team as his younger brother Nikolai.

The big highlight, though, was a game against Hanover, which featured Goc's older brother Sasha.

"That was fun," Goc said. "The one game I played with my younger brother against my older brother, that was pretty cool. That was fun to play in that game."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 12:55 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets defenseman Redmond prepared for NHL debut

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Redmond likely will be making his NHL debut Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.

While Jets coach Claude Noel wouldn't confirm that Redmond would be in the lineup, Redmond said he had been told he would play against the Panthers.

"It's a pretty nervous time period," Redmond said. "You're just kind of sitting there wondering, but I've been trying to stay as relaxed as I can. They have their plans for everybody, so I've just been trying to stay patient and just wait for them. I had a feeling this could be the game, and it was, and I can't wait. I'm excited."

Redmond was a healthy scratch for Winnipeg's first six games this season after spending all of 2011-12 with the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League.

Redmond was a seventh-round pick of the then-Atlanta Thrashers in the 2008 NHL Draft after his first season at Ferris State University.

The 24-year-old Redmond, a native of Traverse City, Mich., was hoping to have family and friends in the stands Thursday night, but wasn't sure whether travel plans could be arranged quickly enough.

For his part, Redmond said he was hoping to be able to take a nap Thursday afternoon.

As for his first game, Redmond said he's gotten advice from Jets defenseman Paul Postma, a 2007 draft pick who made his NHL debut in November 2011.

"Everyone just keeps saying, do what got you here, that's kind of the old saying," Redmond said. "I'm sure there's going to be some surprises, as in everyone's first game. But I'm going to learn and go out there and give it my best shot."'

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 7:39 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Briere makes season debut for Flyers

SUNRISE, Fla.Philadelphia Flyers forward Danny Briere will be making his season debut Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.

Briere, who sustained a wrist injury while playing in Germany during the lockout, didn't sound optimistic after the morning skate about his chances of playing.

Briere said he feels comfortable in his ability to absord a hit and doesn't feel pain shooting the puck. The biggest problem, he says, is faceoffs.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 2:23 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Howden could make NHL debut for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers already have had three players make their NHL debut this season, and they could have a fourth Saturday night.

Forward Quinton Howden, one of the team’s three first-round picks in the 2010 NHL Draft, was recalled Friday from San Antonio of the American Hockey League and took part in the morning skate Saturday.

Howden skated on a line with Jack Skille and Drew Shore, with whom he played in San Antonio this season.

“Very excited,” Howden said. “This is what you dream of, opportunities like this. I’ve been working hard to get this opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.”

He was so excited, in fact, he didn’t mind dressing on a chair in the middle of the dressing room because all the seats were filled. Howden, who had nine goals and 10 assists in 41 games with San Antonio, is among the large group of blue-chip prospects in the Panthers organization.

Howden is in line to join 2011 first-round pick Jonathan Huberdeau, Shore and defenseman Michael Caruso in making his NHL debut this season.

“It’s exciting,” Howden said. “You can see that things are starting from the bottom and building up, but all those draft picks with [Shore] and [Huberdeau] and me and [Erik Gudbranson] and all that, there’s a lot of guys that are making their debuts and are going to make a name for themselves.”

A 6-foot-2, 189-pound left wing who can also play center, Howden was the 25th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Asked what he was looking to get out of Howden, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen didn’t hesitate.

“Speed,” he said. “That’s his No. 1 asset is his speed. If he can come out and establish that, that’s a part of his game, that’s a good step.

“I think he’s had a solid first rookie season that he’s gone out there and he’s found the adjustment to the schedule and how it is to play against big men. He’s still a work in progress but he’s headed in the right direction and deserves his shot if he can get in there tonight.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 2:07 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Knuble excited to rejoin Flyers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Veteran forward Mike Knuble was the only Philadelphia Flyers player missing a nameplate in the visiting locker room at the BB&T Center Saturday morning.

After completing the morning skate in preparation for Saturday night's contest against the Florida Panthers, the first game of Knuble's second stint with the Flyers, the 40-year-old recent signee wasn’t about to complain.

While he enjoyed his one-game stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, Knuble is happy to be back in the NHL after signing Friday with the Flyers.

"It was good. It was in my hometown. It was important. [I'm] pretty shocked that it wasn’t a little bit longer," Knuble said of his stint with the Griffins. "I thought I had two, three weeks before anything would pop up, but it was fun. Good experience. It’s funny to say, but I wish it would have been a couple more games there. It would have been fun."

Knuble was signed after the Flyers lost wing Scott Hartnell for 4-8 weeks with a foot injury. Knuble isn’t likely to replace Hartnell’s scoring, but he’s the kind of veteran who should fit in comfortably.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 1:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flyers, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Here are the projected lines for the game Saturday between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Florida Panthers.

FLYERS

Wayne Simmonds - Claude Giroux - Matt Read

Jakub Voracek - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot

Ruslan Fedotenko - Brayden Schenn - Mike Knuble

Tom Sestito - Eric Wellwood - Scott Laughton

Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn

Nicklas Grossman - Braydon Coburn

Kurtis Foster - Bruno Gervais

Ilya Bryzgalov

Michael Leighton

Injured: Danny Briere, Andrej Meszaros, Scott Hartnell, Zac Rinaldo

Scratches: Tye McGinn, Jody Shelley

Notes: Veteran defenseman Kurtis Foster returns to the lineup after sitting out the last two games. Foster said an undisclosed injury kept him out against New Jersey on Tuesday, but he could have played Thursday night against the Rangers. The Flyers also will have forward Brayden Schenn back in the lineup after he served his one-game suspension for his hit on New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov. “You may not agree with it, but you respect their decision,” Schenn said. “It’s no fun missing a game, but I’m glad I’m back after sitting out one game.”

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Alex Kovalev

Jonathan Huberdeau - Peter Mueller - Scottie Upshall

Quinton Howden - Shawn Matthias - Drew Shore

Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Erik Gudbranson, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim, Michael Caruso

Scratches: Mike Santorelli, Tyson Strachan

Notes: The Florida Panthers’ lineup was up in the air after the morning skate because of the uncertain status of both Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg. “We were a hard scout today,” Dineen said. “You look at the morning skate and you look at the bodies in the lineup and the possibilities. We’re not sure what we’re putting on the ice tonight just based on guys are that close to coming back.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 1:11 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Briere closer to returning

SUNRISE, Fla. — Forward Danny Briere is inching closer to making his season debut for the Philadelphia Flyers, but he didn’t sound optimistic following the morning skate that it would happen Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.

Briere, who sustained a wrist injury during the lockout while playing for Berlin Polar Bears of the Deutsche Eishockey League in Germany, took part in the morning skate after being cleared for contact on Thursday.

“I’m going to come back, try to warm up, it didn’t feel great this morning,” Briere said. "There’s ups and downs. Maybe [it will be] a little better tonight, we’ll see what happens. But probably more no than yes at this point."

Briere wasn’t sure whether he would even take part in pregame warmups.

"It’s where it’s at, how much strength, how much pain, at this point," he said. "Sometimes during the day it loosens up and it might be a little better."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 12:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss out again for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla.Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss will miss his second consecutive game Saturday night, but coach Kevin Dineen didn’t rule out the other two members of his top line, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, for the matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Versteeg has yet to play in a game this season after he sustained a lower-body injury in practice the day before the Jan. 19 opener against the Carolina Hurricanes. He took part in the morning skate Saturday, but didn’t work with a line and stayed on the ice for extra work after his teammates went off.

“He looked pretty good there today,” Dineen said. “With [Versteeg], I always have to be careful because his heart is telling him one thing and we’ve got to make sure that we get over this hump of our early-season injuries and make sure that guys are fully prepared to go instead of getting along with not firing on all the pistons. We’ll see where he’s at after a good skate today. It’s encouraging. There’s a possibility he can even play tonight.”

Fleischmann had the most ice time of any Florida forward in a 3-1 loss Thursday against the Ottawa Senators, but he sustained a cut on top of his right foot during the game.

Fleischmann stepped onto the ice before his teammates Saturday morning wearing warmup gear and skated briefly before stepping off. He returned after the start of the morning skate again in warmup gear before leaving after a short while and returning a third time in his full gear.

Dineen said Fleischmann’s availability has nothing to do with his past medical history — Fleischmann missed the second half of the 2010-11 because of a pulmonary embolism.

“Him and his medical team have done a really good job of staying on top of that,” Dineen said. “He’s aware of his history, but it’s all based on whether he can go out and be able to perform like he usually does.”

Like Versteeg, Fleischmann didn’t work with a line in the morning skate.

As for Weiss, who was a late scratch Thursday after taking part in the morning skate, Dineen said keeping him out because of his lower-body injury was a matter of playing things safely.

“Stephen is slowly coming along,” Dineen said. “It’s no different than anybody else. We want to make sure that when he comes back he’s feeling like he can contribute the way he usually does. He’s such a big part of everything we do here. He’s missed in the lineup. We’ll wait and get an evaluation, but he won’t be available for tonight.”

Because of the uncertain status of both Fleischmann and Versteeg, Dineen might have some line juggling to do before the puck drops Saturday night.

“We look at the morning skate and you look at the bodies in the lineup and the possibilities, we’re not sure what we’re putting on the ice tonight just based on guys are that close to coming back. It’s a little bit of a stickhandling to see where we’re at when we drop the puck tonight.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 7:23 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Weiss out for Panthers against Senators

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers' injury woes have gotten worse.

Center Stephen Weiss joined the list of players missing from Thursday night's game against the Ottawa Senators when he was ruled out with a lower-body injury. Weiss, who had one assist in the first three games, took part in the morning skate but didn't come out for pregame warmups.

The Panthers also are without four regulars from last year's Southeast Division championship team — Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim and Erik Gudbranson — and defenseman Michael Caruso is out with a broken wrist sustained in Tuesday's 4-1 loss at the Montreal Canadiens.

Mike Santorelli, who was scratched Tuesday night, took Weiss' place in the lineup.

Weiss' injury further disrupts the Panthers' top line, which already was set to have a fourth different combination in four games. Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann were flanked in the first three games by Santorelli, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky, and Alex Kovalev worked with the pair during Thursday's morning skate.

The line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Peter Mueller and Kopecky starts against Ottawa.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 2:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers continue to mix and match with top line

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen will be going his fourth different top line in four games Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Veteran Alex Kovalev will be the latest to skate alongside center Stephen Weiss and left wing Tomas Fleischmann. He follows Mike Santorelli, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky on the line that’s missing last year’s right wing, Kris Versteeg, who is out with a lower-body injury.

"You're always hoping for different things when you put a group together out there," Dineen said. "Just a little different look. That's going to be part of the package here early is trying to find some chemistry that's going to work."

After beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on the strength of three power-play goals, the Panthers combined for one goal in losses at Ottawa on Monday and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

The Panthers have scored two goals at even strength all season, neither of which was produced by the top line.

Fleischmann has two assists in the first three games, and Weiss has one assist.

"We just don't have the same player on the line every game," Fleischmann said. "It's tough to get something going chemistry-wise, but everybody is an NHL player and we have to get used to it. We've just got to work hard and it's going to come. It's just about the time, I would say. It's going to be OK."

Kovalev, who was given a one-year contract after coming to camp as a tryout player, had three points in the opener playing on the second line with Peter Mueller and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, but has been shut out since.

"Flasher is a good shooter and Weisser can make plays," Kovalev said. "Hopefully, with my skill I can open up some space."

Versteeg, who underwent hip surgery in the offseason, sustained a lower-body injury in practice the day before the opener and was placed on the injury list Monday.

He's eligible to return to action Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but Dineen said it was doubtful Versteeg would play in that game.

Dineen said the lineup change Thursday night is about more than just getting better production from the first line.

"I think everybody's shown well in that spot, but what we're trying to do is find balance through four lines," Dineen said. "With our injury situation, there's a little mix and match that would happen anytime. Those guys will be fine. They're high-end professionals."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:54 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Wounded Panthers lose another in Caruso

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers will continue to be without some injured key players — at least in the short term.

And now there’s another player on the shelf, with coach Kevin Dineen confirming Thursday that defenseman Michael Caruso sustained a broken wrist in a 4-1 loss Tuesday at the Montreal Canadiens.

Caruso, a 2006 draft pick who made his NHL debut in the season opener Saturday, sustained the injury in the first period.

“Shame, I thought he actually had a couple of really good shifts to start the game in Montreal,” Dineen said. “Very unfortunate for him.”

The Panthers will face the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night and will again be missing four regulars from their Southeast Division championship team of 2011-12 — wings Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim, center Marcel Goc and defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

All but Bergenheim have been skating, but Dineen said Goc and Gudbranson will be out at least through the game Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Versteeg, who was placed on the injury list Monday, will be eligible to return Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but Dineen said Versteeg was doubtful for that game.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:06 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Here are the projected lineups for the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at BB&T Center:

SENATORS

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Jakob Silfverberg

Guillaume Latendresse - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson

Colin Greening - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Jim O'Brien - Peter Regin - Erik Condra

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar

Patrick Wiercioch - Andre Benoit

Craig Anderson

Ben Bishop

Injured: Jared Cowen, Mike Lundin

Scratches: Kaspars Daugavins, Mark Borowiecki

Coach Paul MacLean is going with the same lineup he used in the 4-0 victory Monday against those same Panthers, which was the team’s last game. The only difference is that Ben Bishop will serve as the backup goalie after Robin Lehner was reassigned Tuesday to Binghamton.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Alex Kovalev

Jonathan Huberdeau - Peter Mueller - Tomas Kopecky

Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Drew Shore

Jack Skille - Jerred Smithson - George Parros

Filip Kuba - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc, Erik Gudbranson, Sean Bergenheim,

Michael Caruso

Scratches: Mike Santorelli, Tyson Strachan

Captain Ed Jovanovski will be back in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday at Montreal, the second set of back-to-back games.

Drew Shore earned another start after making his NHL debut in a 4-1 loss against the Canadiens.

“He had a lot of enthusiasm out there,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “Extremely coachable and knows the game. He’s a kid that has stepped in and really made a statement. I thought he had a good game to start his NHL career the other night.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:57 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Projected Lineup: Hurricanes at Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are going to be short-handed when they begin defense of their Southeast Division title Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Six regulars from last year’s team will be missing, the latest casualty being wing Kris Versteeg. He sustained a lower-body injury in practice Friday and left the morning skate early Saturday.

Taking Versteeg’s place on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann will be Mike Santorelli, who was placed on waivers Friday.

Also out for Florida are forwards Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc as well as defensemen Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Mike Weaver. All are dealing with injuries, except for Kulikov, who just rejoined the team after signing a new contract.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:43 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

New-look Hurricanes ready to make amends

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will begin this season exactly where they ended the last one, but they're confident they're a lot better than the team that last played at the BB&T Center.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011-12, the Hurricanes made a couple of significant moves in the offseason, most notably the acquisition via trade of center Jordan Staal and the signing of free-agent wing Alexander Semin.

The 4-1 loss against the Florida Panthers on April 7 left Carolina in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, last in the Southeast Division.

The Hurricanes watched the Panthers celebrate clinching the division title that night, and Saturday night they'll watch a banner go up before the new season begins.

Carolina captain Eric Staal said that will just add even more motivation to a new season already filled with it.

"For the guys that we here, no question," he said. "They're the team that took our division last year and that's something that we want to make sure that we achieve this year. We want to turn the tables and we want it to be the other way around next time. We're ready to go."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Kulikov out for Panthers vs. Hurricanes

SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov rejoined the Florida Panthers after signing a two-year contract Thursday. But he will not be in the lineup for Saturday’s season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes.

After passing his physical on Friday, Kulikov took part in Saturday’s morning skate and at one point had a one-on-one conversation with coach Kevin Dineen.

“You’ve got to look at a guy, where he’s at and if he’s going to help you,” Dineen said. “Frankly, it’s disappointing he’s not ready to play.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Kovalev ready to make Panthers debut

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The beginning of the NHL season is significant to every player, but for different reasons.

For Alex Kovalev, the Florida Panthers opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night represents the chance to be back in the NHL after being away in 2011-12.

The 39-year-old, who played 22 games in the Kontinental Hockey League last season, earned a contract with the Panthers this week after being invited to camp on a tryout basis.

"I'm just happy overall to be back on the ice, back in the big league and have a chance to play in the NHL again," Kovalev said.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Comment › |Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 4:50 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Smithson bringing faceoff ability, physical play

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers acquired veteran center Jerred Smithson a few days before the trading deadline to add depth up front, bring a physical presence and help on faceoffs.

After Smithson was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, coach Kevin Dineen decided he could use what Smithson had to offer.

There's been no looking back.

Smithson has recorded only one assist in the four playoff games he has played, but he's contributed in other ways.

Game 5 was a perfect example.

Even though he didn't make it on the scoresheet in the Panthers' 3-0 victory at the BankAtlantic Center, Smithson was credited with a team-high nine hits -- four more than anybody else on the team -- and also was a perfect 6-for-6 on faceoffs.

"That is my game," Smithson said of the physical play. "I'm not a huge offensive guy, even though this time of year you need to do a little bit of everything. You need those grinders to try to contribute offensively and the skilled guys, not necessarily to play physical, but to get in there and bump and check. It takes every little bit of effort this time of year. For myself, I know what I have to do to be effective and to help the team. Whether it was nine [hits] or just a couple, you've got to go out there and do it."

Ironically, the player that Smithson replaced in the lineup for Game 3 was Wojtek Wolski, the Panthers' other trade-deadline acquisition.

Wolski began the series playing on a line with Scottie Upshall and Shawn Matthias primarily because he offered more offensive potential than Smithson.

Smithson, who also had been a healthy scratch for four of the last five regular season games, could do little but wait for his turn.

"To be honest, it was frustrating there for a little while," said Smithson, whom the Panthers acquired from Nashville on Feb. 24 for a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. "That being said, we had such a good team and we were heading in the right direction. I was happy for the guys here, for the organization to finally get in and make the playoffs, and then to get that call, it was a relief. A lot of times you kind of don't know where you stand. I was ready and just waiting for the call. I'm glad I got it.

"Being around the game long enough now, it really does take everyone. Guys get banged up, whether it's injuries, suspensions, yada, yada, you have to be ready both physically and mentally. That's something I tried to pride myself upon is to be a good pro and be there for my teammates. If they need me, I'll be there."

Dineen said the change from Wolski to Smithson was a mattering of "tinkering," but there hasn't been any tinkering since.

Smithson hasn't given Dineen any reason to change things around.

"What Smithson does is that gives them a little bit of stability out there," Dineen said. "They know they have someone that's very responsible on the defensive side of things and they can create on the offense as well."

Smithson and Upshall actually were teammates in Nashville in 2006-07 and the following season until Upshall was traded to Philadelphia, but Smithson said he didn't recall playing on the same line very often.

"Maybe a couple of games," Smithson said. "It seems such a long time ago now. He's an easy guy to play with. He works real hard, he skates well, he can get in there on the forecheck. For myself, it's get in on the forecheck, get the puck loose or give him a good dump and let him use his speed. Both guys are real easy to play with."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Theodore, Garrison on ice for Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Jason Garrison were on the ice Wednesday, but whether they'll be in the lineup for the Florida Panthers for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday against the New Jersey Devils (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, NBCSN [JIP], TSN) remains unknown.

Theodore and Garrison were among six players who took the ice for a 30-minute optional skate at the Panthers' practice facility.

Theodore was scratched for Game 6 Tuesday because of what was described as a lower-body injury. Scott Clemmensen stopped 39 of 42 shots in Florida's 3-2 overtime loss, but coach Kevin Dineen said Wednesday that Theodore will be in net for Game 7 -- health permitting.

"I just watched him there for a few minutes and he looks pretty good out there," Dineen said. "That's encouraging for us. It gives us that option to go with him [Thursday]. That will be a health-based decision.

"I've been playing this game all series long who we're going to start, and the truth of the matter is there's a question mark because we have trust in both our goalies. But Theo has been our go-to guy, and if he's available, he'll be the one running, I think."

Theodore shut out the Devils in his last start, making 30 saves in the Panthers' 3-0 victory in Game 5 Saturday.

He took part in Florida's practice Monday but wasn't on the ice for the morning skate Tuesday.

"It's hard," Theodore said Wednesday. "After a shutout, you've got a good feel. You want to get back in there. You feel good about where your game is at and then you have a little setback. Obviously it was frustrating to watch the last game, but today is a new day. It was good to be back on the ice."

Theodore has appeared in only one Game 7 in his 16 NHL seasons, but it was a memorable one.

Playing for Montreal, Theodore helped the Canadiens complete their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit with a 2-0 shutout at Boston in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

"It was a fun night," Theodore said. "Coming into Game 7 and winning in a shutout was obviously a good feeling and it was fun. It seems like it's been a long time, but you still remember that feeling after the game. There's nothing like playing a Game 7, and when you do accomplish a win, it's really a good feeling."

Theodore would love nothing more than to get the chance for more Game 7 heroics.

"I feel better than [Tuesday] for sure," he said. "It was a good day today, but then again, when you play in such an important game as Game 7, you've got to make sure you're able to really help your team and not be a distraction.

"Obviously it's do-or-die. These are the kind of games you want to be part of. Everybody when you're a kid and you play hockey, you always imagine that Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Obviously, it's a game everybody wants to be part of and help the team win."

Garrison, for his part, is playing in the playoffs for the first time.

His goal in the final minute of the first period of Game 3 helped the Panthers rally from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

However, he was a late scratch prior to Game 4 and hadn't been on the ice since then prior to his skate Wednesday.

"I've still got another day and a half here to prepare myself," Garrison said. "Obviously you want to play, but you want to do what's best for the team. You don't want to put the guys on the ice in jeopardy by any means. I'm just going to take this day and a half. If I'm going to play, I'm going to make sure I can go out there and play the way I play."

Joining Garrison and Theodore on the ice Wednesday were Game 6 healthy scratches Mike Santorelli, Krys Barch and Wojtek Wolski, along with defenseman Keaton Ellerby, who missed the last two games after sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 4. Ellerby, seeing his first action since March 15, was in the lineup in Garrison's place.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Theodore, Garrison part of Panthers' optional practice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Goalie Jose Theodore and defenseman Jason Garrison were back on the ice Wednesday when the Florida Panthers held an optional practice.

Theodore was scratched for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against New Jersey Tuesday because of what was described as a lower-body injury.

Garrison has missed the last three games of the series after being a late scratch prior to Game 4 Thursday. He hadn't practiced since.

Along with Garrison and Theodore, the only players on the ice for the Panthers on Wednesday were Game 6 healthy scratches Mike Santorelli, Krystofer Barch and Mike Santorelli, along with defenseman Keaton Ellerby, who missed the last two games after sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 4. Ellerby, seeing his first action since March 15, was in the lineup in Garrison's place.

Game 7 is scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the BankAtlantic Center.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 11:15 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Ellerby back on ice, Garrison remains out

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' defensive corps remained in flux after their practice Monday.

Jason Garrison didn't take part in the short practice, but Keaton Ellerby was back on the ice after missing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

Garrison was a late scratch for Game 4 Thursday and also sat out the Panthers' 3-0 victory in Game 5 with a lower-body injury.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Garrison would be making the trip to New Jersey, where the team will meet Tuesday in Game 6.

"It's day-to-day," Dineen said. "We're encouraged that he may get a skate in tomorrow and see if he has a chance of playing tomorrow night."

Ellerby, meanwhile, sat out Game 5 after sustaining a lower-body injury when he was checked into the New Jersey bench by Stephen Gionta. Ellerby, who was in the lineup in Game 4 in place of Garrison, was seeing his first action since March 15.

Dineen said Ellerby's status would be determined by how his body will react to skating on Monday.

With Garrison and Ellerby both out, Tyson Strachan played in his first NHL playoff game in Game 5 after being recalled from San Antonio.

Strachan, who played 67 regular season over parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Blues, appeared in 15 games for the Panthers in 2011-12.

Strachan played 13:26 in Game 5 and finished with a plus-1 ratio.

"He stepped right in and kept things simple," Dineen said. "He created some offense with his powerful shot. That's the advantage of having a guy that's played 15 games during the regular season. He's got a little bit of familiarity with our group, and I thought he did a good job for us."

Along with Garrison, the other player who didn't practice Monday was forward Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann played in Saturday's game after not being on the ice for the morning skate.

"Just keep giving him maintenance days," Dineen said. "He seems to react very well to days off. That's the thinking with him."

Fleischmann's place on the Panthers' top line in Monday's practice was taken by Wojtek Wolski, who has been a healthy scratch the last three games.

Here were the Panthers' practice forward lines:

Wojtek Wolski - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Extras:

Krystofer Barch
Mike Santorelli
Matt Bradley (injured)
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 6:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Garrison scratched for Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers again will be without defenseman Jason Garrison for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

Garrison was a late scratch Thursday because of a lower-body injury and coach Kevin Dineen said Saturday morning a decision on his status for Game 5 would come after warmups. But Garrison wasn't on the ice for warmups.

His status was described by the team Thursday as "day-to-day."

Taking Garrison's place on defense Saturday is Tyson Strachan, who was called up from San Antonio.

The 27-year-old veteran, who played 15 regular season games for the Panthers this season and has played 82 career games, will be making his playoff debut.

Keaton Ellerby, who replaced Garrison in the lineup Thursday but sustained a lower-body injury in the second period, also was among the Panthers scratches Saturday.

Jose Theodore is starting in net for the Panthers after Scott Clemmensen got the nod in Game 4.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers don't expect any more help from Brodeur

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers saw Martin Brodeur struggle against them earlier this week, only to bounce back with a more Brodeur-like performance.

And while they’d love nothing more than to get a few more soft goals in Game 5, they know the odds of Brodeur letting that happen again aren’t good.

“He’s a world-class goalie,” Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said after the morning skate Saturday. “The game when he got pulled, he wasn’t at this best, but the last game we played him he was on top of his game. He stopped every shot. We just have to keep putting pucks on net. Eventually it’s going to go in, we know that.”

Brodeur was pulled after giving up three goals in Game 3 when the Panthers rallied from a quick 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

But in Game 4, Brodeur stopped all 26 shots he faced to set an NHL record with his 24th career playoff shutout.

“You play against a goalie like that, you don’t expect him to let in weak goals, but at the end of the day he’s human,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “If you keep shooting pucks at him and keep getting traffic in front of him, you’re going to find a way to score some goals. If he sees it without any traffic, he’s going to save it, so we’ve got to get bodies in front of him and try and get screens and rebounds, second and third chances. That’s the way you’re going to score.”

For New Jersey, Brodeur’s impressive performance Thursday is one big reason to feel confident heading into Game 5.

“We always expect him to play like that,” captain Zach Parise said. “For whatever reason, things just didn’t go well in Game 3 and he bounced back and had a great game in Game 4. We all expect the same thing tonight. Not putting any pressure on him or anything, that’s just the way we expect him to play game in and game out."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 2:03 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Prjoected lineups for Game 5

SUNRISE, Fla. — After going with Scott Clemmensen in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey, it appears Florida coach Kevin Dineen will go back to Jose Theodore in net for Game 5.

As is his custom, Dineen made no announcement about his starting goalie after the morning skate, but Theodore worked out at the net normally featuring the starter.

Theodore started the first three games, but was pulled only 6:16 into Game 3 after New Jersey quickly took a 3-0 lead.

Clemmensen stopped all 19 shots he faced in relief of Theodore, helping the Panthers rally for a 4-3 victory and earning his first career playoff start in the process.

Dineen said he never has to worry about his goalies’ state of mind when making his decisions.

“They’re always guys that not just this year, it’s in years past, they understand the situation,” Dineen said. “Nothing has to be painted out to them and we expect them to go out and do the job like they have their whole careers.”

Injured defensemen Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby were among the only three players not taking part in the morning skate. The other was forward Tomas Fleischmann, but Dineen explained that the Panthers were “trying to save all his energies for the game.”

For the Devils, coach Pete DeBoer indicated his lineup will be the same as it has been for the first four games of the series.

The Devils held an optional skate on Saturday, and five players took to the ice. The group included Ilya Kovalchuk, backup goalie Johan Hedberg, and the three healthy scratches — Adam Larsson, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen.

Kovalchuk and rookie Adam Henrique were the only two Devils players who didn’t take part in practice Friday in New Jersey.

Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 between the Devils and Panthers:

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Shawn Matthias - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils hope record-setting PK back in control

SUNRISE, Fla. — After finally shutting down the Florida power play in Game 4, the New Jersey Devils are hoping they have gotten their record-setting penalty kill back on track.

The Devils, who set a modern-era record with an 89.6 percent efficiency rate on the PK in the regular season, watched Florida go 6-for-10 on the power play in the first three games.

But New Jersey killed off all six Florida power plays Thursday in a 4-0 victory in Game 4.

“It seems like special teams has played a huge part in this series,” Devils captain Zach Parise said Saturday morning. “Their power play has beaten us single-handedly in some games. It was really important for us to get that first kill last game. Everyone on the penalty kill relaxed a little bit after we got that one.”

Florida, which finished tied for seventh in power-play efficiency in the regular season at 18.5 percent, went 5-for-7 with the man advantage in Games 2 and 3.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers won both games to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

In Game 2 at BankAtlantic Center, Devils defenseman Andy Greene was called for a tripping penalty 11 seconds into the game and Stephen Weiss scored on the power play just 23 seconds in to give Florida a quick lead.

Weiss added a second power-play goal 1:12 into the second period and the Panthers went on to win 4-2.

The Panthers’ 3-for-3 performance on the power play in Game 3 was the difference in their 4-3 comeback victory after they trailed 3-0 after only 6:16.

Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said the big difference for the penalty-killing units in Game 4 was playing more under control.

"In the first two, three games, we tried to do too much,” Kovalchuk said. “We tried to do somebody’s job and got out of position because of the emotions. But in Game 4 it was really focusing on your own job, what you’ve got to do to get the job done. That’s why we were good.”

While New Jersey shut out the Panthers power play in Game 4, its own power play went 2-for-4.

The first goal of the game, and ultimately the game-winner, came when Zach Parise tipped Marek Zidlicky’s shot from the point with the man advantage in the second period.

“You look at the four games and for the most part whoever’s won the special teams battle has ended up winning the game,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “That happens everywhere in the league. We knew going into the series how good their power play was. I’m hopeful that we found a way to shut it down and that it’ll continue."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 11:45 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' Garrison questionable, Strachan recalled

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers once again could be without key defenseman Jason Garrison in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday.

Garrison, who was a late scratch in Game 4 on Thursday because of a lower-body injury, did not take part in the Panthers’ morning skate Saturday and coach Kevin Dineen said his availability will be determined after pregame warmups.

“He’s still a possibility,” Dineen said. “To put him out there for a 13-minute skate didn’t make a lot of sense this morning. We’ll see where he’s at. He’s questionable for tonight. We’re cautious and we’ll see where we end up.”

The Panthers, who also will be without Keaton Ellerby for Game 5, still had six defensemen on the ice at the morning skate after calling up Tyson Strachan from San Antonio of the AHL.

Ellerby, playing his first game since March 15 as Garrison’s replacement, sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Game 5.

The 27-year-old Strachan played in 15 regular season games for the Panthers after being called up in January, recording three points and a plus-1 ratio, and was signed to a one-year contract extension the following month.

“He’s played some really strong stretches of hockey, so if needed, certainly he can go in and do the job for us,” Dineen said. “The organization has faith in him. We signed him to a contract after a month here and I think that was very deserving that he came in and showed that he can play a regular shift in the NHL. And if he can do it in the regular season, he can do it in the playoffs.”

Strachan has appeared in 82 NHL games during his career, but has yet to play in a playoff game.

He played in San Antonio’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Chicago Wolves on Thursday in Game 1 of their AHL playoff series and flew to South Florida on Friday.

“There’s mixed emotions about that,” Strachan said of leaving his Rampage teammates behind. “Obviously you want them to be winning down there, but at the same time the chance to be up here and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a hard one to pass up. Just excited to be here and help out if they need me.”

Garrison, who led all Florida defensemen in the regular season with 16 goals and logged the second-most ice time behind Brian Campbell, clearly is an important player for the Panthers.

But the Devils said they weren’t concerning themselves with Garrison’s status.

“I don’t know exactly who’s in and not in,” captain Zach Parise said. “I don’t know if Garrison (is playing) or who they’ve got in. Regardless, our approach is going to be the same. It’s always been try to make it hard on their D, get it below them, forecheck hard. They’ve got offensive guys that want to jump in the rush, so we’ve got to make it harder for them to do that.”

Teammate Ilya Kovalchuk was more succinct: “It’s their problem, it’s not our problem. We just have to think about our game if he’s playing or not.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Garrison could return for Game 5, but Ellerby out

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers could have defenseman Jason Garrison back for Saturday's Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against New Jersey, but coach Kevin Dineen said Keaton Ellerby will not be available.

Ellerby sustained a lower-body injury in the second period of Thursday's 4-0 loss at New Jersey in Game 4 when he was checked by Devils center Stephen Gionta into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion. Ellerby was making his first appearance since March 15.

Ellerby was in the lineup because Garrison was a late scratch because of a lower-body injury. Dineen said the Panthers were "cautiously optimistic" Garrison would be able to play Saturday.

Dineen said the Panthers might call up a defenseman from the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, with the most likely candidate being Tyson Strachan.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Projected lineup for Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Here is the projected lineup the Panthers will use when the puck drops for Game 3 Tuesday (7 p.m. ET NHLN-US, TSN) against the Devils at Prudential Center:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:01 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers seeking quicker start

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida coach Kevin Dineen partly blamed himself for his team’s poor first period in Friday’s Stanley Cup Playoff opener against New Jersey, and he expects things to be much different in Game 2 on Sunday.

The Panthers fell behind 3-0 to the Devils after being outshot 26-9 in the first period, and that was the difference in New Jersey’s 3-2 victory.

Dineen said he and his players learned their lesson about what the focus needs to be early on.

“Controllables,” Dineen said Sunday morning. “What can you control during the game, and how you react to adversity and things that happen during the course of the game? That’s what I told them, ‘Hey, you’re dealing with a rookie coach.’ I think what happened during that game is I got my focus in the wrong direction early and I think the players read off that a little bit.

“It’s a matter of all of us keeping the focus directed into what you can control, which is what’s going to happen the next time you step on the ice, killing the penalty if that’s the situation, going out there and reacting to both positives and things that may not go your way and just keeping a little more even keel.”

While they’re hoping to avoid a repeat performance of the first period, the Panthers head into Game 2 with some confidence because of the way they responded across the final two periods

Even though the comeback attempt fell short, Florida out-shot New Jersey 17-12 during the final two periods. The Panthers were particularly impressive in the second period when they scored both of their goals while out-shooting the Devils, 11-6.

“You’ve got to run on the confidence we got in the second and third,” said wing Kris Versteeg, who scored Florida’s second goal with 4:18 left in the second. “We know we can play with these guys. They’re obviously a very skilled and very defensively sound team at the same time, but when we play our game, we’re a very good team, too. We got the confidence that we can play with these guys and now it’s about going out there and putting a full 60 (minutes) together.”

The Devils fully expect a better first-period effort from the Panthers on Sunday, but they’re not looking to change much from what they did.

“I would expect them to be a little more aggresssive,” captain Zach Parise said. “But we’ve got to give ourselves some credit, too. We had a great first period. Regardless of what they did right, what they did do wrong, we just had a good first period. There’s no way around that. But I’m sure they’ll play a little more relaxed. On both sides, there’s always first-game jitters. I expect them to be a little more relaxed and at the same time try to dictate the first 5-10 minutes of the game, which you always expect in the playoffs.”

It sure wasn’t lack of intensity that got the Panthers in trouble in the first 20 minutes of Friday’s game. Florida got the first two shots on goal and delivered some big hits.

If anything, maybe the Panthers were too amped.

“They’re going to play harder, but they tried to do that early in the first,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. “But we fed off of that and got turnovers and were able to counteract what they were trying to do. They might be more patient, who knows? They might think, let’s stay in the game and let’s grind it out. That’s what playoff hockey is all about. You can’t just throw everything at once at the other team. It’s 60 minutes and maybe plus.

“We expect the best out of them. We’ve been in that position before to lose the first two games. Mentally, it’s hard to come back. We’re going to try to create that separation in the series, but it’s going to be a tough one.”

The Panthers, whose franchise is on a nine-game playoff losing streak dating back to 1997, will look to avoid joining Vancouver and Pittsburgh as teams in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs to lose the first two games at home.

The Devils, on the other hand, will be looking to go up 2-0 in a series for the 11th time in franchise history. New Jersey is a perfect 10-0 when winning the first two games.

This also would be the fourth time the Devils have taken the first two games on the road. The first three times occurred in the 1995 playoffs when New Jersey won the first of its three Stanley Cup titles.

“It would be great for us to go back to our own rink up 2-0,” Parise said. “That’s the plan. We didn’t come down here with the mind-set of let’s go for a split, like people think. We came down with the intent to win two games. We got off on the right foot. But we have to play even better. We really do. We have to be better in a lot of areas because we know they’re going to be.”

For the Panthers, the biggest improvement clearly has to come in how they start the game.

“We certainly looked like we were overwhelmed,” Dineen said. “The Devils came out flying and our response wasn’t very good. Lesson learned. They’ve been a good starting team all year. It’s something we talked about. Now we’ve seen it live. It’s how you respond. We expect a better response tonight.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Brodeur's passing ability causing Panthers problems

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers said they were aware of Martin Brodeur’s passing prowess before the start of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey.

They’re even more cognizant after what happened in Game 1.

“You’ve got to be aware every time,” Panthers wing Kris Versteeg said. “Obviously we talked about it with his quick ups. He’s pretty dangerous obviously. Probably the best goaltender in the League at handling the puck, so we’ve got to be aware of him again tonight. He made us pay last game and obviously it was a big goal.”

Brodeur made 24 saves Friday to record his 100th career playoff victory, but it was his tremendous passing ability that was responsible for perhaps the biggest play in New Jersey’s 3-2 victory.

The Panthers were seconds away from killing off a four-minute Devils power play to keep their deficit at 1-0 when they iced the puck and went for a line change.

After stopping the puck in front of his net, Brodeur didn’t hesitate and fired a perfect pass to teammate David Clarkson at the Florida blue line near the boards. The Panthers never were able to set up defensively and Clarkson flipped the puck inside to Dainius Zubrus, who skated in alone on Jose Theodore and beat him with a wrist shot.

Ryan Carter would score 45 seconds later for a 3-0 lead that would hold up.

“If nobody is in my face, I’m able to make some decent passes,” Brodeur said. “It just worked out that Jose did such a great job killing that penalty almost by himself making seven or eight saves on that power play. When they dumped the puck, they just wanted to change, they didn’t really pay attention. I just caught them off guard. I’m sure it’s going to be harder to do now. I’m sure they’ll be aware of it.”

If nothing else, the Panthers learned the hard way they can never relax when Brodeur has the puck.

“You have to pay attention to their goalie,” Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “He is the best in the League at moving the puck and he can catch you sleeping, absolutely. Getting the puck in deep and getting hard to the bench is extremely key and being extremely aware of when he has the puck and where you’re placing it as you’re dumping it in.”

The Panthers have plenty of company when it comes to getting burned by Brodeur’s passing.

Friday’s assist was his ninth in the playoffs. He also has a goal, a rink-long wrister into an open net at the end of a 5-2 victory against Montreal on April 17, 1997.

Brodeur had four assists in the just-completed regular season to match his career high.

“I feel like I’ve seen it a thousand times,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. “I can’t say I’m surprised about it. It’s a great play because if you’re an opposing team you can’t relax on a change and I think that’s what they did a little bit there. He’s got a great ability to pass it up and counteract and we were able to catch them. It’s a nice weapon for us to have.”

It’s inevitable that Brodeur will wind up playing the puck at other times in this series. The Panthers just don’t want to make it too easy on him.

“You have to put the puck into a place,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. “The game is easy when Marty can go back there and make the kind of direct tape-to-tape passes he can. So it’s more placement, where you end up putting the puck before you actually get in on the forecheck.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:39 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Lineups remain same for Game 2

SUNRISE, Fla. — The New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers both held an optional morning skate in advance of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday at the BankAtlantic Center.

Both coaches said there would be no lineup changes from Game 1, which was won by New Jersey 3-2.

That means that Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann and Ed Jovanovski, who both sat out Saturday’s practice in what coach Kevin Dineen termed a “maintenance day,” will be available.

Jose Theodore, who stopped 35 of 38 shots Friday, again will be in net for the Panthers.

Fleischmann and Jovanovski were among eight Panthers players not on the ice Sunday morning, although defenseman Brian Campbell skated on his own beforehand.

For the Devils, defenseman Bryce Salvador was the only player who didn’t take part in the optional skate.

Former Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire, who lives in South Florida, watched the workout from the stands alongside general manager Lou Lamoriello.

New Jersey held an optional practice Saturday, with nine players participating.

“I’ve taken the approach with our group, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as too much rest,” coach Pete DeBoer said in explaining the optional workouts. “Our history over the last half of the season was when we’re rested, we play well. When fatigue gets set in a little bit for us, we don’t. We’re going to control that the best we can. We also have a lot of veterans in that room that know their bodies a lot better than I do.

“The trust is they know their body better than I do and I trust that they’ll be ready to go tonight.”

Here are the projected lineups for Game 2:

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold


Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 1:21 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Little-used Carter haunts former team

SUNRISE, Fla. — Only one player had less ice time than Ryan Carter in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between New Jersey and Florida.

But Carter skated long enough for some serious payback.

The little-used 28-year-old center ended up with the game-winning goal against his former team when he scored with 5:04 left in the first period to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

Carter started the season with Florida and played seven games before he was waived with the idea of reassigning him to San Antonio of the AHL. Needing depth at center, the Devils claimed him off waivers.

Little did the Panthers know he would come back to haunt them in their first playoff game since 2000.

Carter, who played 6:56 in his third game at the BankAtlantic Center since joining the Devils, focused more on the significance of his goal than the opponent.

“Yeah, I am past that,” said Carter, who topped only teammate Stephen Gionta in ice time Friday. “The first couple of games back here maybe there were some extra feelings like that. Now, Jersey is my team and I just want to find a way to help them win. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s not about sticking it to somebody else, it’s about helping our team.”

Carter, who went pointless for Florida before recording four goals and four assists in 65 games with New Jersey, wasn’t among the forwards the Panthers figured they had to stop coming into the series.

But less than a minute after Dainius Zubrus scored to make it 2-0 for New Jersey, Carter stole the puck from Sean Bergenheim in the neutral zone and then took advantage of a flat-footed Ed Jovanovski at the  blue line.

Carter chipped the puck off the boards, skated around Jovanovski to retrieve it and skated in alone on the right side. He beat Jose Theodore with a quick wrist shot to the far side.

“It was a controlled forecheck,” Carter said. “They had two guys swinging to that left wall, so that made it easy to check both of them. I think they had a misread on who was going where, so that exposed the puck a little bit. I chipped it by one guy and found myself in a two-on-one and just shot it.”

The goal came on a shift that lasted exactly 13 seconds for Carter.

In fact, through the first two periods, Carter got only 3:37 of ice time. He got almost twice that much in the third period as coach Peter DeBoer turned to his fourth line — Carter, Gionta and Steve Bernier, another former Panther — to help protect the 3-2 lead.

“The fourth line was big for us,” DeBoer said. “The game-winning goal and five or six critical shifts in the third period when our guys were starting to get fatigued. We talked between the second and third about the importance of those guys giving us some quality shifts and I thought they were great.”

Carter’s goal was his third in 21 career playoff games. The other two came with Anaheim in 2009.

“To get a chance to get a goal and chip in, it’s definitely huge,” Carter said. “Tonight it turned out to be the difference-maker. Anytime you can contribute that’s big. That’s your job.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:31 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Theodore starts strong for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen’s goalie decision figures to be a lot easier for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday against the New Jersey Devils.

Dineen never revealed his Game 1 starting goalie to the media until lineup sheets were distributed shortly before game time, but Jose Theodore figures to have earned another start after a stellar performance Friday.

The Panthers lost 3-2, but Theodore was the reason the score wasn’t more lopsided, as he stopped 35 of 38 shots.

Theodore was particularly impressive in the first period despite allowing three goals. New Jersey peppered him with 26 shots, a franchise playoff record and the highest first-period total in the NHL playoffs since 1997 when Philadelphia recorded 28 shots against Pittsburgh.

“I thought he was really good in the first period,” Dineen said after the game. “You give up three goals in the first period and you’re like, boy, that’s something you’re always questioning about a goalie, but if he doesn’t play the way he did, we’re in trouble. [It was] a solid night for our goaltender.”

Theodore, who got the nod for Game 1 over backup Scott Clemmensen, entered the playoffs having given up nine goals in his previous two starts.

He also had given up a soft goal in each of those games, a 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg and a 4-2 loss at Washington.

But none of the three goals Friday could be pinned on him.

“When you have that many shots in the first period and you make a couple of saves right away, I felt pretty good, to be honest,” Theodore said. “During the playoffs, it’s all about winning and losing. We lost the game, so we’ve just got to bounce back. It’s the best I felt [Friday night], let’s say, the last week or so.”

Before Patrik Elias opened the scoring at 6:31, Theodore had stopped him on a breakaway after the Panthers were caught in a bad line change.

Theodore also stopped Zach Parise on a breakaway midway through the third period to keep the Panthers within a goal after they had scored twice in the second period to pull to within 3-2.

“We created a lot of offense, if it wasn’t for Jose, it could have been a lot different,” said Martin Brodeur, who recorded his 100th playoff victory to join Patrick Roy as the only goalies to reach triple digits. “He played unbelievable. He made some big saves and, even in the third stopping Zach on the breakaway, kept them in the game.”

Theodore’s performance was a far cry from his last playoff outing.

That came in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the top-seeded Washington Capitals and eighth-seeded Montreal. After the Canadiens had taken Game 1, 3-2 in overtime, Theodore was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau after allowing two goals on the first two shots.

Theodore didn’t play again as Montreal upset the Capitals in seven games.

The game Friday marked Theodore’s 52nd career playoff appearance, and it will go down as one of his best.

Devils forward Dainius Zubrus finished with a goal and an assist, but was impressed with the performance of his former Montreal teammate.

“He weathered the storm,” Zubrus said, “and he kept them in the game.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Devils, Panthers eager to finally get series started

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Martin Brodeur will begin his 17th playoff run Friday, but he doesn’t remember ever having to wait this long to get going.

Six days after wrapping up the regular season, the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers finally get to start their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at the BankAtlantic Center.

It's the last series to get going, as three series started Wednesday and four more began Thursday.

"It's extremely exciting, to say the least," Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson said after his team's morning skate. "The long wait that we had made it even better for us to jump on the saddle and get ready to go here. We're extremely excited in the room here and ready to get going."

If there's such a thing as carrying momentum into the playoffs, the Devils probably would have wanted to start the series as early as possible.

While Florida endured a season-high five-game losing streak before clinching the Southeast Division title by beating Carolina in the regular season finale, the Devils streaked into the playoffs by finishing with six consecutive victories.

It was the longest winning streak in the NHL at the end of the regular season.

"We had some guys that were carrying some injuries that it's good to get them that extra couple days off," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "But, yeah, when you're playing well and feeling good, you always want to be keep playing that next day. In the long run, it was good for us to get a little rest and heal some guys."

New Jersey went 12-4-1 in its 17 games, but coach Peter DeBoer isn't sure that will mean much once the series begins.

"I talked to Lou [Lamoriello], he's probably the greatest resource for me on playoff hockey with his success, and he's had teams that stumbled in and won and teams that lit things up the last 10 games and lost," DeBoer said. "I don't know if there's a right formula. I can tell you I would rather have won six in a row than not heading in. Hopefully that sets the table for us. But it doesn't guarantee anything."

Starting the series so late gave both teams plenty of practice time. There's also been a lot of playoff watching.

"It's definitely a fun part of the year," Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said. "It's a fun time to be a player and a fan of the game as well. ... We're fortunate enough to have made the playoffs. We've been on a long wait, but now it's here and now we're excited about it."

The last time the Panthers hosted a playoff game was April 20, 2000, and the BankAtlantic Center was known as the National Car Rental Center then.

If nothing else, the late start to the series gave the Panthers and their fans more time to savor the team's first-ever division title.

"It's been a good week," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Watched some games and everything's been so close, three overtime games last night. It's been an enjoyable week for us to be able to reflect on our full season, but we're certainly ready to put that in the rearview mirror and get going in the playoffs."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' power play has its work cut out

SUNRISE, Fla. -- A year after producing the worst power play in the NHL, the Florida Panthers finished the 2011-12 regular season tied for seventh with the man advantage by scoring at an 18.5 percent clip.

They'll be hard-pressed to duplicate that kind of success in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the best penalty-killing team in the League.

"They have skilled players who can read the plays," said veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who plays the right point on the Panthers' first power-play unit. "They have shot-blocking guys and a good goalie. That's a good mix. They read off each other and when they pressure, they pressure hard. We know what we're up against and we have to play good."

The Panthers were 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) on the power play in the four regular-season meetings against New Jersey. Florida wasn't the only team that struggled with the Devils' PK, as New Jersey set a modern-era record with an 89.6 success rate.

The Devils also led the NHL with 15 shorthanded goals, one of which came against the Panthers. Even though that was an empty-net goal by Ilya Kovalchuk at the end of New Jersey's 5-2 home victory on Jan. 6, the Panthers are well aware of the Devils' attacking mentality even down a man.

"We've got to be careful at the blue lines," said Stephen Weiss, who centers Florida's first power-play unit. "They've got good sticks and their forwards at the top are very quick. We've got to make sure we're coming back when the puck turns over because they'll push offensively, too."

The Panthers likely will need for their power play to contribute if they are to advance to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history and the first since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

Florida scored only 203 goals in the regular season, the second-lowest total among playoff teams ahead only of Los Angeles' 194.

So while the Panthers recognize and respect the Devils' penalty-killing prowess and ability to score shorthanded, they also know they can't hold back on the power play.

"You can't be careful on the power play," Samuelsson said. "You're going to think twice about it? Maybe. We know we're up for a challenge. At the same time, if we start off good, you never know where momentum is going to take you. In the past, we had a great PK and power play in the regular season, but when it came to the playoffs it wasn't that good. A lot of things change during the playoffs. It's always good to play good in the regular season, but it doesn't have to be that way because they usually do it."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Projected Game 1 lineups

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As he indicated earlier this week, Florida coach Kevin Dineen's goalie decision for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey Friday will come down to the wire.

"You know what, all year long I've waited till the end, so we'll give it a couple more hours and give it a good gut check and go from there," Dineen said after the Panthers' morning skate at the BankAtlantic Center.

Dineen has to decide between Jose Theodore, who was the team's No. 1 goalie all season but gave up nine goals in his last two starts, or Scott Clemmensen, who was solid as the backup but tremendous in his last four starts when he went 3-0-1 with a .962 save percentage.

The starting goalie wasn't the only lineup decision Dineen said he still needed to make before the 7 p.m. opening faceoff.

Veteran forward Marco Sturm skated for a second consecutive day after missing practice on Monday and Wednesday, but Dineen wasn't ready to say whether he would take his place on the line with John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

Krystofer Barch, who was a healthy scratch for the last four regular season games, skated with the Madden line at practice all week.

"He's a big, physical guy, but more importantly he can skate," Dineen said of Barch. "When you're playing a team as skilled as the Devils, you're going to need to be able to move your feet. That's an advantage we've had over the course of the season is we have a lot of guys that move their feet well. We like to think of ourselves as being able to put some speed at teams and Barchy would be a good addition in that way."

Sturm, acquired along with fellow veteran Mikael Samuelsson in the October trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver, battled injuries a good part of the season and appeared in only 48 games for the Panthers.

For the Devils, coach Peter DeBoer confirmed before his team's optional skate that rookie defenseman Adam Larsson would not be in the lineup Friday.

The fourth pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Larsson was a healthy scratch for five of the Devils' last six regular season games.

Larsson had 18 points in 65 games during the regular season, but his minus-7 rating was the worst among the seven New Jersey defensemen currently on the roster.

Here are the projected lines for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Devils and Panthers:

DEVILS
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold


Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers lines in practice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Here are the lines the Florida Panthers used in practice Thursday:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Krys Barch - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen occupied the nets.

The Panthers had an extra line of forwards, with Jerred Smithson centering Marco Sturm and Mike Santorelli.

Keaton Ellerby skated as the extra defenseman.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 12:57 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' Sturm back on the ice

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Forward Marco Sturm returned to practice Thursday after missing the Florida Panthers' first two workouts of the week.

Coach Kevin Dineen said Sturm is questionable for Friday's series opener against New Jersey (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) because of lower-body soreness.

Sturm skated Thursday on a line with Mike Santorelli and Jerred Smithson, who were regular scratches for the Panthers in the last few games of the regular season.

Krys Barch again skated in Sturm's usual spot, alongside John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

Defenseman Jason Garrison left practice early Thursday after being hit in the face by a deflected puck. Garrison, who was cut, did not return.

Dineen said Garrison would get some stitches on his nose, but would be fine.

Veteran forward Matt Bradley, who has been out with a concussion since Feb. 19, skated on his own for a third consecutive day.

"It is very encouraging," Dineen said. "Big, strong right winger is a real nice quality for us as a team to have without [injured] Jack Skille for the rest of the season. Again, that's a medical situation that needs to play out. We certainly have not had any kind of indication that there's any close return."

Asked whether he could rule out Bradley playing at any point during the New Jersey series, Dineen replied: "I don't know the answer to that, but I'm not counting on it."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:20 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Predictions favoring Devils don't bother Panthers

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers may have home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but that doesn't change the fact they're considered underdogs in their series against the New Jersey Devils.

It wouldn't even be a stretch to call them heavy underdogs.

When NHL.com unveiled its first-round predictions of 16 writers, international staff members and NHL Network analysts, all but one went with New Jersey over Florida.

Only one of the other seven first-round series matched that kind of consensus, with the New York Rangers getting all 16 votes in their matchup against the Ottawa Senators.

"We can't worry about all the predictions," coach Kevin Dineen said. "You can sit there and watch the NHL Network or MSG, whatever it is, there’s lots of people out there that are looking to fill air time. There's areas we really can't control."

The NHL changed its alignment to three divisions in each conference in 1998-99 and started giving the division winners the top three seeds.

Before this year, only four No. 3 seeds finished with fewer points than the sixth seed. It's happening in both conferences this year, with third-seeded Phoenix facing No. 6 seed Chicago in the Western Conference.

It's impossible to draw conclusions from past results because the previous four series matching a No. 6 seed with more regular season points than the No. 3 seed were split.

• No. 6 Boston (91 points) beat No. 3 seed Carolina (86) in six games in 1999.

• No. 3 seed Carolina (91) beat No. 6 seed New Jersey (95) in six games in 2002.

• No. 3 seed Vancouver (105) beat No. 6 seed Dallas (107) in seven games in 2007.

• No. 6 seed Philadelphia (95) beat No. 3 seed Washington (94) in seven games in 2008.

"I really don't believe that there's any underdog or favorite," Panthers goalie Jose Theodore said. "Yes, there might be upsets sometimes, but you look at the standings, how tight it was, anybody could win games. That's what's fun. Even if you're the eighth seed, you still have a chance to win and I was in a lot of playoffs where we  were seventh or eighth and we were able to win. That's what's fun. That's what fans want to see, a lot of good teams, and it's really hard to predict."

In finishing with 102 points and becoming the first team to finish fourth in its division with at least 100, New Jersey ended up with eight more points than the Panthers.

That's the biggest differential yet in favor of a sixth seed against a No. 3 seed.

And it's a large reason for the overwhelming sentiment favoring the Devils.

Not that Panthers players are really concerning themselves with prognosticators.

"Well, they predicted us to not even make the playoffs this year," center Shawn Matthias. "It's nice being underdogs. I'm not going to give any bulletin-board stuff. Well, we didn't listen to that all year, why would we start now?"
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers' Sturm questionable for Game 1

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers could be without veteran forward Marco Sturm when they begin their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Friday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN).

For the second time in two practices this week, Sturm was missing when the Panthers took the ice at the Saveology.com Iceplex on Wednesday.

Sturm also sat out the third period of Saturday's 4-1 division-clinching victory against Carolina in the regular season finale, and coach Kevin Dineen said Sturm is dealing with lower-body soreness.

"He'll be questionable," Dineen said. "He's a little bit sore from [last] weekend, so we're not sure if he'll be all right this weekend."

While Sturm missed his second consecutive practice, rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson was back on the ice after being kept out Monday for what Dineen described as a "maintenance day."

Sturm, who had three goals and two assists in 42 games for Florida this season after being acquired from Vancouver in the David Booth trade in October, played the last few games on a line with John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

His place on that line at Wednesday's practice was taken by Krys Barch.

Dineen also was asked Wednesday about his goalie situation and he said "probably right around game time" is when he would decide whether to go with Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen against the Devils.

"I have complete trust and confidence in our guys," Dineen said. "I've watched their body of work throughout the year and I have a very comfortable feeling that whatever decision we go, if I start Scott Clemmensen, I've made the right call; if I decide to go with Jose Theodore, I think I've made the right call. That's a good place for a coach to be."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Practice, rest on tap for Florida until series starts

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen ended up changing his practice schedule on the fly after he found out his team would be among the last two to play its first playoff game.

The Panthers will open their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the New Jersey Devils on Friday at the BankAtlantic Center. That announcement came after Dineen said he was told the Panthers would begin play Thursday and later was told that it would be Wednesday.

Dineen held a practice Monday that lasted about 90 minutes and decided to give his team Tuesday off before getting back on the ice the next day.

"For us, the rest is really important right now," Dineen said. "I'm going to give them a day off tomorrow, which is not an easy thing to do in the playoffs. But I feel that day off, they're going to come in nice and fresh on Wednesday, we'll get a good skate Wednesday, Thursday and I think that'll be beneficial in the long run.

"Unfortunately, in the playoffs things are going to happen pretty fast and furious. But we feel it's a worthy day off. It has been a very tough month of March and April. We worked hard and there's been a lot of scratching and clawing and the mental break, as much as the physical break, will make a difference."

As much as they want to get started in the playoffs, Panthers players didn't seem to mind the delay.

"When you finish preseason games and you have a week of practices, that's where you're able to get sharp," goalie Jose Theodore said. "We played so many games lately, we hardly practiced. It's kind of hard to stay sharp when you don't practice. Having a full week of practice, you can work on details, you can work on technical stuff, so it's actually easier to stay sharp when you practice every day like we're going to have this week."

Veteran forward Marco Sturm and rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson didn't take part in Monday’s practice. Dineen called their absence a "maintenance day."

Sturm didn't play in the third period of Saturday's 4-1 division-clinching victory against Carolina after getting 7:19 of ice time in the first 40 minutes. Gudbranson played 14:10 against the Hurricanes.

Dineen said both players would be re-evaluated Wednesday.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Dineen mum on which Panthers goalie starts Game 1

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen was talking about his philosophy on dealing with the media Monday when he used a hot topic with his team to make a point.

"I've got goaltending decisions to make, and I want to give it a couple of days and I'll give it a gut check," Dineen said. "I haven't talked to my belly yet."

That means Dineen still hasn't decided whether Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen will be starting in net for the Panthers when they open their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

And Dineen says he won't have an answer until Friday.

"You know what, for me I've got a really exciting decision to make," Dineen said after the Panthers went through a 90-minute practice at the Saveology.com Iceplex. "I don't look at it as a burden. I look at it as something that I can't go wrong either way and it'll be something that we'll wait for a few days.

"I don't think I've changed my stance on that all year. I certainly haven't tried to play coy, but certainly our goalies have been excellent for the most part and that makes for a quality choice when we do get going."

Theodore started 51 games in the regular season for the Panthers, while Clemmensen had 25 starts.

But it's Clemmensen who has been the better goaltender of late, going 3-0-1 with a .962 save percentage in his last four starts.

It was Clemmensen who was in net Saturday when the Panthers clinched their first-ever division title with a 4-1 victory against Carolina.

Theodore, meanwhile, allowed a combined nine goals in his last two starts and was pulled for 91 seconds after giving up a third goal in a 4-2 loss at Washington Thursday.

The former Hart Trophy winner, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent last July, said he would take the same approach in terms of preparation as he did during the regular season.

"It's nothing really new," Theodore said. "Usually, we know the day before or so. Pretty much it was like that all season and we had success like that. There's nothing new or nothing to adapt to for me or Clem. It's pretty much the same we've been doing all season and it worked for us."

Theodore finished with better overall numbers than Clemmensen during the regular season. He had a 2.46 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, compared to Clemmensen's 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski, for one, said Theodore was the Panthers' MVP during the regular season.

Should he get the start, Theodore can start erasing some bitter playoff memories from his two seasons with the Washington Capitals. Theodore was replaced by Semyon Varlamov both years as the Capitals failed to advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

After going 30-7-7 in 2009-10, Theodore was pulled after giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Montreal in 2010 and didn't play again while the Capitals lost the series in seven games.

"What happened in Washington, I'll say it again, it's out of your control," Theodore said. "The first year I played one game, then I don't play. It's really not something that I look [at] like I didn't achieve or I didn't get the job done, I just didn't have the chance to play. So I really don't think about Washington too much at this point. It's a totally different group, different situation. I'm just going to prepare myself to play and take it from there."

For Clemmensen, getting the start against New Jersey would represent an opportunity to face his former team.

Clemmensen, who spent parts of five seasons with the Devils and recorded a 25-13-1 record in 2008-09 subbing for an injured Martin Brodeur, has had great success against New Jersey, with a 3-0-1 record in five starts.

That includes a 3-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 11. That could be one factor that might influence Dineen.

"I feel good about my game," Clemmensen said after the division-clinching victory against Carolina. "Regardless if I start that game on [Friday] or not, I'm going to be ready to play, whether it's that game or Game 2 or whatever the case is. I'm going to be ready to play every minute, every game. I don't know what the situation is going to be or who's going to start, but I'm going to be ready, that's it."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' Dineen mum on goaltender for Saturday, Game 1

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida coach Kevin Dineen often said this year he was facing tough goalie decisions, but he might now be dealing with his toughest yet.

Dineen said after the morning skate he had not decided whether Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen would be in net for the regular-season finale Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. He also said he hadn’t determined who would start in the playoffs.

Theodore has been Florida’s No. 1 goalie all season, appearing in 59 games to Clemmensen’s 23.

But Theodore is coming off a shaky performance in a 4-2 loss Thursday at Washington. Dineen pulled Theodore after the Capitals scored in the second period to go up 3-0, but reinserted him 91 seconds later.

Clemmensen, meanwhile, has been outstanding lately. He is 2-0-1 in his last three starts, including a 35-save performance in a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on March 20.

There’s also this factor this consider: If the Panthers clinch the Southeast Division title Saturday, they will face the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In five career games against the Devils, his former team, Clemmensen is 4-0-0 with a 2.05 GAA and a .937 save percentage, including a 3-1 victory at New Jersey this season. Theodore is 8-14-3 in his career against the Devils with a 2.64 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

The combination of factors coming into play has left Dineen with that difficult decision.

“It sure is,” Dineen said. “It’s one that we’ll discuss quite a bit before we make the final call for tonight and next week.”

At the other end of the ice Saturday, the Carolina goalie will be Brian Boucher, who has appeared in only nine games this season as the backup to Cam Ward.

The Hurricanes lineup against Florida also will feature forward Jeremy Welsh, who will make his NHL debut after signing a one-year contract Thursday night after Union lost to Ferris State in the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa.

Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers-Hurricanes matchup:

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Tuomo Ruutu
Jeremy Welsh - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Andreas Nodl - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Joni Pitkanen - Jamie McBain
Bryan Allen - Tim Gleason

Brian Boucher
Cam Ward

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers hope to secure first division title

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers accomplished their primary goal of finally ending their long playoff drought just two nights ago, but there’s still a lot at stake in Saturday night in the regular season finale  against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Panthers need only one point to clinch the first division title in franchise history and secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, which would mean a first-round matchup against the New Jersey Devils.

Florida also would clinch the Southeast Division if the Washington Capitals lose against the New York Rangers in a game that will start at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the opening faceoff of the Panthers- Hurricanes matchup.

So the Panthers could find out they’re division winners during the third period of their game, just like they found out they had clinched a playoff berth during the third period of their 4-2 loss at Washington Thursday with the scoreboard announcement that Buffalo had lost at Philadelphia.

The Panthers don’t really care that they have backed into the playoffs, losing their last five games and eight of their last nine, but they also would like to go into the playoffs on a winning note.

“Right now we’re focused on trying to give our fans and our players a good, strong feeling moving into the playoffs,” coach Kevin Dineen said after the morning skate. “A lot of work went into where we are right now, but now we have to take it to the next level and finish strong. That’s the first step. We look at tonight as a beginning of next week.”

If the Panthers lose in regulation against Carolina and Washington wins at Madison Square Garden, Florida would drop to the No. 8 seed and have to face the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

“The division title would be the main thing,” said center Stephen Weiss, who will be playing in his 637th career game Saturday but will be appearing in the postseason for the first time. “It’s accumulation of all the hard work throughout the season and it would be nice to finish it off. Our fans deserve it, I think we deserve it in here, now we’ve got to go out and get it. Home ice is important, too. It’d be nice to start here at home. Anytime you have the ability to play a seventh game at home, it’s huge.”

The Panthers have been on the verge of ending Washington’s four-year run as Southeast Division champion since the Capitals’ 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday put their magic number at two.

But Florida was unable to hang on to a 3-0 lead against Winnipeg at home Tuesday, losing 5-4 in overtime.

Dineen said that was the one game where his players showed some tightness. But Weiss said the pressure of finally ending the Panthers’ 10-season playoff drought has shown in the team’s play the last few games.

“When you look back on the last couple of weeks, I think it has been weighing on us,” Weiss said. “We wouldn’t say it is, but you just can tell with some of our play at spurts in games. We seemed to tighten up here and there. It’s a lot of pressure having this 10, 12 years of not being in the playoffs riding on everyone’s shoulders. It’s nice to know that we’re in no matter what and now we can relax and hopefully have a crisp game tonight.”

The Panthers last faced Carolina on March 21, and the Hurricanes’ 3-1 victory snapped their season-long five-game winning streak.

It also began the Panthers’ current 1-3-5 slide.

“You wind up the regular season you want to win the last game,” forward Tomas Kopecky said. “We put ourselves in a spot where the last couple of games we needed one point. Obviously everybody is looking at the standings right now and where we can be if we get the one point. It’s very important to us. In the playoffs, it’s very important to start at home. If you have that home-ice advantage, if you go to Game 7, you’ve got that home crowd behind you. That’s something we’ve been looking for since the beginning of the year.”

Scoring has been the biggest problem lately for the Panthers, who have tallied more than two goals in regulation only once in their last 11 games.

But the Panthers’ best efforts in recent weeks have come against playoff-bound teams, including a 2-1 shootout loss Sunday at Detroit and the Washington game Thursday.

“In spurts we’ve been really good,” Weiss said. “Our game in Detroit was really good, I liked our game in Washington even though we didn’t get the result we wanted. But we play that hard, that type of style, we’re going to be all right. We’ll get the results we want. We’ve just got to make sure we do it for 60 minutes of the hockey game.”

For defenseman Brian Campbell, one of five players on the Panthers roster to have played on a Stanley Cup-winning team, a victory Saturday won’t mean much once the playoffs start.

Winning the division and starting the playoffs at home, though, would be big.

“It never hurts to go on a good note, but I don’t think it’s the be-all, end-all of all things,” Campbell said. “Obviously, you want to be playing good, but the playoffs are the playoffs. You’re in and then anything can happen from there. We need to win to get home-ice, and that’s important in that aspect.

“Having home-ice advantage in the first round is huge. That’s the biggest key for us and I expect a big effort.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Versteeg starting to rediscover his offensive game

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg is still looking to end his scoring drought, but he's been creating chances in recent games and his overall play has picked up.

The Florida Panthers right wing clearly is not "brutal" anymore.

Versteeg has used that term to describe his play a couple of times this season, most recently after a 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton on March 23.

That was one of the nine scoreless games Versteeg has played since returning from a lower-body injury that caused him to miss nine games. Versteeg also went scoreless the six games before the injury, meaning he's on a 15-game goal-less streak.

But after going eight games without even a point, Versteeg picked up an assist in each of Florida's last two games and he's also come close to scoring on a couple of occasions.

"Last four games it's been a lot better and feeling better out there, too," he said. "You come back and you want to be a big part right away and everyone is firing on all cylinders. You've got to, I guess, get back in the game and get back into the swing of things. When you're hard on yourself, it's tough, but I definitely feel the last four games it's been going better, and I expect better every game."

Versteeg led the Panthers in scoring most of the season before just recently being overtaken by both Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss.

There's no question the Panthers could use some more offense from Versteeg, starting with Tuesday's game against Winnipeg.

"Steeger is a guy that cares a lot and when things don't work out ... he's not a guy that hides his emotions," coach Kevin Dineen said. "When things are not going the right way, he is extremely hard on himself. When you take a breath and you regroup and you go out and start doing little things, even if the points aren't coming, you still feel like you're contributing. He realizes his importance to the team and, as always, when his focus is in the right place, he's a top-end player for us."

Versteeg, acquired last summer in a trade with Philadelphia, said he may have been trying to do too much after returning from his injury.

His last goal came Feb. 12 in a 4-1 road victory against the New York Islanders, but he's not concerned about the goal-less streak.

"I'm not worried about it," he said. "It was more so frustration about trying to do stuff when maybe my body couldn't at the time or my mind couldn't at the time because you're trying to get back into it. Now, I'm starting to feel [better] and these last four games are a good step."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets give Cormier another look with Wellwood out

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Forward Patrice Cormier, one of the players acquired from New Jersey in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, is getting another look with the Winnipeg Jets.

Cormier has been recalled from the St. John's IceCaps to replace Kyle Wellwood, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle.

It's the fourth call-up this season for Cormier, who didn't record a point in his first six games. Cormier had 17 goals and 14 assists in 54 games with St. John's.

Wellwood, for his part, ended his season with a career-high 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists). Wellwood, who is fourth on the team in scoring, was injured in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Tampa Bay when he was hit by a slapshot from teammate Grant Clitsome.

The Jets' third-leading scorer, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, will remain in the lineup despite being hampered by a lower-body bone bruise. There had been some thought he might be shut down because Winnipeg is out of playoff contention, but coach Claude Noel said Byfuglien would be in the lineup Tuesday night against Florida.

"Buff is going to play the games," Noel said. "Nothing has changed with him. He still has the same issue and he'll have it the rest of the year. It's something we deal with. He'll be in the lineup."

The Panthers, for their part, have no apparent injury issues beyond their two players on injured reserve -- forwards Matt Bradley and Jack Skille.

Based on the lines at the morning skate, it appears forwards Jerred Smithson, Krystofer Barch and Mike Santorelli will be healthy scratches.

Here are the projected lines:

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Antti Miettinen
Chris Thorburn - Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek
Patrice Cormier - Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 2:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Spoiler role aside, Jets just want to finish strong

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets are back in action Tuesday night for the first time since being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

But they say they're not concerning themselves with playing the role of spoilers against the Florida Panthers.

"We look at it more as a situation where we want to try to play well and win," coach Claude Noel said after the morning skate. "With our road record being what it is, we'd like to continue getting points and hopefully getting two points and getting a win out of here would be good for us. We talked about finishing out on a positive note and that's what we want to do."

In their first year in Winnipeg after moving from Atlanta, the Jets saw their playoff hopes officially terminated in a 3-2 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

The Jets found themselves only two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference after beating Washington 4-3 in overtime on March 23, but have gone 2-5-1 since.

"Obviously, we're disappointed with how our season ended up and being on the outside of the playoff picture," captain Andrew Ladd said. "It's something that as a player, it's the time of year you want to be playing. It's where the fun starts. We've still got some work to do to make sure it doesn't happen next year."

It was fitting that the Jets' playoff hopes would end on the road because that's where the team really struggled this season.

Winnipeg has only 31 points in 39 road games to rank 28th in the League. The Jets' last road game will be Thursday against the New York Islanders before they close the season at home against Tampa Bay on Saturday.

That means the Jets will play a game with playoff implications for the last time Tuesday.

"We should be on the same page, everybody, to finish hard, to finish the season with three wins," goalie Ondrej Pavelec said. "Of course, it's disappointing we didn't make the playoffs, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop playing. The fans, everybody deserves for us to play as hard as we can and we'll see how everything is going to go.

"I think it's going to be pretty exciting tonight. Florida is battling for a playoff spot. It should be a great game. It's going to be a big chance. We expect the three wins and finishing strong and having fun."

The Panthers certainly don't expect the Jets to let them clinch the division title without a fight.

"We know Winnipeg is a well-coached team," defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "They respect the game, so they're going to play hard. We've got to be on our toes early."

Ladd is familiar with several Panthers players, having played in Chicago with Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and John Madden when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

After being traded to Atlanta last season, Ladd once again is playing out the end of the regular season with nothing at stake.

"It's tough," he said. "They mean pretty much absolutely nothing now. At the same time, we owe it to ourselves and to our fans to show up and work and see where the chips fall. It's all part of creating a culture where you show up and you work every day. This is part of it."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 2:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' Weiss chasing very special birthday gift

SUNRISE, Fla. -- It's almost like deja vu for Stephen Weiss.

Ten years ago on this day, Weiss celebrated his 19th birthday by playing in his first NHL game and scoring his first goal in a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

The Florida Panthers center turned 29 on Tuesday, with the possibility of clinching his first NHL playoff berth looming as an even better birthday present.

"I think [I'm] more excited today, more nervous back then," Weiss said when asked to compare the emotions of both days. "But it's cool that it falls on the same day. My mom's in town, so it's nice. Hopefully we'll have something fun to talk about after the game."

Earlier this season, Weiss became Florida's all-time leader in games played. But he has yet to play a game in the postseason.

That's likely to change this year, with Florida's magic number down to two to clinch a playoff berth and the Southeast Division title. That means a victory over Winnipeg on Tuesday will give the Panthers the first division title in franchise history.

"We've got to win," Weiss said. "We know what's at stake. The key is not to think about it, just go through your normal routine that you usually do. Saying that, we've got to have a little extra bite tonight, for sure. We don't want to keep this thing going. We want to finish it off tonight, and we're playing a good hockey club, so we'll have our hands full."

Weiss actually got an early birthday present Monday night from Steven Stamkos, a fellow Ontario native with whom he often trains in the summer.

It was Stamkos' two late goals, including the game-winner with 1:03 left in regulation, that gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 victory over Washington on Monday night and put the Panthers on the brink of clinching the division title.

"Stammer came through for us at the end," Weiss said. "Gave Stammer a little text there, told him I love him, there at the end of the game. It was big for us, obviously.

"I'm rooting for him to get 60 [goals] obviously. That was a big goal for him and for us, so I thought I'd just give him a little text."

With Stamkos having done his part, Weiss and his teammates now have the chance to make it a truly memorable birthday.

"It's got the makings to be a good day," Weiss said. "We'll put all that aside for now and just focus on going through our routine and our process and playing hard for 60 minutes, and see what happens."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Playoffs, division title within Panthers' grasp Tuesday

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers are doing their best to remain focused, but they're also well aware what's at stake Tuesday night.

With a victory over the Winnipeg Jets at the BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers not only will secure the organization's first playoff berth since 2000, they also will clinch the first division title in franchise history.

"We're excited as a group," veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "We've worked all year for games like this. We obviously know the importance of it, what it means to this group of guys, this franchise."

The Panthers can extend their lead over Washington in the Southeast Division to five points with a victory Tuesday, and the Capitals have only two games left -- including one Thursday at home against Florida.

When they picked up a point in a 2-1 shootout loss at Detroit on Sunday, the Panthers already knew they could clinch a playoff spot Tuesday. But Washington's 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night, when Steve Stamkos scored the game-winner with 1:03 left in regulation, set up the division-clinching scenario.

Coach Kevin Dineen said he didn't watch the game, instead waiting for the start of the NCAA Tournament championship game between Kentucky and Kansas. Dineen did say he was made aware of the score by family members.

All Panthers players interviewed after the morning skate Tuesday, on the other hand, saw Stamkos' late-game heroics.

"I kind of let out a good jump on the couch when he scored with around a minute left," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We want to get in and work hard by doing what we need to do. But definitely you're always scoreboard-watching at this time of the season. But now we need to take care of our business."

The Panthers, whose playoff drought is the longest in NHL history, have held first place in the Southeast for 123 days this season, including the last 38.

They've managed to hold off Washington despite winning only once in their last seven games, largely because of their ability to pick up points most outings.

But after going 1-2-4 during that stretch, Florida needs a victory Tuesday to make the playoffs a reality.

"It's an exciting time for us, for sure," Dineen said. "We're confident, but also we understand there's still lots of hockey to be played in this season. It's quiet confidence with the understanding that, as always, work has to come before any kind of carrots. Certainly our players are ready to go in and put in a solid effort tonight."

In Winnipeg, the Panthers will be facing a team that saw its playoff hopes disappear in its last game.

But the Panthers aren't about to take the Jets lightly. Florida has won three of the first five meetings, but was shut out 7-0 the last time it faced the Jets, March 1 at Winnipeg.

After Tuesday, the Panthers have games remaining -- at Washington on Thursday, and at home against Carolina on Saturday. But they want those two points right away.

"You want to take anything the first opportunity you get," Campbell said. "We know what our schedule is like. It's been grueling over the last couple of weeks. It's a good challenge. If we play like we played in Detroit, we're going to have a lot of success.

"We're just trying to lock up a playoff spot here, and it's a great opportunity tonight. We've got a great challenge with Winnipeg and being at home is pretty exciting."

Dineen has spoken several times in recent weeks of being happy his team was relevant late in the season. With a victory Tuesday night, the Panthers will be relevant in the postseason.

"Obviously, there's a lot of clarity that we can do things here at home," Dineen said. "There's still some work to do, and we need to go out and take care of our business. It's right there in front of us."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 2:43 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sabres add new twist to "dad's trip" - moms

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Buffalo Sabres’ traveling party to Florida for a two-game swing against the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning was a little larger than usual because it’s the team’s annual parent trip.

But there’s a new twist this year: Instead of players being limited to inviting their father to come along, this year they were given the option of inviting their mother.

The reason was simple, said Coach Lindy Ruff.

“Well, we had too many upset mothers who didn’t get to go in the past,” Ruff said with a smile. “So we had to level the playing field eventually. If you keep doing it the same, it loses some of the spark. We’ve thought about bringing a brother, bringing maybe your best friend along, we’ve thought about different things.

“There’s different ways you can go. If you had a childhood friend you grew up and you were able to share that experience with him, chance of a lifetime. I know that the mothers are really excited. It was a great option for guys.”

Captain Jason Pominville brought along his father, but that was only after his mother changed her mind after first saying she wanted to travel south.

“It’s fun,” Pominville said. “It’s a great experience for him. I know they’ll have a lot of activities and they’ll be all over the place throughout the course of the day. It’s just fun to be able to have him with us and see what we basically do every day and our traveling and the way we’re treated in every city. It’s a pretty unique opportunity for all the dads or the moms that are here.”

Along with mothers and fathers, Tyler Myers brought along his grandmother. She won’t get to see him play, however, as he will serve the second game of his three-game suspension Saturday night against the Panthers and the third Monday night against the Lightning.

The practice of bringing parents on trips is spread throughout the NHL, although it’s usually done early in the season and not in March when teams are involved in playoff races.

“It’s a little bit more intense,” Ruff admitted, “but when we looked at it, the ideal time and how we wanted to work it, if you look at what they’re doing on game days, they’re staying busy, it really is no 
big hassle.”

Ruff said having mothers and fathers around actually might bring out the best in his players.

“I think some of the moms would be harder on them than I am,” he said. “It’s a good thing because you want to perform. You’ve got one of your parents there and you don’t’ want to let them down at the same time. It cuts both ways.”

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers try again for elusive fourth straight win

SUNRISE, Fla. — This is where it has gotten tricky for the Florida Panthers.

For the fifth time this season, they’re riding a three-game winning streak as heading into Saturday night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres at the BankAtlantic Center.

But they’re still looking for that first four-game winning streak. In fact, the Panthers haven’t won four in a row since March of 2008 when they set a franchise record by reeling off seven consecutive victories.

That’s four years without a four-game winning streak.

“Let’s try to have tonight be the night to break that whole image of the Florida Panthers win streak,” said wing Kris Versteeg, who will be back in the lineup after missing the last nine games with a lower-body injury.

The Sabres already stopped one Florida three-game winning streak this season with a 2-1 overtime decision at Buffalo on Dec. 9.

Florida had another three-game streak end with an overtime loss, this time at Tampa Bay on Nov. 25.

But the last two three-game streaks ended with a thud, with a 6-2 home loss to Ottawa on Feb. 15 and with a 7-0 rout at Winnipeg on March 1.

The Panthers got their current streak with home victories over Carolina (2-0), Toronto (5-2) and Boston (6-2).

A victory over Buffalo would conclude a perfect 4-0 homestand. A victory in regulation would give Florida its first four-game streak of regulation victories since all the way back in February of 2001 — two of the victories in the March 2008 came in overtime.

More importantly, though, a victory over Buffalo would get the Panthers closer to a playoff berth, something they haven’t done since 2000.

“We look at this as a key stretch and we’re still right in the middle of it,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “We have to respect our opponent, know that we have a team that’s coming in that’s playing a good stretch of hockey right now and they are surging. It has great implications for us as well as them. It will make for a very exciting game, I think.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 2:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sekera back for Buffalo's playoff push

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Buffalo Sabres’ playoff push will get a boost Saturday night when defenseman Andrej Sekera returns to the lineup against the Florida Panthers.

Sekera missed the last five games after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

“I’m back healthy again and I’m ready to go,” Sekara said after Buffalo’s morning skate. “Every single time you come back from an injury or whatever, you are excited and you want to win some hockey games here with the guys. That’s our focus.”

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Sekera was playing at a high level before he was sidelined.

“Before he got sick, he might have been our top defenseman,” Ruff said. “He was playing against all the top lines. You look at his ability to hang on to the puck and get up ice and defend against the top personnel, I mean, his skating for a defenseman is at an elite level.”

Sekera last played March 5 at Winnipeg. He said he experienced flu-like symptoms, but went for further testing after three days when he wasn’t getting any better.

“I figured it might be something different because I had the bug before but it wasn’t that bad,” Sekera said. “So I called the doctor and did some more tests and they said I had pneumonia. They said it was in the early stage of it and it was in only one of my lungs so far, so I got my antibiotics and as long as the fever is not coming back, I feel pretty good.”

The sixth-year NHL veteran said he wasn’t concerned about stamina in his return to action.

“If I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t be playing,” said Sekera, who will replace Brayden McNabb in the lineup. “I feel like I’m ready and I’m playing.”

While Sekera will be back, forward Nathan Gerbe will miss a second consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. Ruff said Gerbe, who was injured in a 3-2 overtime victory Monday over Montreal, is day-to-day.

Buffalo also will be without defenseman Tyler Myers, who will be serving the second game of a three-game suspension for boarding Montreal forward Scott Gomez on Monday night.

Here is the Sabres’ projected lineup for Saturday:

Marcus Foligno - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Corey Tropp - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Ville Leino
Cody McCormick - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta

Christian Ehrhoff - Alexander Sulzer
Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Jordan Leopold - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Versteeg, Kulikov return for Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — After coach Kevin Dineen said all week that Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov were close to returning to action, the next step finally has come and both players will be in the lineup when   the Florida Panthers face the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

Versteeg missed the last nine games because of a lower-body injury. He was the team’s leading scorer with 49 points when he went out, but has since dropped to third behind Tomas Fleischmann (51) and Stephen Weiss (50).

The three have played on the same line for most of the season, but Versteeg is expected to skate Saturday night alongside Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias.

“I want to be a help to the team in any way I can,” said Versteeg, who last played during the Panthers’ 4-2 victory over Montreal on Feb. 26. “I guess a couple of weeks ago we had a little bit of a rough run, but the last three games the guys have been clicking. You don’t want to come in and do too much to the chemistry, but you do want to come in and help.”

As for Kulikov, he’ll return after missing 23 games after undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 24.

Kulikov figures to be paired again with veteran Mike Weaver.

“It’s been a long time,” Kulikov said. “I’ve been looking forward to this night. I’ve been looking forward to coming back and helping out the team. Obviously, guys are doing good right now. I just want to get into the rhythm and don’t mess up the thing.”

After undergoing surgery, Kulikov said the knee had been bothering to some degree for about five years. But he says he’s 100 percent now.

“When you’re injured, you’re working even harder than the guys that are playing,” Kulikov said. “That’s what they prepare you for. It’s hard, but that needs to be done, those workouts and preparation for the games. I feel fresh right now. I feel like I have lots of energy.

“You don’t go into the game and get used to the game. You don’t have time for that. You just have to go out there and pick up where you left off or even better. It’s going to be tough, but we’ll see how it 
goes.”

The return of Versteeg and Kulikov made for some tough lineup decisions for Dineen, whose team is riding a three-game winning streak.

“A guy like Marco Sturm that I felt played the best game I’ve seen him play in a Panthers uniform (Thursday against Boston) is making those decisions extremely tough,” Dineen said. “When you get a coveted spot in this lineup, your job is to make sure that the coaches have a tough decision every day in how they’re putting their lineup together every day.

“That’s exactly what you want. You want enthusiasm and some kind of production ... it may not be on the score sheet, but there has to be a positive effect for every player in the lineup for us to be successful. That’s how our sales job right now.”

It is Sturm’s spot on the Matthias line that Versteeg will take against Buffalo, but Sturm is expected to be in the lineup anyway skating with John Madden and Jerred Smithson.

Here is the Panthers’ projected lineup for Saturday night against Buffalo.

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Wojtek Wolski
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 3:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers see returns of Versteeg, Kulikov near

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov stayed on the ice after the morning skate Thursday and they'll once again be out of the lineup when the Florida Panthers face Boston Thursday night.

But their long-awaited return appears imminent. In fact, it very well might come as early as Saturday when the Panthers wrap up a four-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.

"Getting closer, that's the good part," said Kulikov, who will miss his 23rd game since undergoing knee surgery. "I'm practicing with the team. So excited to be out there with the guys. Just waiting for my comeback."

Versteeg, for his part, will miss his ninth consecutive game with a lower-body injury.

Despite not having played since Feb. 26, Versteeg is tied with Tomas Fleischmann for the team lead in goals (22) and points (49).

Kulikov, meanwhile, appeared on his way to a breakout season in his third year in the NHL. Despite having played only 42 games, the 2009 first-round pick is only two points shy of his career high of 26.

"Kuli was so impressive at the beginning of the year," coach Kevin Dineen said. "For a young player, he shows a great deal of maturity and stability. He's been sorely missed. We're excited about his imminent return."

The return of Versteeg and Kulikov no doubt will provide a major boost for a Florida team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Even with those two, the Panthers won't be completely healthy, as forwards Matt Bradley and Jack Skille are both likely out for the season with upper-body injuries.

But Versteeeg and Kulikov are two important pieces for the Panthers, and Dineen will find himself with some tough lineup decisions going forward.

"It's hard decisions," Dineen said, "and that's a good reflection on what Dale Tallon has done here to give us the depth to be healthy and to have options in the playoff run. And that's what we’re looking for."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers have their sights set on No. 2 seed

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have spent a good part of the season trying to hold off the Washington Capitals and stay atop the Southeast Division to land the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, but they've started thinking about a bigger target.

The Panthers now have their eye on the second seed and the Boston Bruins, tonight's opponents at the BankAtlantic Center.

Boston will come in with a four-point lead (83-79) over Florida, and both teams will have 12 games remaining after Thursday night.

Heading into last Saturday, the Bruins had an eight-point lead over Florida with a game in hand, so the idea of landing the No. 2 seed seemed out of reach for the Panthers.

But Boston has lost its last three and the Panthers have won their last two, making Thursday night's fourth and final meeting between the teams a crucial one.

"We do talk about where our situation is and we do look at this as a four-point game," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "I know we're playing -- excuse the pun -- a bit of a wounded bear right now after their game in Tampa. We know we're going to have our hands full. This is the kind of game we are going to play down the stretch, and I don't think the timing could be any better for us. It's going to be a great challenge for us.

"It’s a team well-respected in our locker room and throughout the League, and when a team like that goes through a little bit of a drought right now, you know they're going to come out very hungry and angry. I think that's what we need as a team as well. We need to have ourselves a game that's incredibly competitive, and that's what I would expect tonight."

In the Southeast Division, Florida has only a one-point lead over Washington, but also has a game in hand. Winnipeg is five points behind the Panthers, but also has played one more game. The Capitals and Jets meet Friday night in Winnipeg.

But the Panthers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000, are trying not to get too caught up in the standings.

"You can't look five games ahead," defenseman Mike Weaver said. "You've just got to concentrate on this game. This is huge. Every single period, every single shift, every single time you touch the puck, it's going to be like a playoff game.

"We've really got to keep this thing going. We've won two games, but I want to say we haven't been up against an opponent like Boston. That's going to be a really huge test. That's why you prepare in the summer, that's why you work hard, this is why you ride the bike, do your long jogs and runs, you prepare for situations like these."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Defending champs hit stretch run seeking answers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Boston Bruins wrap up a three-game road trip Thursday night at Florida looking to avoid being swept. Just as important, the defending Stanley Cup champions are looking for answers.

Boston didn't just lose at Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in its last two games, the Bruins were embarrassed by scores of 5-2 and 6-1.

The blowout losses have given Thursday night's game against the Panthers added importance beyond the tightening Eastern Conference standings, and center Patrice Bergeron realizes the level of urgency his team is feeling.

"It's high," he said. "We need to find answers. We need to build some ground and get those points. It's a huge game for us right now. We know there's not much time left before the end of the season and we need to get on a roll. We're not happy with the way we're playing right now and we need to find answers."

Boston will enter Thursday's game on an overall three-game losing streak, during which it has been outscored 15-6. The 15 goals represents the most goals the Bruins have allowed over a three-game span all season.

There have been problems lately in all facets.

Over their last six games, the Bruins are 0-for-13 on the power play. In their last five, they've allowed five power-play goals on 16 chances.

And then there's the slow starts. In their last three losses, the Bruins have found themselves down by at least two goals in the first 8:15 every time. Against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, it was 3-0 after only 4:31.

"I wish there was one answer because then it would be easy to address it," center Chris Kelly said. "When you get behind the 8-ball like we have, you put yourself in a tough, tough position, especially at this point in the year. Teams have found their game, especially defensively when they go up by one, let alone two or three or even four. Our starts are key, and we need to be much, much better starting hockey games."

Coach Claude Julien looks at the overall picture and says the Bruins need to go back to playing more of a team game.

"We're not a team that relies on one or two players to bail us out, we've done it by community in the past," Julien said. "We also realize what we have here and what we're all about, and our strength has been as a pack, not as individuals. So we need to play within our strengths, and if we're going to get ourselves out of it, like a lot of players have told you, it's not about one guy. It's about all of us picking up our game and putting us back in the right direction."

Despite the Bruins' recent struggles, don't think for a second the Panthers will be taking them lightly. If nothing else, they remember too well the teams' Dec. 23 meeting in Boston that ended in an 8-0 rout for the home team.

"That's a team that put a pretty good Christmas beating on us on the 23rd, sent us on our break licking our wounds a little bit," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "You know what, every team has their stretches where you go through droughts. Boston's success has come in great quantum bunches. Right now it's not happening that way, but too much respect for that organization and that coaching staff to (think) that they won't be ready and prepared for tonight's game."

As they try to break out of their funk, the Bruins can found some solace in their ability to overcome adversity last year on their way to the Stanley Cup title.

They could even look at their only other three-game losing streak this season, which occurred in late October. After the third consecutive loss, 4-2 at Montreal on Oct. 29, the Bruins reeled off 10 consecutive victories -- the longest winning streak in the NHL this season.

"No one is feeling sorry for us around the League or around the hockey world," Bergeron said. "We're in this together, and that's how we're going to get out of it. We can learn from experiences in the past that we have the character to come out of it. We've just got to go out there and do it."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Banged-up Bergeron still expects to play for Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Patrice Bergeron is one of four Boston Bruins to not miss a game this season, and it appears his streak will continue Thursday night against Florida despite two leg injuries in the last two games.

After being the only player on Boston's active roster not to practice Wednesday, one night after he was hit in the back of the leg by a slap shot from teammate Johnny Boychuk, Bergeron skated Thursday morning.

Coach Claude Julien said Bergeron would be a game-time decision, but the Bruins center sounded optimistic he would be ready to go against the Panthers.

"I felt OK," Bergeron said. "I'd like to be 100 percent, but that's part of the game and I'll be alright for tonight, hopefully. I've got to play through it. I'm no different than anyone else. It's part of the game. It shouldn't be an excuse."

Bergeron played only one shift in the third period of Sunday's 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh because of a lower-body injury, but that's unrelated to the injury sustained in the 6-1 loss at Tampa Bay Tuesday.

In that game, Bergeron was able to come back after missing only one shift. The center said there's no danger of aggravating the injury, that it's just a matter of pain tolerance.

Bergeron added he did see the shot from Boychuk.

"I just couldn't get out of the way," Bergeron said. "It's just one of those things where you're there, but you hope it's not going to hit you. But it did. Johnny's got a pretty good shot."

Among the other small group of Bruins players who skated Thursday morning was forward Benoit Pouliot, who has missed the last three games because of a lower-body injury.

He also will be a game-time decision.

Tim Thomas, who was pulled after one period against Pittsburgh in his last start before replacing Marty Turco Tuesday, is expected to start in net.

For the Panthers, Jose Theodore is expected to make his sixth consecutive start. Since a 5-0 loss at Philadelphia last Thursday, Theodore has allowed only three goals on 96 shots in his last three outings.

Up front, veteran Marco Sturm is expected to be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch four of the last six games. Sturm, who spent four-plus seasons with Boston before being traded to Los Angeles in December 2010, is expected to replace Mike Santorelli on the third line alongside Shawn Matthias and Tomas Kopecky.

Here are the projected lineups for the Bruins and Panthers:

BRUINS
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Caron
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Trent Whitfield - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Marty Turco

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Wojtek Wolski
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Marco Sturm - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 3:22 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' roster has distinct Ontario flavor

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' roster features eight players born in Ontario, so they've looked forward to games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The whole team has had another reason to look forward to Tuesday night's fourth and final meeting of the season at the BankAtlantic Center: Florida's dominance over the Leafs in 2011-12.

The Panthers took the first three games, winning by scores of 5-1, 5-3 and 5-3.

To put Florida's offensive output in perspective, consider that the Panthers have scored five goals or more only eight times in 68 games.

Taking it a step further, the Panthers have played 41 games since beating Washington 5-4 at home on Dec. 5. They've reached five goals in two of those 41 games -- you guessed it, both times against Toronto.

"I don't know, sometimes there's just those teams you just have your way with some nights," said Panthers center Shawn Matthias, a native of Mississauga, Ontario. "Don't want to jinx it right now. With the games that we played against the Leafs, we had a lot of goals where we were driving wide and just shooting and keeping things simple and just playing hard. That's what we've got to do every night to be successful. Some nights the puck is just not going in. You just stick to the basics, and hopefully we can start scoring every night."

Goals have been hard to come by for the Panthers in March. They have been shut out twice this month, scored one goal twice and were held to one goal by Carolina on Sunday before they scored an empty-netter to make it 2-0.

That's what coach Kevin Dineen was focused on as he prepared for Tuesday's game, not the earlier offensive success against the Leafs.

"That's one stat I don't buy too much into," Dineen said. "You feel where your team is, the ebbs and flows of a season and where we're at right now, there's a large sense of desperation in our game, as well as the Leafs. It has the mixture of a pretty good hockey game.

"You look at your previous games against a team, but you also look at your most recent production and our production recently probably is where the focus is, because we haven't been that strong. Obviously, we've had a couple of strong games in Toronto. Might be the amount of representation our team has from Ontario that guys are certainly up for it, but it's been a good matchup thus far."

Florida's offense against Toronto has been well spread out, with 13 different players scoring the 15 goals.

In the first two meetings, the Panthers chased the Maple Leafs' starting goalie -- Jonas Gustavsson at Toronto on Nov. 8 and James Reimer at Florida on Dec. 27.

"They've got a good team over there that moves the puck very well, a good power play," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We've got to be a little bit tighter from the three previous games. They've gotten a little bit too much on us. We haven't played tight enough against them, but to their credit they've got a highly offensive team that's got a lot of speed and they've got a good back end. We know that it's going to be a challenge for us to shut them down, but we've got to play a little bit tighter."

Toronto's first visit to the BankAtlantic Center this season during the Christmas holidays drew 20,406, the Panthers' largest home crowd this season. There should be another big crowd Tuesday night.

That only added to the anticipation for Matthias and the Panthers' other Ontario natives -- Stephen Weiss, Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Weaver, Erik Gudbranson, Krystofer Barch and John Madden.

"Being a Canadian kid, you get jacked up against all the Canadian cities," Matthias said. "Especially the Leafs, being from Mississauga, a Toronto-area native. You know everyone back home is watching you play, it's just exciting, and there's quite a few people I know in the stands tonight. So it should be fun."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs seek solutions to scoring woes

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to snap out of a funk that has seen them lose 14 of their last 16 games, and the first step would be finding a way to score.

The Leafs will go into Tuesday night's game at Florida coming off back-to-back shutout losses -- 1-0 in a shootout at home against Philadelphia, and 2-0 at Washington.

Toronto has gone 157:24 since its last goal, a deflection by defenseman Carl Gunnarsson that gave the Maple Leafs a 2-0 second-period lead at Pittsburgh in a game they would lose 3-2.

"We've just got to keep getting to the net and keep getting in front of the goalies and getting rebounds and getting some dirty goals," forward Joey Crabb said. "When you're in a slump a little bit, then you've just got to do the dirty things that get you goals and maybe not so much the pretty tic-tac-toe plays."

Randy Carlyle, who replaced Ron Wilson as Leafs coach on March 2, said his team needs more control of the puck in the offensive zone as well as creating more traffic in front of the net.

"The new term in hockey is take the goaltender's eyes away with the middle-net drive, the net presence," he said. "You've got to create more offensive zone time, which in turn usually wears down the opposition, creates more chances and draws penalties. Instead of playing the one-and-out game, if we can play more of an offensive zone control game and move off the puck, cycle the puck, do all of those things, then it should increase the chances to score.

"The offensive zone time that you are able to create gives your team a lift because it's a lot more fun to play in the offensive zone than it is in the defensive zone. That's what we're trying to sell."

Of course, it doesn't help Toronto's cause that wing Joffrey Lupul has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury that's expected to keep him out until the end of the month.

Lupul is second on the team behind Phil Kessel and tied for eighth in the League with Chicago's Marian Hossa with 67 points, and his speed created some space for Kessel.

"Lups' speed has opened up the ice for both (Tyler) Bozak and Kessel," Carlyle said. "I don't think they have that same element with a Tim Connolly, but I think Tim Connolly's playmaking ability when he gets the puck should be able to create time and space for them."

The Leafs have lost four in a row since beating Montreal in Carlyle's debut on March 3, but the four losses have been by a combined five goals.

Their current 2-12-2 skid has dropped the Maple Leafs to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings, and they're eight points behind eighth-place Washington with 13 games left.

If nothing else, Toronto put together respectable performances in its recent losses to the Bruins, Penguins, Flyers and Capitals.

The Maple Leafs are looking to do the same against Florida and hoping to finally find the back of the net.

"We've got to focus on both ends of the ice," Crabb said. "We've had a couple of good defensive games and we can't let that go just because we haven't scored in a couple of games. The goals will come. As long as we stay stingy defensively like we have been, then we'll be set."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Injured Panthers not yet ready to return

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers might have forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov back in the lineup sometime during their current four-game homestand, but it won't be Tuesday night against Toronto.

Coach Kevin Dineen said both Versteeg, who is tied with Tomas Fleischmann for the team lead in goals (22) and points (49), and Kulikov also were doubtful for Thursday's game against Boston but wouldn't rule out the possibility they’d return for the last game of the homestand, Saturday against Buffalo.

Versteeg has missed the last seven games because of a lower-body injury, while Kulikov has missed 21 after undergoing knee surgery in January.

Forward Jack Skille, meanwhile, definitely won't play during the homestand and there's a possibility he might be done for the season.

Skille sustained an upper-body injury in Friday night’s 2-1 shootout loss at Pittsburgh when he collided with teammate Sean Bergenheim.

Earlier this season, Skille sat out 20 games with a shoulder injury that occurred when he slammed into the boards while attempting to throw a body check.

"I know it's going to be a while, certainly long term," Dineen said. "Until I hear the actual words that he's done for the season, that hasn't been told to me yet, but I would not expect to see him certainly for quite a while."

Dineen didn't indicate who would start in net for the Panthers on Tuesday, but it seems likely Jose Theodore will make his fifth consecutive start.

After allowing five goals on 35 shots during Thursday's 5-0 loss at Philadelphia, Theodore stopped 67 of 68 shots in the last two games -- the shootout loss at Pittsburgh and a 2-0 victory against Carolina on Sunday.

For the Leafs, Jonas Gustavsson has started the last six games, but coach Randy Carlyle also declined to say who would be in the net Tuesday night.

Instead of Gustavsson, Carlyle could choose to go with James Reimer, whose last start came Feb. 28 against those same Florida Panthers when he gave up five goals on 23 shots in a 5-3 loss.

Here are Tuesday's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Panthers.

MAPLE LEAFS
Tim Connolly - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Carter Ashton - David Steckel - Joey Crabb
Colby Armstrong - Matthew Lombardi - Matt Frattin

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Mike Komisarek
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson

PANTHERS
Wojtek Wolski - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Fleischmann
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers says Versteeg won't play next two games

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — The Florida Panthers have been without leading scorer Kris Versteeg for their past four games, and they’ll almost certainly be without him for their back-to-back set at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Thursday and Friday.

Versteeg has been out with a lower-body injury, with The Miami Herald reporting that it’s a hip problem.

“I don’t think we’re very confident that we’ll have him back this week,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after practice Tuesday. “I hate being so vague, but that’s really where we are. It’s a little beyond day-to-day, but it’s certainly not considered a long-term injury. We don’t expect him for our next couple of games and then we’ll re-evaluate at that time. We’re kind of in that stage right now. We’re looking at it in three- and four-day increments.”

Following the two games in Pennsylvania, the Panthers return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Versteeg leads the Southeast Division-leading Panthers with 49 points, including a team-high 22 goals.

Prior to sitting out Florida’s 5-3 victory at Toronto on Feb. 28, Versteeg had gone six games without a goal.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Senators-Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kaspars Daugavins had a season-high two points in Ottawa's last visit to the BankAtlantic Center, but he won't get the chance to duplicate that performance against the Florida Panthers Sunday.

Senators coach Paul MacLean said after the optional morning skate that Daugavins would be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game. Center Zack Smith, meanwhile, will be scratched for the first time this season.

"We can only play 20 and you have to play well to play," MacLean said. "At this point in the season, people are playing better and that's why they're not playing. You have to earn the right to play in the league and you have to play well on a game-by-game basis. We evaluate on a game-by-game basis and at this point the other 12 forwards are playing better."

MacLean also said that rookie Robin Lehner would make his fourth consecutive start in net. Lehner is 3-1 with a 1.50 GAA, his only defeat coming Friday night when he stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 2-1 loss against Chicago.

For the Panthers, defenseman Ed Jovanovski is expected to return to the lineup after being given what Coach Kevin Dineen called a "maintenance day" Saturday and sitting out the 3-1 loss against Nashville.

With Florida carrying seven defensemen, Dineen will have a decision to make when it comes to who to sit. Rookie Erik Gudbranson didn't play in the last 13 minutes of Saturday's game after he was involved in a bad line change that led to the final goal.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Forwards
Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil
Colin Greening - Zenon Konopka - Erik Condra

Defensemen
Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Gilroy

Goalie
Robin Lehner

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Forwards
Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Wojtek Wolski
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Marco Sturm - Jerred Smithson - Mike Santorelli

Defensemen
Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Brian Campbell
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Goalies
Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 12:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Klinkhammer gets into Sens lineup for the first time

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Three months after being acquired in a trade with Chicago, forward Rob Klinkhammer will play his first game for the Ottawa Senators Sunday at Florida.

It will be the second NHL game overall for Klinkhammer, who was called up from Binghamton of the AHL on Saturday.

Klinkhammer, acquired Dec. 3 for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013, made his NHL debut on Dec. 8, 2010 with the Blackhawks.

"I'm just super excited," Klinkhammer said after Ottawa's optional morning skate. "I'm just glad to be here, so thankful to get an opportunity and I'm just going to try to make the most of it and have some fun and try not to be too nervous."

Klinkhammer, who will start off playing on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris against Florida, had 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 35 games with Binghamton. Prior to the trade, he had only six points in 18 games for Chicago's AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

"He's worked real hard, can really skate, can make plays, and his work ethic is probably his best attribute," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "We like that. We're still looking for depth on our team and we're going to give him the opportunity to be a part of it."

Another Binghamton player soon will be joining Klinkhammer in Ottawa, with MacLean saying goalie Ben Bishop would get a start for the Senators before too long.

Bishop was acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 26 in exchange for a second-round pick. In his first two starts in Binghamton, Bishop stopped 82 of 85 shots for an exceptional .965 save percentage.

With Craig Anderson out with a hand injury, rookie Robin Lehner has started the last three games for Ottawa and he'll again get the call against Florida Sunday.

"We do have plans for Ben Bishop that we want to see him play in some games," MacLean said. "Obviously it's not tonight. That could change after that or moving forward next week. With this injury to Craig Anderson, we fully plan to take a look at Ben Bishop. We want to make sure he's comfortable and he's ready to come up and play a game before we do anything. He's playing well down there, Robin is playing well up here, so we're going to monitor it and evaluate it on a daily basis."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nashville influence sprinkled throughout Florida roster

SUNRISE, Fla. — Because of Dale Tallon, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky, much has been made of the influence the Chicago Blackhawks have had on the success of the Florida Panthers.

To a lesser degree, the Panthers can also thank Saturday night's opponents, the Nashville Predators.

Tallon's right-hand man is Assistant GM Mike Santos, who spent four seasons as Nashville's director of hockey operations before joining the Panthers in 2010.

The Florida roster also includes four former Predators players — Mike Santorelli, Marcel Goc, Scottie Upshall and Jerred Smithson, who was obtained Feb. 24.

Asked about the Panthers' surprising run to the top of the Southeast Division this season, Nashville coach Barry Trotz mentioned the role of his organization.

"There's a lot of Chicago parts, there's a lot of Nashville parts sprinkled all over the Panthers roster," Trotz said after Saturday's morning skate. "Those are two pretty good organizations that you want to get people from. We've been a pretty diligent organization, we've been a competitive team, we've got good growth, good culture and I think Chicago does. They won a Stanley Cup. Dale was very familiar with the parts they brought from Chicago and Mike's very familiar with the parts they got from Nashville. Getting good people, which they have, gives them a real good chance to do what they've done so far."

First-year Panthers coach Kevin Dineen expressed his admiration for the Nashville organization, which has never had a head coach other than Trotz.

Dineen can appreciate that kind of stability, having worked for the Sabres organization before joining Florida. The only coach in the League with a longer tenure than Trotz is Buffalo's Lindy Ruff.

"(GM) David Poile and Barry Trotz have really been a good tandem," Dineen said. "Coming from the stability of a Buffalo organization where Lindy and (GM) Darcy (Regier) have been in the same situation for that length, I think what it does is it takes away a lot of outside excuses, it gives people a chance to go out and do their work.

"It's not a feeling of comfort, but there's this feeling of trust. You know the San Antonio Spurs are the same way. They're
organizations that are built where you bring in quality people and you let them go do their job. Things don't happen overnight, and we're certainly in that stage now. Nashville certainly is an organization that you can pick up some things from."

While the Panthers are trying this season to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2000, Nashville appears headed for its seventh postseason trip in the past eight seasons.

The Predators haven't experienced a lot of postseason success, but they're shooting for a deep playoff run after acquiring veterans Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad at or around this year's trade deadline.

"They're trying to make a statement on and off the ice," Dineen said. "They've been consistently a good hockey team, they go out, they play a very well-structured style of game and they are a hard-working team. You know those expectations are there and in addition to that at the trade deadline they brought in a few players. Paul Gaustad, I was associated with him in the Buffalo organization, so I certainly know what he can bring to the table. I think it's a statement to their fan base and their players that they're serious about being a contender."

Saturday's game will be the only meeting between Florida and Nashville this season.

With the teams in different conferences, Trotz said he wanted to see the Panthers do well, given the former members of the 
organization on the team.

"There's a real good connection with the Preds here," he said. "Other than tonight, I wish them a lot of good luck.

"They want our people, people that have been in our organization. I do take pride in that. Tonight I have no friends on the Panthers side. We have friends, but we want to get the two points."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Florida's Smithson excited to face former team

SUNRISE, Fla. — Jerred Smithson admitted he began thinking about Saturday's game almost immediately after being traded by Nashville to Florida eight days ago.

After spending 6-1/2 seasons with Nashville, Smithson was traded to the Panthers on Feb. 24 in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and he will face his former team for the first time Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

"I looked right away, actually," Smithson said. "I knew we were coming to Florida fairly soon. That's kind of one game there I had circled in my head that I was looking forward to. Once I get that first shift out of the way, it'll feel a lot better and it's just a hockey game."

Smithson never recorded more than 16 points in a season after signing with Nashville in the first season after the lockout, but he was considered a big part of the Predators nonetheless because of his faceoff prowess, his work ethic and his locker-room presence.

Coach Barry Trotz thought enough of him that he called him after the trade.

"He was one of those guys who helped develop a pretty good culture," Trotz said Saturday. "He was a Predator. He was a guy who was discarded by L.A., signed by Nashville and sort of worked his way as an American League player to the NHL as a role player to a real diligent checker with our team, and he was a big part of the culture. He brings professional, he brings honesty to his game and a work ethic. Smitty made himself a player."

Smithson and Trotz chatted at the morning skate Saturday.

The 33-year-old center called Saturday's game "tough."

"At the end of the day, it's just a hockey game," he said. "They're all buddies over there, but they're going out there to win a hockey game, as are we. We'll go out there and play hard and do my usual thing and hopefully come out with two points."

Smithson is one of three former Nashville players on the Panthers along with Marcel Goc and Mike Santorelli.

His familiarity with the Predators came into play in preparation for this game.

"I've told them what I know and what I can help them out with," Smithson said. "At the end of the day, it's just us going out there and executing and going out there and working hard. We had a long day yesterday, so it's important for us to get a good stretch in and good sweat and just go out there and execute our game plan. That's going to be work ethic. It's going to be a tough game. Both teams can really wheel and deal and have a lot of speed, so it should be exciting."

In four games with the Panthers, Smithson has yet to record a point, but he's won 57.2 percent of his faceoffs. One of the few bright spots in Thursday's 7-0 loss at Winnipeg was Smithson's 7-for-9 performance on draws.

"Jerred Smithson has come in and done a good job for us," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's given us some great options."

Smithson didn't get the chance to visit with some of his former teammates Friday night because the Panthers didn't return from Winnipeg until close to midnight.

"I text the guys here and there, but I'm not quite sure on that end what's going on," he said. "I've gotten a lot of text messages and phone calls from the guys wishing me luck and thanking me and vice versa. They'll always be good friends and I'll stay in contact with them. Just another chapter."

Saturday night, though, it's all business.

Smithson did joke when he was asked whether there was any Nashville player in particular he wanted to hit.

"I'll just go out there and play hard, there's a few guys," he said. "No, I'm just kidding. It should be fun. I'm excited."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers insist travel issues home are no excuse

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers were back on their home ice Saturday morning, looking to put behind what became a nightmarish trip to Winnipeg.

As if their 7-0 loss Thursday night weren't bad enough, the Panthers then had to wait more than nine hours at the airport before they finally were able to fly home Friday night.

Coach Kevin Dineen, however, said the travel ordeal should have no effect on Saturday night's home game against the Nashville Predators.

"It makes for a little bit of a tougher today when you come off a pretty good beating in Winnipeg in more than one way," he said after the morning skate. "We had some travel issues as well. You know what? That's part of our business.

"That's an excuse. We haven't used excuses at all this year. We feel that the game is on schedule, it was a tough day for us getting home yesterday but that, by far, doesn't factor into today's game or tonight's performance."

The Panthers were stuck in Winnipeg because of plane issues.

After arriving at the airport around 8:30 a.m., they had to wait until about 6 p.m. before the flight departed. It landed in Fort Lauderdale around 11:15 p.m.

Some players read, others spent time on their computers, others walked around the terminal.

"A lot of cards, a lot of talking," said defenseman Erik Gudbranson. "A couple of guys fell asleep on the plane and passed the time there. I watched a couple movies myself.

"I watched ‘Last King of Scotland,' ‘Defiance,'  what else did I watch? I watched another one, I forget what it was. Read a little bit, too. Passed the time well."

For new Panthers center Jerred Smithson, the long delay provided an opportunity to get better acquainted with some of his new teammates.

"Boy, what didn't I do?" said Smithson, acquired Feb. 24 in a trade with Nashville. "There's only so much you can do in the Winnipeg airport. You walk around, you go for lunch. It actually gave me a good chance to talk to some of the other guys that I haven't really talked to too much.

"Just tried to stay loose. It was such a long time, especially mentally, too. Physically, it was tough, but mentally you just wanted to get home and kind of relax. No big deal. It's part of the game, I guess. It doesn't happen every day, thank God."

Also on the agenda was a quick review of Thursday night's game, one which didn't feature many highlights for the Southeast Division-leading Panthers.

"Obviously we went over some video and some clips and we took the time necessary to review what happened and we thought about it, let it sink in," Gudbranson said. "But that's over with, we forget about it. Those games happen. It's happened a couple of times this year, not just us, to other teams. We know that and we're just going to continue."

Gudbranson, the Panthers' 20-year-old rookie, tried to put a positive spin on the long travel day.

"Those kind of events, as much as it (stunk) while we were doing it, that's the kind of stuff that brings a team together and we laugh about it later," he said. "We made our own fun and enjoyed ourselves as much as we could and ended up getting home safely."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 2:41 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gaustad to make Predators debut

SUNRISE, Fla. — After sitting out Wednesday's game at Carolina, Paul Gaustad will make his Nashville debut Saturday night at Florida.

"I'm excited," the 30-year-old center said. "I'm looking forward. It's been a good week trying to get adjusted and acclimated. Still got to be patient, a little trial-and-error, system-wise, but I'm excited to play tonight.

"I'm going to try to approach it as any other game. That's what's made me successful and that's what I'm going to try to do tonight."

Gaustad was acquired from Buffalo at the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday in exchange for a first-round pick in this year's NHL Draft. The Predators also got a 2013 fourth-round pick in the deal.

Coach Barry Trotz said he was looking forward to seeing first-hand what Gaustad could add to this team.

"He's a big body, he's a draw guy and gives us a little more weight on the puck and physicality," Trotz said. "It makes us real solid. We can move parts around to have four pretty good lines when we want to."

Gaustad, who had seven goals and 10 assists in 56 games with Buffalo this season, has spent the week trying to get acclimated to his new team.

He missed Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Carolina because of an upper-body injury.

"It was tough for me," Gaustad said. "I wanted to play. They were really good about giving me some rest to rest up a couple of injuries that I've been having. It's healed up nicely and everything is looking good."

PREDATORS

Forwards
Sergei Kostitsyn   --   Mike Fisher   --   Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn  --  David Legwand  --  Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson  --  Nick Spaling  --  Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque  --  Paul Gaustad  --  Brandon Yip

Defensemen
Ryan Suter  --  Shea Weber
Roman Josi  --  Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon  --  Jack Hillen

Goalies
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 2:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jovanovski questionable for Predators game

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida defenseman Ed Jovanovski is a question mark for Saturday night's game against Nashville after he sat out the morning skate and the Panthers called up Tyson Strachan from the American Hockey League.

Coach Kevin Dineen, however, didn't rule out Jonavovski playing against the Predators.

"He's got a maintenance day today," Dineen said. "We'll see how he feels as we get closer to tonight."

Strachan was recalled for the second time this season. He played 12 games after being called up on Jan. 23, scoring his first NHL goal Feb. 12 in a 4 - 1 victory against the New York Islanders.

He was sent back down to San Antonio on Feb. 24 when Jason Garrison returned to the lineup.

Jovanovski played 17:11 in Thursday's 7 - 0 loss at Winnipeg and finished the game.

"As a precaution, we felt it was important to get Tyson in town just to make sure that we can fulfill a lineup tonight depending on Jovo's feeling," Dineen said.

The Panthers definitely will be without their leading scorer, Kris Versteeg, who will miss his third consecutive game with a lower - body injury. Dineen said Versteeg also will not play Sunday against Ottawa.

PANTHERS

Forwards
Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Wojtek Wolski
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Marco Sturm - Jerred Smithson - Mike Santorelli

Defensemen
Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Goalies
Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 3:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers activate Jovanovski; Garrison nears return

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' defensive corps is finally getting healthy.

Veteran Ed Jovanovski was taken off the injury list on Thursday and he's expected to be in the lineup when the Panthers face the Minnesota Wild at the BankAtlantic Center.

Jason Garrison, who leads all NHL defensemen with 13 goals, took part in Thursday's optional skate after participating in his first practice the day before. He's not going to play against Minnesota, but could make his return this weekend, either Saturday at Carolina or Sunday at home against Montreal.

The third injured Florida defenseman, Dmitry Kulikov, is expected to miss a couple more weeks after undergoing knee surgery in late January.

Jovanovski has been out since Jan. 16 when he broke his hand while fighting Boston's Daniel Paille.

"If there's one thing that anybody that's been around or has seen Eddie play, whether it was here as an 18-year-old or this year, our fan base knows that he brings a high level of intensity," coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's a player. He comes to play and he'll be a great benefit for us."

Jovanovski has missed the Panthers' last 14 games and has watched the team drop its last three, all at home.

"It's never fun watching," Jovanovski said. "The team is facing a little adversity right now and it's tough not being a part of it. But it's good to be back with the guys."

Jovanovski's return not only figures to help the Panthers on the ice, but his leadership should help a team in the heat of a battle for its first playoff berth since 2000.

"I'm excited, I think the whole team is," said rookie Erik Gudbranson, Jovanovski's defense partner. "He's a huge piece of the package we have here. He's very good in the room. That's excluding what he does on the ice. He's a veteran leader and we need him back, that's for sure."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 3:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Front end of back-to-backs has stymied Wild

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Playing back-to-back games is a tough challenge, but it's usually the second game coaches worry about.

For the Minnesota Wild, it's the front end that's been a nightmare.

When they take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night before playing at Dallas on Friday, the Wild will be looking for their first victory in the first game of back-to-back sets.

Minnesota is 0-6-1 in such games, the only point coming in a 2-1 shootout los at Nashville on Dec. 28.

The six losses came at the Islanders (2-1), at Los Angeles (5-2), against Calgary (5-2), at Winnipeg (2-1), at Vancouver (4-0) and at St. Louis (4-0).

Coach Mike Yeo brought up the unusual streak when he was asked about the possibility of goalie Matt Hackett starting at Dallas.

"There is a chance, but the one thing about that is I don't want to answer any questions about tomorrow," Yeo said. "We're a team that's 0-7 -- I just realized this -- on the first night of back-to-backs. There's a very good chance that's because we're maybe looking forward or don't quite have our sights set on the game that we're playing that day.

"This would be a game that it would be very easy for us to look beyond and look towards that Dallas game. This game for me is all about making sure that we're in this moment and understanding that there's nothing more important than this game right now."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 2:37 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Return of Peters only lineup change for Wild

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After their big 2-0 victory over Boston on Sunday, the Minnesota Wild not surprisingly will be going almost with the same lineup Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.

The only change will be the return of forward Warren Peters, who sat out the Boston game because of a suspension. He will replace Jeff Taffe, who was reassigned to Houston after Sunday's game.

On defense, that means that rookie defenseman Justin Falk again will be scratched. Coach Mike Yeo, though, is quite to point out that's not an indictment on Falk's play.

"I think our defense has played well lately," he said after Thursday's morning skate. "Certainly I would not be afraid one bit of putting him back in the lineup soon here. It's tough to sit a guy like that for sure because I know that when he's playing well he can add something to our group, but having said that, with the exception of the St. Louis game I've been pleased with the way our defense has been playing."

One defenseman who stood out in the victory over Boston, which snapped a seven-game losing streak, was Marco Scandella.

He logged 22:09 of ice time and finished with a plus-1 rating.

"He's funny, his best games have been against the Boston Bruins or when he's going out against Taylor Hall," Yeo said. "He seems to get this matchup, this role in his head of, 'OK, I've got to be good tonight,' and he looks forward to that challenge. He seems to be more aggressive, more assertive and just plays really well in those situations. It's something that maybe we have to going forward give him a specific role or assign him a task for that game to give him something to focus on and let that play out that way."

The Wild again will be without captain Mikko Koivu against Florida. He has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury and did not accompany the Wild on their two-game road trip.

Goalie Josh Harding also didn't make the trip. He was injured at practice Wednesday, but was set to make the trip anyway before he became ill. After an MRI came back negative, the plan was to have Harding join the team for Friday's game at Dallas, but he was still feeling sick on Thursday, so the plan was scrapped.

Here is Minnesota’s projected lineup:

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Devin Setoguchi
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Nick Johnson
Erik Christensen - Chad Rau - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Nick Schultz - Nate Prosser
Greg Zanon - Marek Zidlicky
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Niklas Backstrom
Matt Hackett
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 2:18 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Cullen laments missed opportunity to face brother

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Even though it's been eight years since he played for the Florida Panthers, Matt Cullen still enjoys coming to the BankAtlantic Center.

This trip, however, could have been really special.

Playing an NHL game against his brother Mark would have made it the perfect homecoming.

Unfortunately for both Cullens, Mark is back in the AHL, where he has spent the better part of the last 10 years. Mark Cullen got a shot with the Panthers earlier this season when he played an NHL game for the first time since November of 2006 and was back for another stint in December.

Matt said he and his brother talked about the possibility of facing each other during Mark's stint with the Panthers.

But when Matt plays at the BankAtlantic Center Thursday night, Mark will be preparing for a game at Peoria on Friday.

"I was disappointed for him," Matt said after Thursday's morning skate. "I know he was disappointed and he really liked it here. He's worked so hard and he's battled through so much to get an opportunity. I've always thought he's an NHL-caliber player, but that's the business. He loves it here, I know that."

Mark Cullen appeared in six games for the Panthers during his two call-ups and recorded an assist, against Toronto on Dec. 27.

Matt Cullen has 30 points in 58 games for the Wild in his 14th season. On Jan. 10, he played in his 1,000th NHL game against San Jose, and he marked the milestone by scoring in regulation and then scoring the shootout winner in a 5-4 victory.

Cullen spent parts of two seasons with the Panthers, who acquired him in a trade with Anaheim in January of 2003. After the 2003-04 season, Cullen signed as a free agent with Carolina.

"I still have some close friends in the area," Cullen said. "A lot's changed, it's been a long time. They've had a lot of turnover here since then, but definitely a place I'm still very fond of and like coming back to."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 2:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers call up pair of forwards

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will have some different faces up front Thursday night when they face the Minnesota Wild, but coach Kevin Dineen was very cryptic after the optional skate.

Jon Matsumoto and Michal Repik were called up from San Antonio on Thursday, but the Panthers were only one forward short -- the result of Matt Bradley sustaining an upper-body injury in Sunday’s 2-0 loss against Anaheim.

Asked why two forwards were called up with only one spot open, Dineen said: "Our feeling was that there's always options as far as how you're going to put a lineup on the ice. For us, both Jonathan and Michal were both playing well in San Antonio and now that gives us a little bit of depth at forward."

By all indications, center Marcel Goc could be another scratch for the Panthers. He left Wednesday's practice early, didn't take part in the optional skate and his spot in the locker room was gone on Thursday.

Goc has been centering a line between Sean Bergenheim and Mikael Samuelsson, which has cooled off after a hot stretch.

In practice this week, the Panthers also had a different top line, with Tomas Kopecky replacing Tomas Fleischmann alongside Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg.

Fleischmann worked on a line with Shawn Matthias and Mike Santorelli.

Veteran John Madden, who has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, skated on Thursday but Dineen said he would not play against Minnesota.

Here is the Panthers' projected lineup:

Tomas Kopecky - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Michal Repik - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Krystofer Barch - Jon Matsumoto - Jack Skille

Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 1:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sturggling Panthers searching for offense

SUNRISE, Fla. — Goals have been hard to come by for the Florida Panthers during their disappointing homestand. They’re hoping things will change in the finale Thursday against Minnesota.

In losing in regulation to Ottawa, Washington and Anaheim over the past week, the Panthers scored only three goals. It’s their lowest-scoring three-game stretch of the season.

The reasons for the scoring woes include a struggling power play, the absence of three regular defensemen and some occasional overpassing.

Coach Kevin Dineen also believes his team has to stop letting the opponent dictate the pace of the game.

“For us, our speed game needs to first and foremost come as a factor in every game,” he said after Thursday’s optional morning skate. “A lot of times we’re starting in our own zone and we feel that if we can play solid defense it can transition into good offense. If we get our speed going, that opens up the opportunities in the other zone.”

The Panthers, who will go into Thursday’s game tied with Winnipeg atop the Southeast Division with 65 games but with four games in hand, are coming off a 2-0 loss to Anaheim on Sunday.

Florida outshot the Ducks 31-27 but had few quality scoring chances.

The power play didn’t help, going 0-for-4. In a 2-1 loss Friday to Washington, the Panthers were 0-for-3 with the man advantage.

“It obviously becomes an issue when you’re in tight-checking, tight-scoring games,” Dineen said. “When you get a man advantage, you have to take advantage of it. We’re certainly aware that our power play needs to produce. Sometimes it might not be goals on the board, but it’s walking out of there with what I call feel good, that you walk out it’s up-tempo, opportunities present themselves, and the game carries on from there. But it would certainly be nice to score more consistently on the power play like we did earlier in the year.”

Kris Versteeg, who leads the team in scoring with 48 points, says low-scoring games are to be expected at this time of year.

“I guess you just keep the pedal to the metal is one thing you’re going to do,” Versteeg said. “The power play has got to get us some goals here now. We’ve also got to work hard to draw some penalties to get us on the power play. It comes hand in hand. We’re just going to keep doing what we do. We’ve been throwing a lot of pucks at the net.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 11:15 AM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Weiss set to tie Panthers' games played mark

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Center Stephen Weiss is by far the longest-tenured member of the Florida Panthers. After Sunday night's game against Anaheim, no one will have played more games for the franchise, period.

Weiss will play in his 613th game for the Panthers Sunday, tying Radek Dvorak for most in franchise history.

While Dvorak had two different stints in Florida (1995-99 and 2007-11), Weiss has been a mainstay for the Panthers since making his NHL debut in April 2002.

The fourth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Weiss earlier this season became Florida's all-time leader in assists.

Weiss again is likely to center a line between Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg against the Ducks. The Panthers will have a new defenseman in the lineup after recalling Nolan Yonkman from San Antonio Saturday to replace rookie Colby Robak, who was sent down.

Here are the projected lineups for Sunday's game between the Ducks and Panthers:

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Bobby Ryan - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Matt Beleskey - Nick Bonino - Andrew Cogliano
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Krys Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver
Nolan Yonkman - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 4:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' poor starts a point of emphasis for Dineen

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida coach Kevin Dineen likes the way his team has battled back all season after falling behind early. He just wishes they would stop getting so much practice at it.

It's become a nasty pattern recently for the Panthers, who have allowed a goal within the first six minutes of the game five times in their last six outings.

The reason for the slow starts is simple, Dineen says.

"Yeah, unprepared and we're not ready to start games," he said after Friday's morning skate. "It's cost us games and we've found ways to fight back throughout the year, but it's a real sticking point for us right now is our starts."

Dineen, who is hoping for a fast start Friday night against Washington, took full responsibility for the problem.

"A coach's responsibility is to make sure his team is prepared and I obviously haven't done a good job in the last number of games. We've come out weak and our players haven't been ready, so certainly that falls on me.

"That's easy to point fingers elsewhere, but I think most important is you look at yourself and say, what can you do better? That starts with us as a staff making sure that our players are ready from the first drop of the puck through the first period right to the end. Very cliché, but we're going to need a 60-minute effort against an extremely hungry hockey team tonight in a game with a large level of importance."

Against the Devils and Islanders last weekend, the Panthers gave up an early goal, but that's all they allowed and they rallied for 3-1 and 4-1 victories, respectively.

No such luck against Ottawa on Wednesday night, when the Panthers tied the game at 1-1 after falling behind early but then gave up five more goals in a 6-2 loss.

Center Stephen Weiss said it's the players who are to blame for the slow starts.

"Well, he doesn't go on the ice," Weiss said of Dineen. "It's not his fault, it's the guys in the room who need to make sure they're sharp and ready to go. We've had decent starts, it's just a matter of keeping the puck out of our own nets the first 10 minutes of the game. Just being sharper defensively on our assignments, we'll be fine."

For his part, Washington coach Dale Hunter wasn't making a big deal of Florida's slow starts heading into Friday's matchup.

"It goes from game to game," Hunter said. "Both teams are going to go out and they're going to work hard. Whoever executes the best is going to get the win."

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 4:09 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers can create separation in Southeast

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kevin Dineen had his game face on when he addressed the media following his Florida Panthers’ morning skate Friday.

Dineen really didn’t seem to be in the mood to do a lot of talking. He looked as though he was ready for their showdown Friday night against the Washington Capitals to get here already.

It’s a huge game for the Panthers, who will go in with a four-point lead over the Capitals in the Southeast Division and with a chance to create some space.

Everybody knows what’s at stake. Dineen doesn’t need to say a whole lot to his players.

“There’s no message,” he said. “I don’t have to say anything. It’s there for the taking. We understand what the situation is right now. The game is sitting there for you and it’s very clear what the picture is. Now we’ll see what the response is.”

It’s the next-to-last meeting of the season between the teams, with each side winning twice at home.

The final meeting will take place on April 5 in Washington in the next-to-last game of the regular season for both teams.

“The mood is good,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “It’s the same as usual really. The key is try not to change anything. You just want to go through your normal routine and prepare the same way, but in the back of your mind you know it’s a little bit more important than usual.”

The Panthers have lost in regulation at home only six times all season, but they’re coming off their most lopsided loss at the BankAtlantic Center — a 6-2 pounding at the hands of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night that snapped their three-game winning streak.

The Capitals, meanwhile, come into the game having won only three of their last 11 (3-5-3) and facing a crucial stretch that could go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.

Beginning with the game at Florida, Washington will play six games in nine days, with five of them on the road. Included in the stretch are two back-to-back sets, the first one being Friday and Saturday at Tampa Bay.
 
“We should look at it game-by-game starting tonight and go from there,” veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “We know the schedule is not easy and it won’t be any easier. For everybody, it’s the same. We just have to start focusing on the game we have tonight and these two points. It’s huge. We have to start playing like a playoff game with a little bit more enthusiasm and energy in the game and start winning on the road. Hopefully we get two points tonight.”

That the Panthers and Capitals would find themselves in a game of this magnitude at this juncture comes as a surprise to most observers.

Washington was expected by many to cruise to a fifth consecutive division title this season, and if any team was going to challenge the Capitals, it was supposed to be Tampa Bay, not Florida.

“That’s sports,” said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who joined the Capitals as a free agent last summer after spending four years in Florida. “If we knew how things would turn out, it wouldn’t be interesting. It’s a huge game for us. Obviously we need to win. That’s how I look at it. It doesn’t really matter to me who the team opponent is today, but we need to win. We’re in desperate mode.

“Everybody who’s in this dressing room has played hockey for a pretty long time. They know what we’re up against. They’re not for the first time in this situation. It’s not like a game we need to win or it’s over. We’re not in a good present situation. We’re chasing them, but saying that, you’re never going to help your cause if you’re feeling sorry for yourself or if you feel you’re so nervous you can’t even play. It’s another hockey game, you have to leave everything out there you have. That’s what all the focus should be on and not what’s going to happen a month from now or the standings or anything like that.”

There indeed is a lot of hockey left after Friday night. Both teams will have 25 games remaining.

But not many will be as important as this one.

“I wish that was the trick that you wouldn’t make too much of it, but obviously the game has a large dose of importance,” Dineen said. “We were brutal in our last game. We didn’t play well. And we’ll see what our response is tonight. But there’s no masking it or pretending that this game doesn’t have a high level of importance for both teams.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vokoun, Theodore may finally get chance to face off

SUNRISE, Fla. — Tomas Vokoun finally will get the chance to play in his former home building Friday night, and in front of his wife and two daughters on top of that.

Jose Theodore, meanwhile, looks like he’ll be getting his first shot, period, at his former team.

While Florida coach Kevin Dineen wouldn’t confirm Theodore would be in the nets for a Friday night Southeast Division showdown against Washington, all indications are that for the first time in five meetings this season we’ll get the much-anticipated Theodore-Vokoun battle.

Theodore was signed by the Panthers last summer to replace Vokoun, who had been with the team since 2007-08, but the two didn’t face each other in the first four meetings.

Vokoun did face Florida twice and shut them out both times — 3-0 on Oct. 18 and 4-0 on Feb. 7 — but both games were at the Verizon Center.

When the Capitals played at Florida on Dec. 5 and on Feb. 1, Coach Dale Hunter went with Michal Neuvirth and Washington lost both times, 5-4 and 4-2.

“Those are coach’s decisions,” Vokoun said. “For me, when they tell me I’m playing, I’m playing. Sometimes you like the decision, sometimes you don’t. It’s a big game and you hope they have confidence in you to start you in a situation like that. That’s pretty much as far as I take it.”

As he’s done previously this season, Vokoun stayed at his house in the Fort Lauderdale area Thursday night after the Capitals flew in from Washington.

Vokoun battled the flu early in the week, but said Friday morning he felt fine after three days of practice.

He’s been hot of late, giving up only nine goals in his last five starts, with a 1.76 GAA and a .943 save percentage during that time. He’s been perfect against the Panthers, making 20 saves in the October meeting and a season-high 42 in the Feb. 7 game.

“He’s played really well against us the two games he’s played ... obviously, he hasn’t let a goal in,” said Florida center Shawn Matthias. “We’ve just got to get more pucks at him and just stand around. It’s probably not going to be a pretty one the first one, we’ll just try to get gritty and get under their skin a little bit and throw everything at them.”

On the other side, Theodore has yet to face the Capitals, for whom he played in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The Panthers went with Jacob Markstrom in the first meeting this season, and Theodore missed the other three games with injuries. While with Minnesota last year, Theodore was the backup when the Wild beat the Capitals early in the season.

“Theo is not the biggest guy, but he’s going to try and come out a little bit and play the angle a little bit more,” said veteran Capitals forward Brooks Laich. “He’s pretty acrobatic, but a big guy can sit more in his net. A smaller guy has to come out and cut the angles a little bit more. Try and get as many pucks as we can, and certainly the most important thing is get traffic and try and make a smaller, shorter goalie battle through traffic.”

Given the significance of the game, the Vokoun-Theodore matchup won’t draw as much attention as it might have earlier in the season.

“That’s not my concern who’s the other goalie,” Vokoun said. “I’ve got my job. I’ve got to go focus on my job and we as a team have to focus on what we need to do to beat them. Whoever they play, they play. Just like I’m sure they’re not really worried who we’re playing.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 3:19 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' Madden out with lower-body injury

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Veteran center John Madden will miss the next couple of weeks because of a lower-body injury.

The 38-year-old three-time Stanley Cup winner played 10 minutes in Wednesday's 6-2 loss at Ottawa and was a minus-2.

Madden has yet to register a point in 15 games with the Panthers since being signed Jan. 4.

For Friday's game against Washington, Mike Santorelli will move from right wing on the third line to take Madden's spot centering the fourth line, and Krys Barch will return to action after being a healthy scratch the last two games.

Jack Skille will move up to the third line alongside center Shawn Matthias and left wing Tomas Kopecky.

Madden is one of six players who will miss the Washington game, along with defensemen Ed Jovanovski, Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison, and forwards Scottie Upshall and Marco Sturm.

Here is Florida’s projected lineup for the game against the Caps:

Tomas Fleischmann- Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver
Colby Robak - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Green could return for Caps in limited role

SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Mike Green was among the last players on the ice during Washington’s optional morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter didn’t dismiss the possibility Green could make his return against the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

“We’re working him right now,” Hunter said while Green was still on the ice. “We’re going to see how it is. Still it’s game time. We could play him on the power play – game-time decision.”

Hunter said the Capitals would dress seven defensemen if Green does play.

Green, who underwent sports hernia surgery on Jan. 17, has appeared in only three games since he had two goals and two assists Oct. 22 in a 7-1 victory over Detroit that gave Washington a 7-0 start on the season.

Alex Ovechkin skipped the optional skate, but Hunter was quick to say there was nothing wrong with his star forward and he would be in the lineup Friday.

Veteran Mike Knuble was among the first group of players off the ice, an indication he could be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last three games.

Here is Washington’s projected lineup for Friday night against Florida:

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Dmitry Orlov

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers shoot for season-best four-game win streak

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have regained first place in the Southeast Division thanks to their current three-game winning streak. But they'll be going for a rare feat Wednesday night when they play host to the Ottawa Senators.

A victory would give Florida its first four-game winning streak since March of 2008, when the Panthers won seven in a row in a futile late attempt at a playoff run.

To put in perspective just how long it’s been, the only current Panthers player who was on that team was center Stephen Weiss.

"It would be nice," Weiss said. "Those are where you really make ground up or separate yourself when you can string together five-plus games in a row. That would be huge. But as soon as you start thinking about it, your feet stop moving and your head takes over. We've just got to play as if we've lost three in a row and have that killer instinct and make sure we're ready to go for our first shift and take it from there."

More important than the streak, a victory Wednesday night would increase the Panthers' lead over Washington in the Southeast Division to six points, with a matchup between the teams looming Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

"We've got to keep the ball rolling," said center Shawn Matthias, who played four games for the Panthers in 2007-08 but was back in the AHL during the long winning streak. "That was the last time they made a real good push at the end. We're getting near the end here and we've got to keep pushing strong and we need to put a little streak together here to secure ourselves some space between us and the rest of the teams in our division."

In putting together their 27-17-11 record, the team's best 55-game mark since 2000, the Panthers have had three three-game winning streaks, including this one.

The first two ended with overtime losses, against Tampa Bay at home in November and at Buffalo in December.

While Coach Kevin Dineen isn't focusing on the winning streak, he is happy with the way his team has been playing of late.

"We get players that are feeling good about themselves, it makes our job easier," Dineen said. "Our video meeting (Tuesday) morning was really positive and you're able to build up on a lot of things. You're not searching for things, either, it's there and it shows up on the scoreboard and it shows up in their play. There's some positives to keep working on right now."

Dineen said after Wednesday's morning skate he hadn't decided whether to go with Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen in net to try to extend the streak.

Theodore returned Sunday after missing eight games with a knee injury and allowed only one goal on 27 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Islanders. Clemmensen, meanwhile, also gave up only one goal in the first two victories of the current winning streak -- against Los Angeles and at New Jersey.

Here is the Panthers' projected lineup for Wednesday night:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Jack Skille - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby - Erik Gudbranson
Colby Robak - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ex-Babcock assistant MacLean lauds Red Wings' feat

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As he talked to reporters while most of his players took advantage of an optional morning skate to engage in a friendly soccer competition, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean was asked about the Detroit Red Wings' record 21-game home winning streak.

MacLean is in his first season with the Senators, who take on the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, after spending the previous six years as an assistant with the Red Wings.

With MacLean helping out Mike Babcock behind the bench, the Red Wings accomplished many things during those six seasons -- including winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 -- but he had to watch this one from the outside.

"It's disappointing ... I guess they haven't missed me," MacLean joked before reflecting on his former organization's latest feat.

"Anytime you can set new recrods for an organization like that that's been around so long and has set so many records, it's a testament to the continuity of the players and the continuity of the whole thing, from Mr. Ilitch (owner Mike Ilitch) all the way down to the training staff. A lot of people have been there a long time, and continuity and loyalty has a lot to do with it."

MacLean, who also spent one of his 11 seasons as an NHL player with the Red Wings (1988-89), said he wasn't surprised by Detroit's success despite an aging roster. The Red Wings sit atop the overall League standings with 80 points.

MacLean was asked how long he thought the Red Wings could remain contenders, and he pointed to seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.

"It's hard to say," MacLean said. "When No. 5 decides not to play anymore, I think there could be a difference in their team at that point because of the element that he brings and the leadership that he brings. It's pretty huge. But they have some other quality people that are there, so who knows? At this point in time, I wouldn't be betting on them taking a nosedive anytime soon."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Things change, but Sens' streak vs. Panthers remains

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Players and coaches have changed over the last two years, but what has remained constant is Ottawa's dominance over the Florida Panthers.

When the teams meet Wednesday at the BankAtlantic Center, the Senators will try to make it nine in a row in the series.

Ottawa already has beaten Florida twice this season at home, a last-minute 4-3 victory Oct. 27 and a 4-3 overtime win Dec. 22.

The streak is tied for third-longest active run by one team against an opponent.

Boston has beaten Edmonton 10 consecutive times; Calgary has nine-game streaks against Edmonton and Colorado; and Vancouver has won its last nine games against Toronto. In addition to Ottawa's run against Florida, Montreal has an eight-game win streak against Phoenix and San Jose has an eight-game win streak against Philadelphia.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was asked whether he could provide an explanation for the dominance.

"No, I can't," he said. "There's been a few different coaches the last few years here. I've been through times where we couldn't buy a win in this building, either. We know they're a feisty team and we're ready for that. We don't expect it to be an easy night and we know we have to put our work boots on to have a chance. We haven't played them here this year and we know they play really well at home. This will be a really tough challenge for us to keep that streak going."

The last time the Panthers beat Ottawa was Jan. 9, 2010, when Tomas Vokoun stopped 24 shots in a 3-0 victory. Rostislav Olesz had two goals and Nathan Horton had the other.

Vokoun now plays for Washington, Horton is with Boston, and Olesz is playing for the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL team.

"You know what? I didn't even know they beat us eight in a row until you told me," said Panthers center Shawn Matthias. "We don't really pay attention to those things. As a player, you don't want to. Obviously, we know they're a very good opponent and we know what has happened this year against them in those two games at their rink. We know we've got to put a full 60 minutes in and if you take any time off against these guys or get in the penalty box, they're deadly."

Craig Anderson was in net for Ottawa for both of the Florida games, and he's enjoyed great success on his own against his former team.

Vokoun's backup in 2008 and 2009, Anderson has faced the Panthers eight times with Colorado and Ottawa in the past three seasons. He's 6-0-1 in those eight games against Florida. His 2.22 goals-against average against the Panthers is more than half a goal better than his career GAA of 2.81.

"It's a building where I've played a lot," Anderson said of BankAtlantic Center. "You get comfortable in a spot where you know you're just going to play well. Hopefully that continues.

"Most of the guys I've played with on this team are no longer here. It's tough to really know the guys. Obviously I know the area, I know the building, I know the fans, but players always change. It's just another game, another two points against a team we need to beat to get into the playoffs."

For Coach Kevin Dineen, the streak is irrelevant.

"It's not something that we really concern ourselves with," he said. "It's really our next game. If you look back historically, there's a lot of changeover in personnel, including our coaching staff. It makes for a very respectful opponent, but certainly we feel that when we play Panthers hockey that we can be a successful team."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Senators want to follow up on Tuesday's solid effort

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Coming off an impressive 4-0 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean saw no need to make any lineup changes for the back end of the Florida trip Wednesday night.

That means that Craig Anderson, who stopped 28 shots against the Lightning, again will be in net against the Panthers, a team for which he played from 2006-09.

Ottawa will go into the game against Florida with a solid 5-4-3 record in the second of back-to-back games, and the easy victory over Tampa Bay was the perfect setup.

"For back-to-back games, I'm not sure it could have been better, the way things went for us, having a lead and being able to play everybody and not chasing the game," MacLean said. "We were ahead the whole game and we were able to manage minutes way better than if you were chasing the game. Tonight our expectation is that we should be up and running and ready to go."

The Senators have been up and running since a seven-game losing streak where they managed one goal or less five times. Ottawa is 2-0-1 in its last three, with a victory over Nashville and an overtime loss against Edmonton.

In those three games, the Senators scored 11 goals, two more than during their losing streak.

"We've talked about it," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've always struggled getting off to good starts. We've been doing that the last few games. We're up and the other team has to go a little bit more on offense and that opens up more chances. So getting that first goal is a big reason why."

The Senators will try to wrap up a memorable father-son trip against the Panthers. MacLean invited the fathers into the locker room for his pregame speech Tuesday night, but he wasn't sure whether he'd do it again on Wednesday.

One of those parents on the trip is Mike Foligno, father of Nick Foligno and a longtime NHL player. Mike Foligno's 14-year career, incidentally, ended with a 39-game stint with the Panthers in their inaugural season in 1993-94.

"I just thought it was a great opportunity for the dads to really see what their sons have to go through when it comes to gettting prepared for a game and the detail that goes into it," MacLean said. "It's not just put your skates on and tape the stick and go out and play. There's a lot more work involved in the preparation part of playing in the National Hockey League."

Alfredsson said preparation could make the difference against the Panthers.

"We know that we're not a superstar team where we can go on three out of six cylinders and win," he said. "We have to fire on five or six to win games, and then really pay attention to details. Playing last night as well, it's even more important when it's back-to-back games. Mentally, our focus has to be really good for us to have a chance to win."

Here is Ottawa's projected lineup:

Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Colin Greening - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson
Kaspars Daugavins - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Nick Foligno - Jim O'Brien - Chris Neil

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Sergei Gonchar
Jared Cowen - Brian Lee

Craig Anderson
Alex Auld
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Days after first goal, Strachan gets contract extension

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan's memorable week got even better on Wednesday.

Three days after scoring his first NHL goal in his 75th career game, the 27-year-old Strachan signed a one-year contract extension. And for the first time in his career, it's a one-way deal.

Asked after Florida's morning skate Wednesday whether his week could get any better, Strachan replied: "I didn't buy my lottery ticket, so I don't think so. It's been a huge week. I get a huge goal and that's obviously a huge, exciting moment for me, and then to get the phone call a couple of days ago about a contract and get everything worked out there and just know that they're thinking of me in the plans for the future is an exciting thing for me.

"I'm just excited. That's about the only word that describes it. I'm excited to be part of it and excited to keep moving forward and to get some wins down the stretch."

Strachan, who played 67 games for the St. Louis Blues over the past three seasons, signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Panthers last July. He was recalled in January when injuries starting hitting the Florida blue line.

In eight games with the Panthers, Strachan has 1 goal and 2 assists along with a plus-3 ratio.

"It's deserved," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Tyson Strachan has proven in the last couple of weeks that he certainly doesn't look uncomfortable out there at the NHL level. He has some experience. He's played in a quality organization in St. Louis and has come in here and played in the minors and when the opportunity arose he was certainly prepared for it. Well-deserved contract extension for Tyson Strachan."

Florida will face Ottawa on Wednesday night without regular defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hand), Dmitry Kulikov (knee) and Jason Garrison (lower body). In addition to Strachan, the Panthers also will have recent call-up Colby Robak in the lineup.

Robak played 14:40 in his NHL debut in Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Islanders and finished a plus-2.

"I thought he was fine," Dineen said. "I thought he looked comfortable out there. I thought he responded to a lot of the Islanders' pressure well."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' Garrison to miss at least a week

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will be without Jason Garrison, who leads all NHL defensemen with 13 goals, for the next 7-10 days due to a lower-body injury.

Garrison was injured in the second period of Saturday's 3-1 victory at New Jersey

In addition to his 13 goals, Garrison is second on the team in average ice time at 23:33, and his plus-6 is the second-best mark on the team, and tops among Panthers blueliners.

"Big hole in our lineup," coach Kevin Dineen said after practice Tuesday. "He's played a great level of hockey and he'll be missed in the next week."

Garrison becomes the third Panthers defenseman to be sidelined by injury, joining Ed Jovanovski and Dmitry Kulikov.

Kulikov, who underwent knee surgery Jan. 24, is expected to be out for at least another couple of weeks, but Jovanovski could be close to returning. He had surgery on his hand Jan. 18, two days after being involved in a fight with Boston's Daniel Paille. Jovanovski took part in Tuesday's practice.

"Jovo has taken some good strides," Dineen said. "Now he's progressing to handling the puck and using his stick, which he hasn't done, but he's kept his conditioning up. Believe me, he will want to be back sooner than he's ready. He is very enthusiastic about getting back in the lineup, but that final decision will be made by our medical staff."

With the injuries on the blue line, Florida recently recalled Tyson Strachan and Colby Robak from San Antonio of the AHL.

Strachan, who had appeared in 67 games for St. Louis over the past three seasons, scored his first NHL goal in Sunday’s 4-1 victory against the Islanders; it was the same day Robak, a 2008 second-round pick, made his NHL debut.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:25 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings' Sutter expects different look from Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Kings coach Darryl Sutter began watching tape of the Dec. 1 game between Los Angeles and the Florida Panthers to get ready for the rematch Thursday at the BankAtlantic Center, but it didn’t take him long to realize it was useless.

“When I started doing it,” Sutter said Thursday morning in the midst of a six-game road trip, “I said, you know what, this is not going to serve much.”

The logo will be the same, but it’s a much different Florida team that the Kings will face this time. Eight players who will be in the lineup for the Panthers on Thursday night didn’t play in that 2-1 Kings victory in December, a list headed by leading scorer Kris Versteeg.

Versteeg was out after taking an elbow in the face two nights earlier in Carolina, and it was one of only two games he has missed all season.

But he’ll be there Thursday night playing between linemates Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, and it’s a trio that has earned the respect of Sutter.

“The big thing with these guys and I know them good enough, their big line is the best line we’ve played on the trip,” Sutter said. “When you break it down, center-left-right, it’s the best line we’ve played. From an individual standpoint we’ve probably played guys you think are more top players than they are, but this is the first time we’ve played a line that when they’re spread out ... they’re a 50-goal line already. In this league, that’s pretty significant. And when you’ve got (Brian) Campbell at almost 40 points and you’ve got Jason (Garrison) with 13 goals, you’ve got your hands full. That’s how I look at it.”

Along with Versteeg, the other Panthers players who will suit up Thursday night after not playing in the Dec. 1 game are forwards Mikael Samuelsson, Marcel Goc, Krys Barch, Matt Bradley and John Madden, along with defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Tyson Strachan.

Four of the eight players who played on Dec. 1 but won’t be playing Thursday night are injured and the other four are in the minors.

Even though he wants a different outcome, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen gladly would take a similar effort from his team than what he got against the Kings two months ago.

Florida outshot Los Angeles 42-26 in that game, but lost on goals by Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown and strong goaltending by Jonathan Quick.

“I thought that was one of our strongest games,” Dineen said. “We played a very well-rounded game and we ended up with no points. Sometimes you walk out of those losses and you go, that was a hard-fought game and it doesn’t end up in your favor. That’s the kind of hockey we’re looking to get back to.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings not frustrated, but hope for more scoring

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Los Angeles Kings will enter Thursday night in seventh place in the Western Conference standings when they face the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. It’s not all that bad considering the Kings are dead last in the entire League in goals.

“At the end of the day, right now we’re in a playoff spot,” said captain Dustin Brown. “Regardless of our scoring, that’s all that really matters for this team. Do we want to get better at our scoring? Yeah. I think a lot of guys are frustrated in here with the type of scoring, or lack thereof, that we have with this team.

“At the end of the day we’re capable of winning games 1-0 and 2-1 because of the way we play defense. Again, we’ve got to find ways to score more goals but we’re also capable of winning games without scoring many.”

That’s precisely what happened when the Kings faced the Panthers on Dec. 1 at Staples Center. That night, Los Angeles was able to pull out a 2-1 victory despite being outshot 42-26.

The Kings, who will be playing the fourth game in a season-long six-game road trip Thursday night, are coming off a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay. It was only the 19th time in 54 games this season that Los Angeles had scored more than two goals.

“Hockey is a funny game,” Brown said. “It’s a confidence thing. If you look around at the numbers of the guys in this room, they’re probably having statistically one of their worst years. I’ve never been on a team where you see it happen to such a big number of big guys that are having down years.”

The two biggest disappointments in terms of goal-scoring this season have been second-line wingers Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll.

Penner scored at least 23 goals four of the last five seasons but has only five goals in 42 games so far. Stoll has five goals in 54 games after finishing with 20 last season.

The center on that line is Mike Richards, who will be playing in his 500th NHL game Thursday night. The former Flyers captain, who scored 11 goals in 13 games in November and December but has only one tally in his last 19 outings, says the victory at Tampa Bay was a good example of how the Kings can have success without putting up big numbers.

“We’re not going to be a team that just throws our sticks on the ice and gets two or three,” Richards said. “We’ve got to go out there and earn it. But at the same time, we’ve got to make the other team work hard and get pressure by our checking and how hard we work. We know our identity. Obviously we’d like to score more goals. Everyone does. But our biggest focus is keeping the puck out of the net and then moving forward.”

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings when they face Florida on Thursday night:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Jack Johnson - Willie Mitchell
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 2:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' goaltenders getting healthy

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers' goaltending situation is getting muddled as players get healthy again.

Jose Theodore and Jacob Markstrom, who both have been out with knee injuries, joined Scott Clemmensen when the Panthers held their morning skate in preparation for Thursday night's game against Los Angeles.

Another positive sign came Wednesday when Brian Foster, who backed up Clemmensen the last four games, was sent back to San Antonio of the AHL.

“We went from a goaltending issue to we’ve got a bit of a glut out there today," coach Kevin Dineen said. "No complaints from the coaching staff for us organizationally. It's nice for us to have a number of options for tonight’s game."

Clemmensen is expected to make a seventh consecutive start against Los Angeles, but Dineen didn't rule out the possibility of Theodore starting.

The former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner hasn't played since Jan. 20 in a 3-1 loss at Chicago. He initially was injured in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on New Year's Eve and returned Jan. 18 to start at Colorado in a game the Panthers lost 4-3 in overtime.

"I'm not going to break him in slowly," Dineen said. "As soon as he deems himself fit, and this morning's skate is a good, positive step for him, then he is a legitimate option to play tonight."

After a tremendous nine-game stretch where he was 5-1-3 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, Clemmensen struggled in Florida's last two games. He gave up five goals on 32 shots in Saturday's 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay and then gave up four goals on 24 shots Tuesday in a 4-0 loss at Washington.

For the season, Clemmensen is 8-4-5 with a 2.80 GAA and a .908 save percentage, while Theodore is 14-9-5 with a 2.50 GAA and a .916 save percentage.

"He has been good this year and he'll continue to play an important role in our season," Dineen said of Theodore. "You can sit there, you can fiddle around, but goaltending is a key position in our League. A goaltender that comes in and makes that big, timely save is a real difference-maker. He did that on numerous occasions early in the season."

Markstrom, meanwhile, is still recovering from knee surgery, his second over the past year. He likely will be sent to San Antonio once he's ready to play.

"I'm just taking it day by day and trying to get back," Markstrom said. "You want to get back and play. It's never fun to watch your buddies play, so you always want to get back as fast as possible but you don't want a setback and you don't want to rush it. So you take it day by day, and hopefully I’ll be back playing soon."

Here's the Panthers' projected lineup:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:47 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets will monitor Byfuglien in back-to-back after injury

SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien didn’t exactly ease back into things when he returned to the Winnipeg Jets lineup.

After missing 16 games because of a knee injury, Byfuglien led the Jets with 25:36 of ice time during a 2-1 overtime victory Thursday at Tampa Bay.

Byfuglien will be in the lineup again Friday night against the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, but the Jets will be careful to make sure they don’t ask for too much too soon.

“We’ll watch how he does and how his fatigue factor is, but you know the thing is he’s a big man but he has power,” Jets coach Claude Noel said Friday morning. “I remember talking to the Chicago strength and conditioning guy and he said this guy is just not like the normal guys, he really has power in the way that he conducts things. And you can see that. When the guy goes to hit him, it’s like the guy hit a wall.

“It’s just the way he handles things. He hasn’t skated with us too much but our strength guys have done a reallly good job in keeping his conditioning up and it looks like he’s in a pretty good place.”

Truth be told, the Jets weren’t planning on having Byfuglien log as much ice time as he did in his first game back since Dec. 23.

Byfuglien hit the crossbar on an end-to-end rush in the second period and had an assist on Kyle Wellwood’s overtime game-winner.

“I thought that he managed the game fairly well,” Noel said. “He was really pretty active in the second period, got out there for some long shifts, which is a concern, but I thought his play through the shifts was better than I had anticipated. So when we were watching him we thought, well, you know, he’s doing OK, so let’s just see how we are doing in the third period.”

For his part, Byfuglien said after the game he didn’t feel any rust and would have no problem seeing as much ice time against the Panthers.

“I felt real good,” Byfuglien said after the game Thursday. “A lot better than I thought I would. It didn't take too long to get back in the mix of things.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets take another crack at back-to-back success

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets finally experienced some success on the road this week. Now comes the tough part.

The Jets take on the Florida Panthers on Friday night in the second half of back-to-back games and they'll be looking to reverse an ugly trend.

It's the ninth set of back-to-back games for Winnipeg this season. The first eight games on the back end of a back-to-back produced these results: 4-1 loss at Ottawa; 3-0 loss at the New York Rangers; 4-2 loss at Boston; 7-1 loss at Detroit; 4-1 loss at home against Pittsburgh; 4-0 loss at Toronto; 5-1 loss at New Jersey; 3-0 loss at the New York Rangers.

Do the math and it adds up to an 0-8 record, with three shutout losses and the Jets outscored 34-6.

"I don't particularly think that the players concern themselves so much with back-to-back," Jets coach Claude Noel said Friday before he joined six of his players at the BankAtlantic Center for an optional morning skate. "It is what it is. You play the game. I really don't know that they can sit there, and they sit and blame fatigue. It just happens that we haven't won those games. I don't think that there's something there that we're afraid of. Certainly I never bring it up and I'm not afraid of it."

On the contrary, Noel might bring up the fact that the last time the Jets faced the Panthers, Jan. 21 at Winnipeg, Florida emerged with a 4-3 shootout victory after playing the night before in Chicago.

Of course, it must be pointed out that the Jets lost that game despite outshooting the Panthers 44-23.

"Last time we played these guys they had the back-to-back and we end up serving up some pizzas and lost the game," Noel said. "It was disappointing for us because we played pretty well, we outshot them, outplayed them, didn't give them too many chances and found a way to lose against a division rival. So we've just got to be better. We've got to find a way to get it done."

Friday night's game is the next-to-last in a six-game road trip that began Jan. 23 and wraps up Sunday afternoon in Montreal. The Jets won at Philadelphia and at Tampa Bay this week after returning from the All-Star break following a stretch of six losses in eight road games.

With the Jets playing their third game in four nights, Noel said he would go with Chris Mason in net against the Panthers. Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 30 of 31 shots in Thursday's 2-1 overtime victory over the Lightning, will be back in net Sunday at Montreal.

Here is tonight's projected lineups for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Kyle Wellwood - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Alexander Burmistrov - Aaron Gagnon - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Chris Mason
Ondrej Pavelec
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 1:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ailing Dineen will still be behind the bench

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will welcome leading scorer Kris Versteeg back to the lineup Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets, but now it's coach Kevin Dineen who is feeling a little under the weather.

Dineen is nursing a sore throat and didn't address the media following his team's morning skate. He will, however, be behind the bench Friday night.

Versteeg, who missed Wednesday's 4-2 victory over Washington, will take the place of Marco Sturm.

The veteran forward missed 14 games because of a concussion before returning to play 12:16 against Washington. Sturm was held out of practice Thursday for what was called a "maintenance day" and he also didn't take part in Friday's morning skate.

Scott Clemmensen, who stopped 41 of 44 shots in the Panthers' 4-3 shootout victory at Winnipeg on Jan. 21, will be in net for Florida.

Here are the Panthers' projected lines:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 1:06 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Versteeg back from flu in time to face Jets

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Versteeg did not enjoy watching his Florida Panthers on television when they faced Washington on Wednesday night. He even admitted to screaming at the TV at times.

"It's tough watching, it's way more nerve-racking watching a game from your house," Versteeg said. "You're sitting there and you're on your hands. I don't really ever get nervous when I play, but when it's out of your control it's a lot tougher."

Versteeg won't have that problem Friday night against Winnipeg as he returns to the lineup after missing the Panthers' 4-2 victory over the Capitals because of the flu.

The Panthers' leading scorer with 43 points, Versteeg didn't take part in practices Monday and Tuesday when the Panthers returned from the break but got back on the ice Thursday.

"I'm slowly getting there," Versteeg said. "Hopefully, I'll get some more energy back every day by day now. Yesterday hopefully I got over that hump. Today, you start getting energy back and start feeling good again."

Versteeg is expected to take his place again on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann after Tomas Kopecky replaced him against Washington.

Even though he's not ready to say he feels 100 percent physically, Versteeg expects to give nothing less than an all-out effort.

"It doesn't matter if it's an injury or whatever, I always expect myself to go out there and play hard no matter how I feel," he said. "You do what you can to get ready for the game."

Versteeg spent a day in Chicago after the Panthers began their All-Star break following a game against Philadelphia on Jan. 24 and started feeling sick over the weekend.

It made for a forgettable All-Star break.

"Saturday I think is when it really hit me," Versteeg said. "Didn't really get to do much over the All-Star break besides laying in bed. I got to visit a buddy (in Chicago) on Wednesday, but that was about it. Didn't get out too much. You want to get away and you want to do some stuff, but I got some quality time with my bed.

"It was really unfortunate. But, you know, I guess it was a lot of soul-searching in five days."

At least Versteeg wasn't alone, as his younger brother Bryce was visiting from Canada. Bryce, who's 21, also got sick.

Kris Versteeg said his temperature went "well over 100" and he couldn't sleep for "about five nights."

You'll have to forgive the Jets if they wished Versteeg had stayed sick just a little bit longer.

After beating Florida 4-3 in a shootout on Oct. 31, Winnipeg has dropped the teams' last two meetings and watched Versteeg collect 5 goals and 2 assists in those games.

Versteeg recorded his first career hat trick at Winnipeg on Nov. 10, his empty-net goal clinching a 5-2 victory. Then on Jan. 21, Versteeg had 2 goals and an assist as the Panthers beat the Jets 4-3 in Winnipeg.

Before that game, Versteeg had gone nine games without a goal, his longest drought of the season.

"We gave him some offense that he didn't have to earn too much of," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I shouldn't say that, he's a good player for them. He's the one guy that's really kind of hurt us.

"You've got to give him full marks and full credit. He's a guy that's got skill and speed, and he's got that long stick and he can make plays. He's a guy we've got to be aware of."


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Flu sidelines Panthers' leading scorer Versteeg

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will be without their leading scorer when they face the Washington Capitals Wednesday night in a battle for first place in the Southeast Division.

Coach Kevin Dineen said after the Panthers' morning skate that right wing Kris Versteeg would miss the game because of the flu.

Versteeg, who also missed practice on Monday and Tuesday, leads the Panthers with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists).

His place on the top line with Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss is expected to be taken by veteran Tomas Kopecky.

Versteeg is one of six Panthers players who will miss the game because of injury -- also out are defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Dmitry Kulikov, forwards Jack Skille and Scottie Upshall, and goalie Jose Theodore.

Dineen said Wednesday that Theodore has been bothered by a knee he injured against Montreal on New Year's Eve and will be given a few days off.

The Panthers called up goalie Brian Foster from San Antonio on Wednesday to back up veteran Scott Clemmensen.

The one piece of good news for the Panthers on the injury front is the expected return of veteran forward Marco Sturm, who has been out since sustaining a concussion on Dec. 20. Sturm was injured when he was hit by a puck in the face while sitting on the bench.

Here is the projected lineup:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Shawn Matthias - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Sean Bergenheim
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 1:31 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No Vokoun against former team, projected lineup

SUNRISE, Fla. — Tomas Vokoun again won’t get the chance to play in the building he called home the past four years.

Washington coach Dale Hunter said after Wednesday’s optional morning skate that he would go with Michal Neuvirth against the Florida Panthers tonight.

Neuvirth also got the call when the Capitals played at the BankAtlantic Center on Dec. 5 in a game the Panthers won 5-4.

Vokoun, whose wife and two daughters still live in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland, did not attend the optional skate.

He did get to face his former team on Oct. 20 in Washington. He made 20 saves that night and recorded a 3-0 shutout.

Vokoun was in net for Washington on Tuesday night when the Capitals dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at Tampa Bay in the team’s first game back from the All-Star break.

“It’s tough coming off five days off and play back-to-back games,” Hunter said in explaining the decision to go with Neuvirth. “It’s a lot to ask.”

Here is the projected lineup:

Marcus Johansson - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Jeff Halpern - Mike Knuble
Joel Ward - Cody Eakin - Joel Rechlicz

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Jeff Schultz

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 1:14 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps' Schultz gets a chance after long layoff

SUNRISE, Fla. — Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz admitted he was a little surprised when he got word Wednesday morning he would be in the lineup aagainst Florida.

The sixth-year veteran has been a regular in the press box since Dale Hunter took over as head coach and he’ll be making his first appearance in 2012.

“It feels good,” Schultz said after the Capitals’ optional morning skate. “It’s been a long time. Now it’s just going out there and playing within myself. Just doing what I do out there.”

Schultz has been a healthy scratch for the past 12 games, ever since he had 9:46 of ice time at Columbus on New Year’s Eve.

After playing in four of Washington’s first five games under Hunter, Schultz has been scratched 20 of the past 22.

Hunter said the decision to play Schultz had to do with the Capitals playing back-to-back games — Washington dropped a 4-3 overtime decision Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Asked what he wants to see from Schultz, Hunter said: “He’s a defensive defenseman. We want to see him play sound defensively. He’s not an offensive D and he’s not going to be a tough guy out there, so we need a defensive defenseman.”

Schultz, who didn’t play fewer than 64 games in any of the last four seasons, has no goals and 5 assists with a plus-one ratio in 27 games this season.

John Erskine, who played 7:42 against Tampa Bay, is expected to sit out to make room for Schultz.

“I was a little bit (surprised) with how the last couple of months have gone,” Schultz said. “You don’t really know too much of who’s playing and who’s not, so it was a little bit of a surprise this morning.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to do what I can to help the team. I guess you don’t want to go too far outside, but I think (the key) is just not doing anything too fancy. It’s just playing within yourself and when you’re on the ice, do what you do, and when you’re not, cheering the guys on.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:58 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Florida's Upshall needs surgery, out at least a month

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers’ run of bad luck continues.

For the third consecutive week, a Panthers player will undergo  surgery — this time it’s forward Scottie Upshall.

Upshall will undergo sports hernia surgery Thursday, and coach Kevin Dineen said after Wednesday’s morning skate that Upshall would be out a minimum of one month.

The first of the Panthers’ many free agent signings last July,  Upshall initially was injured in a November game at Winnipeg.

He then missed the next 30 games before making his return Jan. 20 at  Chicago. Upshall sat out the next night at Winnipeg, but was back in the lineup Jan. 24 against Philadelphia in the Panthers’ last game 
before the All-Star break. He played 11:28 that night.

“He’s a big part of our team and we haven’t seen a lot of Scottie Upshall this year,” Dineen said. “I don’t want him coming back and limping through this season. I think that it’s important that if we get Scottie in the lineup, we have to get the real deal instead of what we’ve seen for the majority of this year, which is just not good enough to help us get where we are.”

Dineen, who revealed he had sports hernia surgery himself during his NHL playing career, said he didn’t second-guess the decision not to have Usphall have the surgery earlier.

“It was handled the exact way it should have been,” Dineen said. “What you try to do is you try to rehab these injuries, you want to make sure that you get a program together that tries to strengthen all the areas surrounding it as well as your whole body.

“At the end of it, if he’s still feeling that pain on a daily basis, we’re not getting the player that we need. So he’ll have this surgery tomorrow and we’ll move from there.”

Upshall, coming off a career-high 22 goals last season, has only one goal and two assists in 17 games this season.

His surgery will follow those of defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hand) on Jan. 18 and Dmitry Kulikov (knee) on Jan. 23.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Flyers, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Here is what the rosters could look like when the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers face off tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. The Flyers opted not to skate Tuesday morning, while the Panthers held an optional skate:

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
Tom Sestito - Maxime Talbot - Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelley - Ben Holmstrom - Harry Zolnierczyk

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Erik Gustafsson - Andrej Meszaros
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon

Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal, with Sergei Bobrovsky the backup.

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Shawn Matthias - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Scottie Upshall - John Madden - Tomas Kopecky
Krys Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Mike Weaver
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Tyson Strachan

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 1:08 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Strachan excited to be back in NHL with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Tyson Strachan made one thing perfectly clear after his first morning skate with the Florida Panthers. The team's recent call-up is not an offensive threat with a big slap shot like new teammate Jason Garrison.

"I saw that guy shooting out there today," Strachan said with a smile. "It's pretty impressive.

"I'm a defenseman, I am a defensive defenseman, I would say. I've got a big, physical body. I like to bring a little bit of jam to the game and play with a little bit of an edge, and on top of it I can jump up a little bit and try to shoot when I can. But don't count on me for 20 this year, that's for sure."

Strachan returned to the NHL on Monday when he was called up from San Antonio after defenseman Dmitry Kulikov underwent knee surgery.

The 27-year-old Strachan will make his Panthers debut Tuesday night when the Philadelphia Flyers come to the BankAtlantic Center. A fifth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003, Strachan bounced back and forth between Peoria and St. Louis the last three years, but he's been in the AHL throughout this season.

"It's been a lot longer down there than I was hoping, but at the same time the opportunity is here," Strachan said. "That's hockey and that's life, when the opportunities come, you've got to be ready to take care of them and hopefully this is a nice opportunity and I seize it."

Strachan became the eighth player the Panthers have called up from San Antonio this season, but the first defenseman. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Strachan had 3 goals and 7 assists in 30 games for San Antonio this season, but he has no goals in 67 NHL games.

"Tyson is a veteran guy that's played NHL games before," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "What was really nice about giving Tyson the call is that it wasn't an easy decision. We have some options to use at the American League level. We've been through a large chunk of the San Antonio roster on the forward side of things, but for our defense it's the first time we've reached out to them and Tyson is a guy who, according to his coach, was the right fit for us right now."

Dineen said after the optional morning skate he hadn't decided who he would pair up Strachan with, but one possibility would be Mike Weaver. The two were teammates in St. Louis in 2008-09 and 2009-10 during Strachan's stints with the Blues.

"He's an easy guy to play with," Strachan said of Weaver. "I know just from my St. Louis days playing with him, he talks a lot. Just to get settled in is a big thing right now after not being in the League for a little bit. Playing with anybody right now ... the whole D corps is great. Whoever I'm paired up with, I'm excited for."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 12:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Knee surgery to sideline Kulikov 6-8 weeks

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After dealing with a rash of injuries among their forwards and then at the goalie position, the Florida Panthers are now hurting on defense.

A week after veteran Ed Jovanovski was sidelined with a broken hand, Dmitry Kulikov underwent knee surgery on Monday to address a meniscus injury.

Coach Kevin Dineen revealed the news after the Panthers' optional morning skate Tuesday morning and said Kulikov would be out 6-8 weeks.

"That's obviously a big loss for us," Dineen said. "I wish his knee felt as good as his attitude. He's such an enthusiastic young man and he's been such a big part of what we've done this year. It's a tough loss for us, but we've got some resiliency and we'll need that right now without him in the lineup."

Kulikov was at the BankAtlantic Center Tuesday morning walking on crutches and wearing a wrap around his knee.

The defenseman told NHL.com the injury was one he's been playing with for about five years.

"I wasn't planning on this, obviously, but it happens," Kulikov said. "As long as it didn't bother me, I didn't want to do the surgery. I was hoping I could wait until the end of the season and then have it done, but unfortunately it happened, it got worse. So I had the surgery. Now I'm going to try to get back as fast as possible and we'll go from there."

Kulikov said he aggravated his knee injury when he checked the Jets' Jim Slater behind the Florida net in the first period of Saturday night's 4-3 shootout victory at Winnipeg.

The Panthers' 2009 first-round pick finished the game and ended up getting 22:07 of ice time.

"I think I just twisted it or hit it against the boards," Kulikov said. "That aggravated it, made it worse. I was able to finish the game. I was getting worse and worse throughout the game. Afterwards, on the plane, it was getting worse and worse. The next day I couldn't even get downstairs at my house. I had to get it done."

In 46 games this season, Kulikov has 4 goals and 20 assists to rank fifth on the team with 24 points -- two shy of his career high of 26, which he accomplished in 72 games last season.

Kulikov also is third on the team in average ice time behind fellow defensemen Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison.

With Kulikov out, the Panthers will need even bigger contributions from their other two former first-round picks on defense, Erik Gudbranson (2011) and Keaton Ellerby (2007).

"It (stinks) that Kuli's out," Gudbranson said. "He's such a big part of our defensive corps. He's probably one of the better defensemen we've had all year. It's tough to see him out and for the period that he's out.

"That makes us step up. We know that everybody has to step up. I'm excited about the opportunity. It was unfortunate for him, but I've got to step up. Everyone does."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 3:35 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Playing better, not division lead, is Panthers' concern

SUNRISE, Fla. -- For the first time in almost two months, the Florida Panthers woke up Monday morning to find themselves out of first place in the Southeast Division.

Their run of 57 consecutive days at the top of the division ended on Sunday when the Washington Capitals beat Carolina 2-1 to match Florida's 50 points and take over first by virtue of their 24 victories to the Panthers' 21.

"Obviously, you're aware of what's going on around the League, but more importantly is you take care of the areas that you've got to strengthen and you keep on encouraging what our strengths are as a team and keep emphasizing those," coach Kevin Dineen said.

After a 3-2 overtime victory over Carolina on Dec. 18, the Panthers found themselves nine points ahead of the Capitals, winners of the division the last four seasons.

But Florida has won only three times in its last 10 games (3-5-2), while Washington is on a run of seven victories in nine games.

Kris Versteeg, who scored the game-winner in that Dec. 18 victory, says the Panthers are more concerned about regaining their earlier form than who's where in the standings.

"I don't think you think about that at all," he said. "They've had games in hand on us all season. We've always talked about it. It's hard to get on top and it's harder to stay. We're still learning that here."

With Washington idle before wrapping up a four-game homestand Tuesday with a game against the New York Islanders, the Panthers can quickly regain first place in the Southeast.

But to do so, they'll have to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Monday night.

The Panthers are hoping the impending return of goalie Jose Theodore and four injured forwards -- Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall, Marco Sturm and Jack Skille -- can get them back in the right direction.

Florida has gone a month without winning two in a row, and Versteeg knows that's not the way to get into the playoffs -- something the Panthers haven't done since the 1999-2000 season.

"We want to be better than we have as of late," Versteeg said, "but with the healthy bodies we're getting back a lot of things start to change and I think we're starting to get accustomed to that, too, and get used to the guys coming back.

"The last few games, you win one, you lose one, you win one, you lose one; we can't be a .500 team and expect to make the playoffs. We've got to find a way to string a few here together and be a little more consistent in our winning streaks."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers, Bruins have played two very different games

SUNRISE, Fla. -- In their first two meetings with Boston, the Florida Panthers had perhaps their biggest victory of the season and unquestionably their most embarrassing loss.

The teams meet for Round 3 on Monday night at the BankAtlantic Center, and don't think the Panthers have forgotten the 8-0 drubbing they absorbed at TD Garden on Dec. 23.

That game came 15 days after the Panthers recorded a 2-0 shutout at Boston on a night when Jose Theodore stopped 40 shots.

"Obviously we're not looking for the little Christmas coal we got last time against them," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That was a pretty lopsided game, and deservedly so. We didn't play very well vs. the Bruins. I like the way, for the majority of the games, we've played on home ice and we're certainly going to need a strong effort to beat and compete with the Stanley Cup champions."

In that last matchup, the Panthers were coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa the night before, but worse were playing without seven injured forwards.

Florida was so shorthanded up front, in fact, that rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson was used as a right wing.

"We had a really rough go," Gudbranson said. "We played as individuals, we didn't play as a five-man unit. We hear it from our coaches, we hear it from everybody and we know inside this room if we play as a unit that we're a very good team, we're one of the best teams in the League. It's going to be key to do that tonight."

As if the revenge factor didn't provide enough motivation for tonight's game, the Panthers also are coming off a lackluster performance Friday night in a 4-1 loss against a Pittsburgh team that came in on a six-game losing streak and missing several key players.

The Bruins also are coming off a disappointing performance, a 4-2 loss at Carolina on Saturday. Since a seven-game winning streak that began on Dec. 10 and included the rout of the Panthers, Boston has gone 4-3.

Coach Claude Julien says his team needs to battle harder and take pucks at the net. That's where his focus is, and not on the Panthers having extra motivation to avenge an ugly loss.

"Basically, our whole game has just kind of slipped a little bit, not to the point of being a bad team but to the point of being a very mediocre team right now," he said. "We've got to bring it back to the level that is expected of our group.

"I don't know what kind of game we can expect from them. I would look more at, what kind of game do we expect to play tonight? We've just got to be better. When your team isn't playing at the level it should be, you like to focus on your team a lot more than worrying about what the other team is going to do."

For his part, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara expects a tough battle on Monday.

"They're really good at home," Chara said of the Panthers. "They play a very hard style. We just have to be ready to do our thing and make sure we work extremely hard and don't take anything for granted.

"We played really well that game (on Dec. 23) and they had not a great night. That's going to happen. I'm sure they're going to be way better tonight."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 1:10 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Injured Panthers getting closer to returning

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers are close to having their full complement of players, but they're not quite there yet.

The Panthers again will be without goalie Jose Theodore and four forwards -- Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille and Marco Sturm -- when they face the Boston Bruins on Monday night, but all five players are expected to join the team on a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday night in Colorado.

They all  took part in the morning skate, although the four forwards were wearing green jerseys.

"Just depending on our medical reports, I'd like to think that we're no longer considering injured guys and now it's going to be to options that I'll have," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That's a good place for us to be, to have some healthy options."

As for Theodore, he has been practicing with the Panthers for several days, but Dineen says he wants to be extra cautious with the veteran goalie.

Theodore sustained a knee injury during a 3-2 victory over Montreal on New Year's Eve.

Said Dineen: "I think he has made good strides every day and we feel that he is close to being ready, but when I have expectations for a player to come and play a lot of hockey down the stretch, we want to make sure that he is doing that in a healthy body and frame of mind."

Against Boston, the Panthers power play should have a different look. Forward Mikael Samuelsson was working at the point instead of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov with the first power-play unit at the morning skate.

The Panthers converted only 2 of 17 power-play opportunities in the last six games.

One of those was the game-winner by Marcel Goc in last Monday's 2-1 victory over Vancouver. Samuelsson was at the point with the second power-play unit and started the play with a cross-ice pass to Kris Versteeg.

Here is the projected lineup:

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Shawn Matthias - John Madden - Michal Repik
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.16.2012 / 12:56 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Peverley to miss two games due to personal reasons

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Bruins center Rich Peverley will miss the team's next two games after flying back to Boston to attend to a personal matter.

Peverley accompanied the team as it flew to Florida following Saturday's 4-2 loss at Carolina, but returned home on Sunday.

The Bruins will be without Peverley on Monday night against the Panthers and Tuesday when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Coach Claude Julien said Peverley is expected to rejoin the Bruins in time for Thursday's game at New Jersey. Peverley is tied for sixth on the team with 29 points and is fourth in average ice time among the forwards at 16:46.

Zach Hamill will take Peverley's place in the lineup against Florida. Hamill has 2 assists in 10 games for Boston this season and has been recalled from the minors twice. He was stratched five of the last seven games.

Here is the projected lineup:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Benoit Pouliot - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 2:06 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers wary of injury-riddled Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will face a reeling and wounded Pittsburgh team Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center, but they're not about to take the Penguins lightly.

Pittsburgh comes into the game on a six-game losing streak and without the services of stars Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang.

When asked about facing a struggling Pittsburgh team, Dineen quickly replied, "It's a dangerous team, too. I have a lot of respect (for them). I coached against Danny Bylsma in the American League and watched how his team played so well last year under similar circumstances. They are definitely a little bit wounded, but that's an animal you always beware of."

That sentiment was echoed by Panthers center Stephen Weiss.

"Even a team like that, as good as they are, when injuries creep up to those type of players, it's tough to sustain that and they've had to do it for almost two years now," Weiss said. "It's starting to catch up a little bit, but that's a good hockey club. They play so well as a team, their systems. They're having a tough time putting it in, but they don't give up much a game. So we'll have to be ready."

For the Panthers, the game represents an opportunity to solidify their hold on first place in the Southeast Division and build off one of their most impressive victories of the season.

After going 0-1-1 on a trip to face the Rangers and Devils, the Panthers came home Monday night and handed the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks a 2-1 defeat.

"We felt that was a really important game against the Canucks, one of the top teams in the League, a Stanley Cup finalist last year," Dineen said. "That was a really important game and in review I think (we were) very strong from the goaltending on out."

Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but the team the Panthers will face Friday night will look vastly different. The biggest reason, of course, is that the Penguins will be without Crosby.

"Certainly it's different when he's not in the lineup," Weiss said. "You come to the rink with a bit of a smile on your face when he's not playing because he's that good, but that team has a lot of weapons. Just the way they play as a unit is tough enough, so we'll have to be ready. With them losing a few in a row, they'll be even a little bit more ready to go, so it'll be a good hockey game."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Theodore skates, but Clemmensen to start vs. Pens

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goalie Jose Theodore took part in Florida's morning skate Friday, but he will not dress when the Panthers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

This will be the fourth consecutive game Theodore has missed since sustaining a knee injury in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on New Year's Eve.

Veteran Scott Clemmensen, who is coming off a strong performance in Monday's 2-1 victory over Vancouver, will be in net against Pittsburgh, with recent AHL call-up Brian Foster again serving as his backup.

Theodore could be ready to return Monday night when the Panthers face Boston before heading out for three road games in four nights.

The Panthers also could be close to getting three of their four injured forwards back in the lineup.

Jack Skille (shoulder), Sean Bergenheim (groin) and Scottie Upshall (lower body) all took part in Friday's morning skate, albeit wearing non-contact jerseys.

Here are tonight's projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Pascal Dupuis - Dustin Jeffrey - Tyler Kennedy
Steve Sullivan - Matt Cooke - Richard Park
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham

Brooks Orpik - Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - John Madden - Mikael Samuelsson
Marcel Goc - Shawn Matthias - Michal Repik
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 2:46 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Booth will watch as Canucks play his old mates

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As frustrating as it is, this is nothing new for David Booth.

Once the face of the Florida Panthers, Booth had been looking forward to going up against his former team ever since he was traded to Vancouver on Oct. 22. Instead, Booth will be watching from the press box as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

It's the continuation of a pattern for Booth, one he could do without.

The speedy 27-year-old forward has had his share of injuries since making his NHL debut on Nov. 20, 2006. He missed the chance to play in his native Detroit when he was out in 2007-08 and in 2009-10, and he also lost a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2010 because of a concussion that wiped out most of his season.

And now this.

"It seems like throughout my career the games I look forward to the most are the games that I miss," Booth said after joining five other Canucks players and goalies Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider for a workout at the BankAtlantic Center Monday morning. "It happened with the Olympics, it happens when we go to Detroit -- I still haven't played in Detroit yet and I think this is my seventh year. This is a game that ever since I got traded I was looking forward to. It's frustrating, but there's plenty more hockey to be played."

Booth has been out of action since Dec. 6 when he was the victim of a knee-on-knee hit by Colorado forward Kevin Porter, who was suspended four games for the incident.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault indicated Sunday that Booth has been medically cleared to play and it's now up to the player to tell his coach when he’s ready to go.

As much as he would have liked to have faced his former team, Booth said Monday he's not at that point yet.

"It's all a matter of time," Booth said. "I've only practiced twice with the team after being off the ice for a month. That's tough. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you get further injured. I've got to take my time and know when I'm ready.

"I thought I would be back in time, but you have to put your career first. If I go out there and I'm not stable on that knee and get hit again, that's not good for me. I know the Panthers play a hard game. I know they play the body, they get on the forecheck, so that's going to be a tough game. I don't want to be a negative to our team out there if I'm not playing the best I can play."

The Panthers traded Booth along with veteran center Steven Reinprecht for forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Booth was informed of the trade while the team was going through pregame warmups with the Islanders at the BankAtlantic Center and reports indicated he was in tears upon being told the news.

"It was tough at the time, and coming back down here brings back a lot of good memories," he said. "But I'm happy to be a Canuck now. Everything works itself out. It was tough for the first month or so, but I got over that and just realized that this is my new home and I've got to make the most of the opportunity I've been given."

Booth had only one assist in six games with Florida this season and he also got off to a slow start in Vancouver. But he had 3 goals and 2 assists in the five games preceding his December injury.

"It took a good month to get acquainted," Booth said, "but the chemistry with my linemates started coming around and I thought I was playing some of my best hockey there before I got hurt."

Booth says he keeps tabs on the Panthers and watches their games whenever possible. With Monday night's game being the only meeting between Florida and Vancouver this season, Booth will have to wait until next year to face his former team.

Hopefully for him, he'll be healthy and ready to go on Feb. 23 when the Canucks travel to Detroit so he can end his curse and play an NHL game in his hometown for the first time.



Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Luongo enjoying being back in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Roberto Luongo still enjoys getting back to the BankAtlantic Center, but it's not so much because he's facing his former team.

Rather, it's because he gets to play in front of family and friends in the place he calls home in the offseason.

That includes the family of his wife, who he met while he played for the Panthers. Luongo's father-in-law, in fact, owns a pizza place in South Florida and the goalie took his teammates to eat there Sunday after the Canucks practiced at the BankAtlantic Center.

"My wife's side of the family is here, so there's a lot of people coming to the game," Luongo said. "It's always nice to come back here and play."

Luongo has had great success against the Panthers, who shipped him to Vancouver in a five-player trade in June of 2006. He has a 4-0-1 record with a 1.74 GAA, a .951 save percentage and one shutout. That includes a 3-2 victory during Luongo's rookie season with the New York Islanders in 1999-2000.

In his last visit to the BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 11, 2010, Luongo posted a 3-0 shutout.

But the goalie says facing his former team isn't as significant as it once was.

"Not as much as at the beginning, obviously," Luongo said. "It's more the excitement of playing in front of family and friends more than anything else that's exciting for me now."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 01.09.2012 / 1:34 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

With Markstrom ailing, Panthers recall goalie

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Panthers found themselves shorthanded in the nets when they held an optional morning skate Monday, so they called on a local college goalie to help out.

Jose Theodore, out since New Year's Eve with a knee injury, has been joined on the sidelines by Jacob Markstrom, who is nursing a knee injury of his own.

So the Panthers recalled Brian Foster from San Antonio of the AHL to back up Scott Clemmensen on Monday night against Vancouver.

Foster caught a flight out of Texas on Monday morning, so he wasn't present at the morning skate.

It's not clear exactly when Markstrom, who underwent knee surgery last season, hurt the knee. He was in net Friday night when the Panthers dropped a 5-2 decision at New Jersey in a game where the Devils scored two empty-net goals.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Markstrom would meet with team medical director Dr. John Uribe on Monday night to get feedback.

"He had an MRI yesterday, which was encouraging," Dineen said. "Certainly we're leaning more toward the positive than otherwise."

In addition to Theodore and Markstrom, the Panthers will be facing the Canucks without the services of forwards Sean Bergenheim (groin), Scottie Upshall (lower body), Jack Skille (shoulder) and Marco Sturm (concussion).

CANUCKS
Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Daniel Sedin
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Chris Higgins
Cody Hodgson - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Mike Duco - Manny Malhotra - Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Alexander Sulzer
Keith Ballard - Andrew Alberts

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Michal Repik
Mikael Samuelsson - Marcel Goc - Matt Bradley
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Mike Santorelli

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen
Brian Foster
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 6:32 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Power-play woes have stalled Rangers' momentum

SUNRISE, Fla. -- With the New York Rangers' power play slumping, Coach John Tortorella tried some different combinations at practice on Thursday.

He's hoping for better results starting with Friday night's game at Florida, although that doesn't necessarily mean more goals with the man advantage.

"The biggest thing with our power play that's frustrated me right now is, let alone not scoring goals, it's been the last little while here, the last few games, it's slowed our momentum down," Tortorella said. "We haven't even gained momentum off our power play. That's very important.

"You're not going to score on your power play all the time. You look at the percentages, it's 20 percent. It's not a high percentage. But you need to try to gain some momentum and we've gone the other way with it. I thought in practice yesterday it went really well, I'm hoping that we get some sort of momentum and that we get some goals out of it."

The Rangers have gone 1-for-16 on the power play over the last five games, the only goal coming from captain Ryan Callahan in the 4-2 victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 23.

New York also could use more overall production from center Brad Richards, whose only point in the last eight games came on his last-second game-winning goal at Phoenix on Dec. 17.

Tortorella said he would start Friday night's game with the same line combinations he had in Washington, but didn't rule out switching things around at some point.

That, however, does not include the line of Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, which Tortorella says will remain intact.

Tortorella also confirmed that Henrik Lundqvist would be in net against Florida.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 6:18 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rangers staying in the moment as Classic nears

SUNRISE, Fla. -- A couple of hours before his team's final game before the highly-publicized Winter Classic, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella said he didn't have to tell his players to stay in the moment.

In fact, he said he hasn't done that once since HBO cameras started following the team for the series "24/7," a behind-the-scenes look at the Rangers and the Flyers heading into Monday's Winter Classic between the teams at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.

"We haven't even talked about it," Tortorella said. "We have other things to talk about regarding last game as far as within our play. I'm not concerned about that at all. I haven't been all year long. I think our team is mature enough. We've gone through a lot of different things at the beginning of the year, we've handled them. So that hasn't even been in the discussion."

Tortorella said the focus before Friday night's game was making sure his team understood and learned from the mistakes made in its last outing, a 4-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday night.

That the Winter Classic is next for the Rangers is irrelevant, as far as Tortorella is concerned.

"I don't care what the Philadelphia ... Philadelphia is next on our schedule ... after this game," Tortorella said. "Listen, I know it's the Winter Classic and all this and all that, but we don't approach it that way. This is an important game for us to try to answer (for) a game I thought our decision-making was poor and I don't think we played hard enough. So this is an important game for us to try to get it back on the tracks."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:03 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Weaver earned his new contract

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Mike Weaver was standing in the Florida Panthers dressing room Friday morning when teammate Kris Versteeg snuck up behind him and rubbed shaving cream all over his face.

"We did it! We did it!" Versteeg shouted before walking away laughing.

It was Versteeg's way of congratulating Weaver for signing a two-year contract extension, which was announced Friday morning.

The 33-year-old Weaver is in his second season with the Panthers after playing for four different teams in his first eight NHL seasons.

Weaver has been a dependable defenseman for the Panthers the last two seasons and a member of the first penalty-killing unit.

"Mike Weaver is one of those character players that is widely respected around the League," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "He was a guy last year that I used as an example for some of my players in the American league how to play defense. His character as a player is not always going to show up on the score sheet, but he's one of those guys that goes out and consistently does a good job for us. He plays against other teams' top lines. Not only does he play against them, but that's a role he really relishes.

"That's a very strong signing for the Florida Panthers and really bodes well for both him and us. It's a win-win situation for the next couple of years."

For Weaver, the extension is a nice reward for a career spent overcoming obstacles -- starting with his lack of size, as he's listed at just 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds.

After playing four years at Michigan State, he signed with the Atlanta Thrashers, but never appeared in more than 40 games in his three seasons with the team.

He then spent two seasons with Los Angeles, another with Vancouver and two with St. Louis before the Panthers signed him in August 2010.

"I just look one game at a time, one season at a time," Weaver said. "I've worked my butt off ever since I turned pro to get in a situation I'm able to feel comfortable in. It's nice to be here in Florida, for sure.

"When we agreed on the contract, it's amazing looking back what I've gone through to this point."

Weaver has no goals and 9 assists this season, but offense never has been his forte. He has 6 goals in 458 NHL games and only three since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Weaver, however, is a terrific defensive defenseman. He rarely gets caught out of position or beat 1-on-1, plus he's second on the team behind Jason Garrison with 62 blocked shots.

With the offensive success of fellow Panthers blueliners Brian Campbell, Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov, as well as the presence of five-time All-Star Ed Jovanovski and rookie Erik Gudbranson, the third pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, it's easy to overlook Weaver.

And that's just the way he likes it.

"As long as I'm out of the paper, I'm fine," Weaver said. "That's the way I look at it. My game is most valuable to the current organization that I'm in. A lot of GMs or scouts come to the game, I really become unnoticed out there. That's my game -- keep it simple and not be in the limelight."

His teammates, though, know he valuable he is.

"It's good for him that he stays here," said Kulikov, who has been partnered with Weaver this season. "He brings a good attitude to the team and he brings a lot of hard work. He's a hard-working guy and he's good defensively."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 12:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers' Weiss to be a game-time decision

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss took part in the morning skate, but coach Kevin Dineen wasn't ready to say afterward that Weiss would be back against the New York Rangers tonight.

Weiss has missed the last two games -- an 8-0 loss at Boston last Friday night and a 5-3 victory against Toronto Tuesday -- because of an upper-body injury.

"He had a good day," Dineen said. "I hope he can play tonight. We're going to give him the afternoon and probably dress an extra forward for warm-up and make a final decision post-warm-up whether he's physically able to play or not."

Weiss was among seven forwards who missed the Toronto game. None of the other six -- Marco Sturm, Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall and Marcel Goc -- are expected to play tonight or tomorrow against Montreal.

At the morning skate, Weiss centered a line with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky. He has played all season with Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann on a line that's been among the most productive in the League.

Versteeg and Fleischmann were split up during Weiss' absence; Fleischmann skated with Shawn Matthias and Matt Bradley.

Dineen wasn't ready after the morning skate to make any declarations about his lines.

"I'm not one to play cagey, but we're going to make a lot of decisions after warm-up," he said. "A lot of dominoes will either fall or come into place depending on the health of our team. At this point, it's almost hourly. We'll see where we're at post-warm-up."

Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers, and the Rangers, who did not skate this morning:

RANGERS
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky - Brian Boyle - John Mitchell
Ruslan Fedotenko - Mike Rupp - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Jeff Woywitka - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist will start in goal, with Martin Biron the backup.

PANTHERS
Tomas Kopecky - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Fleischmann - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley
Tim Kennedy - Mike Santorelli - Michal Repik
Krys Barch - Mark Cullen - Bill Thomas

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore will start in goal, with Scott Clemmensen the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 3:12 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Can Theodore repeat last game vs. Leafs?

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers handled the Toronto Maple Leafs a 5-1 defeat when the teams met on Nov. 8, but the final score might have been a bit misleading.

The big story that night was the goaltending, in particular the performance of Florida's Jose Theodore.

Toronto outshot Florida 39-28, including a 31-14 margin in the last two periods. But the Leafs weren't able to solve Theodore as the Panthers extended their 1-0 first-period lead.

The Leafs most likely will get another crack at Theodore tonight when they face the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

"He's a really good goalie that in our building played extremely well against us, and we're going to have to get lots of pucks on him," said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. "Like any goalie in the League, you get pucks on him, but the biggest thing is you've got to get traffic and we're going to have to do that tonight. We're going to have to get in front of him, we're going to make it uncomfortable for him to see the puck, and if we do that, we'll be successful."

That Nov. 8 victory snapped a three-game winless streak for the Panthers, and they find themselves on another three-game slide heading into tonight's game.

Theodore's performance in that first meeting certainly was one that caught his coach's attention.

"That was a real statement game for me," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "He played strong games up to that one, but that was one where they really put some pressure and had some quality shots and he looked so comfortable in that game. That was a little bit of a turning point in our relationship. I've always felt that he was our No. 1 guy, but I think that was certainly a statement game."

Theodore has been impressive this season, with a 13-8-4 record and a .919 save percentage, but he's coming off a rough outing in Boston, where he gave up four goals on 14 shots before being pulled after the first period of an 8-0 loss.

But the Panthers were facing a tough challenge that night, playing on the road for a second consecutive night and missing seven forwards with injuries.

The Panthers are confident they'll get a strong outing from Theodore tonight.

"Toronto has been playing well,' said Panthers forward Kris Versteeg. "They've got a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net. They've been playing with some confidence. Our goalie is going to have to step up a lot, with Kess (Phil Kessel), he gets a breakaway somehow every game and (Joffrey) Lupul and these guys who can find their way into scoring areas. Our goalie has been great for us all season, and we don't expect anything less."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 2:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers hardly surprised by Huberdeau's heroics

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jonathan Huberdeau's five-point performance in Team Canada's 8-1 opening victory over Finland Monday was great to see for the Florida Panthers. But it wasn't exactly surprising.

Huberdeau, selected third by the Panthers in the 2011 Entry Draft, showed that kind of offensive ability when he led the  team in scoring in the preseason.

"What did I think? Basically, what everyone else thought -- the kid is unreal," said Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who played for Team Canada last year. "I said this in training camp, it's unbelievable to watch him play. He doesn't necessarily take the hardest stride, he doesn't have the hardest shot, but he's by far the smartest player out there on any given night. He's always in the right position. He's certainly well warranted going third overall."

The Panthers sent Huberdeau back to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QJMHL before the start of the NHL season so he could mature physically and get stronger.

"He was a really close decision for us at training camp," coach Kevin Dineen said. "At the end of the day, for me I think it'll make him a better player down the line. You look at (Boston's) Tyler Seguin, the way he's exploded this year and the way that he felt his way through the season last year, the maturity level for an 18-year-old kid is so large. You look at our lineup, there's not too many with the exception of maybe Jovo (Ed Jovanovski) and (Dmitry) Kulikov that haven't put time in the American League and I think that's a good training ground. When he gets here, somewhere down the line, we'll rely heavily on him."

Dineen said he was able to watch about five minutes of Canada's rout of Finland.

"I saw Canada go up 4-1 and I saw him score that nice goal and I certainly liked to see that stat line today of him putting up the points," Dineen said. "It's exciting to see."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 2:06 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Weiss not ready to return for banged-up Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss will miss his second consecutive game Tuesday night because of an upper-body injury.

Weiss, who was called "the heartbeat" of the Panthers by coach Kevin Dineen earlier this season, was injured in Thursday night's 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa. He sat out the Panthers' 8-0 shutout loss at Boston the following night.

"He had a good skate this morning, but we're not going to go with Stephen until he's 100 percent ready to go," Dineen said after the morning skate. "He's just been too valuable for us. His heart has been telling him that he's getting close to return, so we'll make the final decision for him."

Weiss is second on the Panthers in scoring with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) and leads all forwards in playing time with an average of 20:36.

"He's a very versatile player," Dineen said. "There's players that have maybe different skill sets that stick out more in the League, but certainly as a coach you just keep banging on that drum because he's an easy guy to reach for in all key situations."

Weiss is one of seven injured forwards on the Panthers, along with Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc, Jack Skille, Sean Bergenheim, Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm.

The Panthers were so shorthanded up front in the loss at Boston that rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson was moved to right wing.

Dineen said Tuesday that Gudbranson, the third pick in the 2010 Draft, actually might have been the team's best forward on that forgettable night.

"It was fun, it was a lot of fun," Gudbranson said of the experience. "Change it up a little. I just went down low and tried to use my size and change the tide a little bit. I certainly enjoyed it. It's something that gives you experience and you can learn a lot of things and bring stuff back to defense with them.

"If we have a full lineup, I don't think he wants me up front because there's a few better hockey players up there. As of now, I look at it as a way to learn, a way to develop, work on quick feet, work on quick hands and in tight situations. That's how I’m looking at it."

The Panthers will have 12 forwards for Tuesday night's game after Mark Cullen was recalled from San Antonio for a second time this season. He'll be one of five forwards in the Florida lineup whose season began in the AHL.

"We've played through injuries this entire season," wing Kris Versteeg said. "We haven't had a full lineup this entire season. We don't know what it's like to play fully healthy, but we have guys that have come in and have stepped up to the challenge. They've been doing a great job for us so far and we're going to need it again tonight with a couple more guys going down, Weiss going down.

"We're going to need another guy to step up down the middle and win some big draws for us and score some big goals and make big plays. That's how we're going to beat a team like Toronto."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 2:04 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Florida Panthers host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the BankAtlantic Center:

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Joey Crabb

Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
Carl Gunnarsson - Cody Franson

James Reimer

PANTHERS
Tomas Kopecky - Mike Santorelli - Kris Versteeg
Tomas Fleischmann - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley
Krystofer Barch - Tim Kennedy - Michal Repik
Evgenii Dadonov - Mark Cullen - Bill Thomas

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs place Liles on injured reserve

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman John-Michael Liles on IR Tuesday as he continues to experience concussion-like symptoms.

Liles was injured on Dec. 22 when he took a hit from Buffalo wing Paul Gaustad during the Leafs’ 3-2 victory.

"We're shutting him down for a few days," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the team's morning skate. "He was better today, but not ready to go. If we run into a crisis, we've got to have another defenseman available in case of illness or another injury."

Liles joined five other Toronto players, including defenseman Mike Komisarek, on the injured list. The others are forwards Colby Armstrong, Mike Brown, Philippe Dupuis and Matthew Lombardi.

"We just wanted to make sure," Wilson said. "You don’t want to over-diagnose somebody. You have to give it a couple of days and right now it's best that he just sits out and stays away from the rink for a couple of days. As simple as that."

Liles had appeared in the Leafs' first 34 games before being injured. He is tied with fellow defenseman Dion Phaneuf for fourth on the team in scoring with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists) and is second in ice time behind Phaneuf with an average of 21:32.

"Injuries are part of the game," said Phaneuf, the Leafs' captain. "We're confident with the group that we have. He's definitely a big piece of our back end, but when guys get injured, other guys have to step up and I think we're definitely ready to do that. We did that last game and we're going to have to do it again."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Doan hoping for family reunion against Ellerby, Cats

SUNRISE, Fla. — Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan is hoping for a little family reunion Tuesday night, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get his wish.

Doan’s cousin is Florida Panthers defenseman Keaton Ellerby, but Ellerby has been a healthy scratch for nine of the last 11 games. The only two times Ellerby played during that span came when 2010 first-round pick Erik Gudbranson was sidelined with a charley horse.

Doan’s mother, Bernice, is the sister of Ellerby’s father, Calvin. Doan said the two families are close — Calvin Ellerby was the pastor who married Shane Doan and his wife Andrea.

The 10th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Ellerby is a smooth skater with good potential but he has found himself as the seventh defenseman on the Panthers this year.

The Coyotes’ flight from Phoenix landed too late Monday night for Doan and Ellerby to get together, although they did speak by phone.

“I’m a huge fan of his,” Doan said. “I think he’s a great player and a really good kid. I wish him all the best. He’s an unbelievable skater and he’ll play in the league for a long time when he really gets his opportunity.

“Hopefully, I get the chance to play against him tonight and get the chance to run into him a couple of times.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 2:23 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Good pals Tippett, Dineen to meet as NHL coaches

SUNRISE, Fla. — When Dave Tippett was asked to provide a good Kevin Dineen story Tuesday, he just laughed. And then he added, “All the dirt on Kev you couldn’t print.”

Tippett and Dineen shared a lot of good memories as teammates on the Canadian Olympic team and then with the Hartford Whalers.

Tuesday night they’ll be facing each other as NHL head coaches for the first time when Tippett’s Phoenix Coyotes face Dineen’s Florida Panthers.

“To watch how his career has evolved — he’s moved into the upper echelon of coaching in games played and in wins — is not surprising at all because he was always one step ahead of the game,” Dineen said. “A very well tought-of player and a very well-rounded player – he was always maybe looked at as a defensive guy, but he scored some huge goals for us back in the day in the Whaler green.”

Tippett, in his third season with the Coyotes, ranks second in coaching victories since the start of the 2002-03 season behind only Detroit’s Mike Babcock.

Dineen, meanwhile, is off to a great start in his first season behind the bench with the Panthers.

“He’s done a very good job,” said Tippett, who was in Dineen’s wedding. “I don’t say that just because he’s a good friend of mine. You see how hard their team competes, you see that they have some structure – they’re finding ways to win close games. Those are all the earmarks of a guy that’s doing a good job as coach. They’ve got a lot of new faces, they’ve got a lot of people that he had to bond very quickly and it looks like things are going well for him.”

Tippett said Dineen should merit Hall of Fame consideration for his work as a player. And he said Dineen’s teams play just like their coach.

“You knew, even his teams in the minors, they were going to compete hard, they were going to be teams that were well prepared,” Tippett said. “Kevin was a guy that never left anything in the dressing room. When he went on the ice, it was to play hard and you can see his team, that’s the way they compete.”

For Dineen, facing a good friend is nothing new. He went through the same thing on Nov. 3 when the Panthers played host to the Chicago Blackhawks and Coach Joel Quenneville, who happened to be his best man.

Dineen can only hope for a better result this time — the Panthers lost to Chicago, 3-2, in a shootout.

For Tippett, he’s hoping his team can rebound from a tough 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday when Brad Richards scored with one-tenth of a second left in regulation.

“That story is getting a little old there; it seems like every coach in this League was in my wedding,” Dineen said. “I’ve got lots of brothers that are out there and I’ve got a lot of great friends that have been extremely fortunate to make a living in this game.

“It’s nice when they’re in the other conference. We play them once this year. I was certainly disappointed to see how (Tippett’s) last game ended. I think that makes for a much tougher game for us when you have a team that’s going to be as grumpy as they are coming in to play tonight. We’ll have our hands full with that team.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 1:57 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes could get blue line boost in South Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Phoenix Coyotes will have one of their defensemen back Tuesday night and they could have a new one in the lineup as well.

Coach Dave Tippett said after the morning skate that Rostislav Klesla would return after missing the last seven games because of a lower-body injury.

But Tippett said he hadn’t decided whether to play David Rundblad, who was acquired Saturday in the trade that sent Kyle Turris to Ottawa.

“He’s up for selection,” Tippett said. “He’s not ruled out yet, but he’s not ruled in, either.”

Rundblad, who did not play in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers, had one goal and three assists in 24 games with Ottawa.

Here’s the projected lineup for the Coyotes:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Boyd Gordon - Kyle Chipchura
Taylor Pyatt - Cal O'Reilly - Lauri Korpikoski

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Derek Morris
Adrian Aucoin - Keith Yandle
David Schlemko - Rostislav Klesla
David Rundblad

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Injuries continue to force the Florida Panthers to shuffle their lineup.

Forward Bill Thomas was signed to a two-way contract Tuesday and should be in the lineup against Phoenix. Thomas had three goals and four assists in 24 games for the Panthers last season, but has played in San Antonio all season.

He will replace Sean Bergenheim, who is out with a groin injury. He was injured Sunday in a 3-2 overtime victory against Carolina after scoring his third goal in two games. Coach Kevin Dineen said he didn’t have a timetable for how long Bergenheim would be out of action. Bergenheim missed seven games earlier this season with another lower-body injury.

In another move, Tim Kennedy will skate up front after being recalled from San Antonio of the AHL for the third time this season. Kennedy will replace Greg Rallo, who was sent back down after making his NHL debut at the age of 30 on Sunday.

“We’re not looking to flip bodies right now and keep on moving guys in and out of the lineup,” Dineen said. “We want to find the right players and I know Tim Kennedy is the right guy for the job. He’s been here for the majority of the year and from everything that I understand Bill Thomas has put in a good stretch of hockey and deserves an opportunity to come back and play some games in a Panthers uniform.”

Here’s the projected lineup for the Panthers:

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Tomas Kopecky - Bill Thomas
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Mikael Samuelsson
Krystofer Barch - Tim Kennedy - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 12:17 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Flames, Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. – Here are the projected lineups for the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers for their game Friday night at BankAtlantic Center:

CALGARY FLAMES

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Chris Butler - Jay Bouwmeester
Scott Hannan - Derek Smith
T.J. Brodie - Brett Carson

Leland Irving
Miikka Kiprusoff

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Tomas Kopecky - Jack Skille
Sean Bergenheim - Shawn Matthias - Mikael Samuelsson
Krys Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jonanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 3:11 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers meet Devils again after dramatic rally

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers recorded a 4-3 victory against New Jersey on Nov. 21, but they don’t want a repeat performance when the teams meet again Tuesday night.

Sure, the same outcome would work just fine for Coach Kevin Dineen and his troops – they just don’t want to fall behind 3-0 like they did in the teams’ first meeting.

“You know what, we started that game well, we played well the first seven-eight minutes and all of a sudden a wave of Devils talent really came at us,” Dineen said after the morning skate Tuesday. “That was one of those games that we really felt strongly that we could come back and that our team was confident and playing well. That was a real character-builder for our team.

“It was certainly one of the games that sticks out so far this year on the positive side. We don’t want to play that formula too often where you get down three and then have to scratch and claw to fight your way back. It certainly makes for a quality matchup moving into tonight’s game.”

The Panthers made history with that victory over the Devils. It was the first time ever they had rallied from a three-goal deficit to win in regulation.

Defenseman Brian Campbell knows that kind of comeback doesn’t happen often.

“We can’t get down 3-0, we know that,” he said. “That’s not going to happen again. This team we’re playing is a great team. We had mistakes early on, some turnovers that cost us, some lackadaisical play. We’ve got to be ready from the get-go tonight and we want to be the ones that are setting the tempo and pushing the pace.”

Martin Brodeur was in net for New Jersey on Nov. 21 and he’ll start again Tuesday night.

“We’ve got to play 60 minutes, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We got off to a great start and we sat on it and they gained some confidence as the game went on and beat us in the third. That’s why we need to respect them — not that we didn’t respect them, they’re a good hockey team that can put the puck in the net, so you’ve got to play well.”

Brodeur, though, stopped short of calling this meeting a revenge game for the Devils.

“They’re not the Rangers or the Flyers, so it’s a little different,” he said. “But, again, we let go two points, so we’ll try to get them back tonight.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Foster weary from travel but ready for fresh start

SUNRISE, Fla. — Kurtis Foster could have been excused if he wanted, or needed, to sit out New Jersey’s game at Florida on Tuesday night.

But after flying Monday night and Tuesday morning to join his new team just in time to head to the BankAtlantic Center for an optional skate, the veteran defenseman was feeling more excited than exhausted.

“Coming to a new team I think I’ll get a little bit of a burst of energy, a little bit of adrenaline going knowing that it’s my first time with the team,” said Foster, whom the Devils acquired in a four-player trade. “Just the excitement of meeting new guys and being with a team that’s in a lot better position than we were in Anaheim and you’re winning games and close to the playoffs, it definitely makes it a lot easier to deal with a little bit of tiredness. I’ll go back and get a good rest this afternoon and be ready to go tonight.”

Foster was acquired by New Jersey along with minor-league goalie Timo Pielmeier in exchange for defenseman Mark Fraser, center Rod Pelley and a seventh-round choice in the 2012 Entry Draft.

It was the second time in less than six months that Foster was traded. Anaheim had acquired him July 1 in exchange for fellow defenseman Andy Sutton.

New Jersey will be the sixth NHL team for the 30-year-old Foster, following Atlanta, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Anaheim. He’s expected to be paired Tuesday night with Bryce Salvador and also should get time on the Devils’ power play, where he will be reunited with former Thrashers teammate Ilya Kovalchuk.

“Knowing what Jersey is all about, I want to try to play solid defense, but my game is shooting the puck and create as much offensively,” Foster said. “I know that [Kovalchuk] likes to play the off-side on the power play and I like to play the right side. Hopefully, it’s a match that works out and (I’ll) try to get him the puck as much as I can in a position where he can shoot and make sure as many of my shots through, too. If I can generate a little bit of offense, help out the PP and play a solid all-around game, that’s kind of what I’m hoping for.”

Foster says he’s 100 percent recovered from a leg problem that sidelined him during training camp and the exhibition season.

He explained that a wire that he had inserted after fracturing his left leg while with Minnesota somehow moved and went into his quad. Foster said the wire was clipped at the bone and the leg shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.

Foster broke his leg in March of 2008 and missed most of the following season, but he played in 71 games for Tampa Bay in 2009-10 and 74 games for Edmonton last season.

Foster was informed of the trade after being pulled off the ice 10 minutes into Anaheim’s practice Monday afternoon.

It wasn’t until he drove home after showering that Ducks general manager Bob Murray informed him where he was being sent.

“I really didn’t know what to think,” Foster said. “It’s kind of a weird feeling when he tells you you’re being moved but he doesn’t tell you where. He did say at that point that it was a good situation for me and it was the best thing for my career going forward. When you have a GM telling you that, it’s a good thing and when he told me it was the Devils I was pretty excited.”

Foster took a 5:30 p.m. flight from Anaheim to Dallas and then headed to South Florida on a 5:45 a.m. flight Tuesday morning.

During the optional skate, he got some one-on-one instruction from Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, who also coached Foster in Tampa Bay.

“You never want to be traded, but when you do, you know that the team you’re going to likes you and wants you, so it’s always a good feeling,” Foster said. “Even though I’ve moved on to my fourth team 
in a couple of years, it is exciting, it is nice to know that I’m still wanted out there and that I think I can really help this team.
         
“[I’m] very, very happy. I think my wife will have a hard time leaving California. She enjoyed the beach life there, but for my family, my wife and my son, it’s a move that’s going to benefit the most for my future going ahead.”
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers put Theodore back in net to face Devils

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Panthers goalie Jose Theodore will get the chance to quickly atone for his first bad performance of the season.

Coach Kevin Dineen said after the morning skate that Theodore will be back in net Tuesday night when Florida faces the New Jersey Devils.

Theodore was pulled after the second period of Sunday's 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers after allowing six goals on 22 shots. Despite that rough outing, Theodore will go into the New Jersey game with an 11-6-3 record with a 2.39 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Sunday marked the first time this season that Theodore was pulled for ineffectiveness. He was replaced after the second period of an Oct. 22 game against the New York Islanders because a lower-body injury.

Theodore was in the net against New Jersey on Nov. 21 when the Panthers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

"He's the right guy for the job," Dineen said. "He's played extremely well for us and he's given us a chance to win every night. He threw a stinker at us, like the rest of the crew, the other night. Now, you rebound and you come back and that's what's great about having people that have great experience. They move on and get ready for the next one."

The Panthers will face the Devils without the services of rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who suffered a charley horse in the Rangers game.

That came after Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal.

Here are the projected lines for tonight's game:

DEVILS

Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Mattias Tedenby - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Kurtis Foster
Alexander Urbom - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Tomas Kopecky - Mikael Samuelsson
Sean Bergenheim - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:42 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vokoun won't start in return to South Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun was happy to return to South Florida so he could see his wife and two daughters. But the trip will not include a start against his former team.

Instead, Coach Dale Hunter said Michal Neuvirth will get the call against Florida, the team for which Vokoun played for the last four seasons.

"Those are the decisions Coach makes," Vokoun said. "I'm a paid employee and I don't make those kind of decisions. I'm a hockey player, I'm paid to play games. When they tell me I'm playing, I'm playing. When they told me I'm not playing, I'm not playing."

Vokoun left his family behind when he signed a one-year contract as a free agent with Washington this summer because he wanted his kids to stay in their school.

He flew to South Florida ahead of his teammates and stayed at his house on Sunday night.

"Obviously for me it's special becasue my family is here," he said. "I get to see my kids and stay home a couple of days. Being away since September, it's really nice."

Vokoun faced the Panthers earlier this season when the teams met in Washington and stopped 20 shots in a 3-0 shutout victory.

Hunter also said after Monday's morning skate that defenseman Roman Hamrlik will miss a third consecutive game with a lower-body injury.

Left wing Alexander Semin, however, could be available after missing Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory over Ottawa with a shoulder injury. Hunter said a final call on his lineup will be a game-time decision.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 12.05.2011 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Capitals, Panthers

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers host the Washington Capitals at the BankAtlantic Center:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Cody Eakin - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Mathieu Perreault

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
Jeff Schultz - Dmitry Orlov

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky - Sean Bergenheim
Evgenii Dadnov - Tim Kennedy - Bracken Kearns

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 6:26 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stralman set to make Rangers' debut

SUNRISE, Fla. — Anton Stralman will make his New York Rangers debut Wednesday night against the Florida Panthers.

The 25-year-old Swedish defenseman has been a healthy scratch since signing with the Rangers on Nov. 5. Coach John Tortorella is hoping Stralman can help a power play that is tied for 28th in the League.

"He needs to get in sooner or later, see what he is," Tortorella said. "I thought he moved the puck well on our power play yesterday (at practice). We'll see if he can help us a little bit there."

Tortorella said Jeff Woywitka will be scratched to make room for Stralman.

Stralman spent the last two seasons with Columbus. He led all Blue Jackets defensemen with 34 points two seasons ago and had 18 points in 51 games in 2010-11.


Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:46 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Upper-body injury continues to sideline Goc

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Panthers center Marcel Goc will miss his fourth consecutive game Wednesday night with what has been listed as an upper-body injury, and he might be out for a little while longer.

Coach Kevin Dineen addressed Goc's status after the Panthers' optional morning skate and said the injury was a result of Goc taking a hit to the head in a game at Dallas Nov. 15.

Dineen, however, stopped short of calling the injury a concussion.

"We're just in that precautionary stage before we make any kind of statement on exactly what the injury is," he said. "I had a really good talk with him today and he’s making strides in the right direction.

"He took a pretty good shot. I don't like playing this game where I'm trying to stickhandle around what exactly an injury is, but sometimes I have to get a definitive answer from my medical group before I make any kind of a public statement on that."

Goc, signed as a free agent from Nashville on July 1, has 2 goals in 17 games, but has been a key member of the penalty-killing unit and also has been asked to take a lot of key faceoffs in the defensive zone.

Dineen did not give a timetable for Goc’s return.

"Everybody has different reactions to injuries and his are consistent with us giving us some time to make sure that he's all right," Dineen said.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers looking to get other lines going

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida's top line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann has produced big numbers all season, but now the Panthers are looking for more offensive contributions from their other lines.

That's why there might be different line combinations Wednesday night when the Panthers face the New York Rangers.

In the Panthers' last two games -- 3-2 and 4-3 victories over Pittsburgh and New Jersey, respectively -- the top line accounted for six of the seven goals. The other was scored by defenseman Brian Campbell on a feed from Versteeg.

Versteeg (11), Fleischmann (9) and Weiss (8) have combined for 28 goals on the season, but no other forward has more than three.

Injuries have been a factor up front, as the Panthers had to recently recall three players from the AHL -- Tim Kennedy, Evgenii Dadonov and Michal Repik.

"I'm always tweaking things and that's a blessing and a curse," Dineen said after the Panthers' optional morning skate Wednesday. "You're searching for chemistry. If I see it a snapshot of some chemistry, that's something I certainly am going to try to encourage and stay with.

"I'm fairly patient when it comes to that, and obviously with Michal Repik and Tim Kennedy and Dads in the lineup, it's changed our dynamic a little bit and it's important that you really engage those players and make them feel a part of it. That's what we're trying to do."

Dineen didn't dismiss the possibility of breaking up his top line at some point to try to generate more balanced offensive production.

"Obviously, we haven't tweaked Weisser's line and that's always maybe even tempting to say, let's put somebody on there to get them going," Dineen said. "We'll see where we go with that."

Dineen said Wednesday morning he hadn't decided whether Jose Theodore or Jacob Markstrom would be in net against the Rangers.

Theodore has started the last three games and played well, but Dineen said he was intrigued by the idea of Markstrom going against fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist.

"You know what, Swede vs. Swede is very enticing (vs.) going with the hot hand, it makes for a tough decision for a coach," Dineen said. "I'll probably wait until the last minute to make that call."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:38 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Rangers, Panthers

Here's how the lines could look for tonight's game between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center:

RANGERS
Brandon Dubinsky - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Sean Avery - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Brandon Prust - Erik Christensen - Andre Deveaux

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka - Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Tomas Kopecky - Evgenii Dadonov
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Michal Repik

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers-Rangers a family affair for Dineens

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen comes from a hockey family, and Wednesday night's game against the New York Rangers at the BankAtlantic Center will reunite him with one of his brothers.

Former NHL player and coach Bill Dineen had five sons, all of whom currently work in hockey. Three of them -- Kevin, Gord and Peter -- also played in the NHL.

Jerry Dineen, the second-youngest of the clan at 45, made it as far as the ECHL and he's now a video coach for the Rangers.

"Jer has been a guy that's been around for a long time," Kevin Dineen said after the Panthers' optional skate Wednesday morning. "He's been through I don't know how many coaches, but I don't think that goes to luck. He's a valuable part of that organization and his personality lends itself to long-term stability and (he's) very helpful within the organization. It is special to have him on the other side."

In addition to Kevin and Jerry, Peter Dineen is a scout with Columbus and Shawn Dineen, the youngest brother at 43, is a scout with Nashville.

Gord Dineen, meanwhile, is an assistant coach with the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

But Wednesday, it's Kevin and Jerry.

"He's always been the young guy there and always very endearing to the rest of us," Kevin said of Jerry, who is in his 18th season with the Rangers. "We get to spent a lot of time as families during the summer and stay in touch, and on a night like tonight we're trying to kick each other's tails, no different than we were as young guys."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 11.21.2011 / 12:50 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Devils, Panthers

Here are how the lines could look when the New Jersey Devils face the Florida Panthers tonight at the BankAtlantic Center:

DEVILS

Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Mattias Tedenby - Rod Pelley - David Clarkson
Brad Mills - Ryan Carter - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Tomas Kopecky - Evgenii Dadonov
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Michal Repik

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 11.21.2011 / 12:48 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Samuelsson moving closer to Panthers' debut

FLORIDA -- While Sidney Crosby will make his long-awaited season debut Monday night, Panthers forward Mikael Samuelsson is still waiting to make his debut with his new team.

At least Samuelsson is getting close.

The veteran, who won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008, has been on injured reserve with a lower-body injury since he was acquired in the Oct. 22 trade that sent David Booth to Vancouver.

But the hope is that Samuelsson could make his Panthers debut before the end of the month.

Samuelsson appeared in six games for Vancouver early in the season before he had a setback related to the sports hernia surgery he underwent in May.

"We're taking it really slow," Samuelsson said. "Obviously I've never done that before. I think I need that time. We're getting there. Give me one more week or something like that. I'll let the guys in there decide, the trainers."

The other veteran acquired in the Booth trade, forward Marco Sturm, has 1 goal and 1 assist in 12 games with Florida.

After finishing with 50 points in 75 games for Vancouver last season, Samuelsson has 1 goal and 2 assists this season. He's looking forward to the opportunity of adding to that total.

"As long as I'm healthy when I get back, I'm good about it," Samuelsson said. "But I'm anxious to get going."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 12:46 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Penguins, Panthers

Here are the projected lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers for their contest tonight in Sunrise, Fla.:

PITTSBURGH        

James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Steve Sullivan
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Deryk Engelland
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen - Alexandre Picard

Brent Johnson
Marc-André Fleury

FLORIDA

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Evgeny Dadonov
Sean Bergenheim - Tomas Kopecky - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Michal Repik

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Théodore
Jacob Markstrom
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 12:41 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Top prospect Markstrom back with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — Goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom will be back up with the Florida Panthers on Saturday night  while the team gives veteran Scott Clemmensen at least a couple of days off.

Coach Kevin Dineen said the move isn’t related to the knee surgery Clemmensen underwent before the start of the regular season. Dineen instead used the term “soreness.”

Markstrom will join the Panthers sometime in the afternoon after playing in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Friday night. Markstrom, who will back up Jose Theodore against the Pittsburgh Penguins, stopped 28 of
32 shots in San Antonio’s 5-4 overtime victory.

Clemmensen was held out of the Panthers’ morning skate Saturday and a local amateur goalie filled in.

“It’s just a chance for us to keep making sure that I’ve got guys feeling 100 percent,” Dineen said. “If it was later in the season, our decision-making would be different than it is. I was going to go back with Theo tonight and felt that the extra day or two off the ice would benefit [Clemmensen] more than having him out there practicing today and backing up tonight.”

Clemmensen made his only start of the season Tuesday at Dallas when he stopped 25 shots in a 6-0 victory. Dineen said Clemmensen’s absence is “short term,” but didn’t dismiss the possibility of Markstrom getting a start.

After the game Saturday against Penguins, the Panthers have three more home games during the next week — Monday against New Jersey, Wednesday against the New York Rangers and Friday against Tampa Bay.

“I’ve been pretty vague about my goaltenders,” Dineen said. “I like keeping my options open. We’ll see where we’re at on Monday and we’ll just play it from there.”

The Panthers likely will be without forwards Marcel Goc (upper body) and Matt Bradley (upper body) against the Penguins.

To help up front, the Panthers on Friday recalled Michal Repik from San Antonio. He was the third forward called up in the past week, joining Evgenii Dadonov and Tim Kennedy.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Friday, 11.18.2011 / 1:30 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Extra work on knee to sideline Pens' Jeffrey

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey will be out 10-15 days as he continues to rehabilitate a knee injury.

Jeffrey had surgery to repair torn ligaments in the knee in March and missed training camp and the first eight games of the season because of the injury. Coach Dan Bylsma said Jeffrey still needs to further strengthen his knee.

The 23-year-old Jeffrey does not have a point in six games this season. He was recalled from a conditioning assignment with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Tuesday.

"There's no aggravation or setback, just strength and the wear and tear and then loading it up with games," Bylsma said. "There just needs to be more rehabbing done to the knee to withstand and to be at the level he needs to skate at."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 7:28 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers get Bergenheim back in lineup

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will get 2011 playoff sensation Sean Bergenheim back in the lineup when they face the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

Bergenheim, who signed as a free agent with Florida after scoring 9 goals in 16 playoff games for Tampa Bay last spring, missed the last seven games because of a lower-body injury.

Bergenheim has 1 goal in four games, but was part of Florida's penalty-killing unit.

"He can eat up a lot of minutes and he's a big body," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's very responsible and he's one of those players that coaches certainly trust. Where he left off at the end of last season being a dominant player in the playoffs for Tampa Bay, he's picked that up here and he has been missed in our lineup. So we're looking forward to getting him back."

Dineen was non-commital at the morning skate about who would start in goal, but opted to use rookie Jacob Markstron. Veteran Jose Theodore played the last two games -- a 3-2 victory at Buffalo and a 4-3 shootout loss at home to Winnipeg -- after Markstrom had made two starts.

Corey Crawford will be in net for Chicago, which will be missing defenseman Duncan Keith, who is nursing a hand injury. Veteran Sean O'Donnell is expected to take Keith's place in the lineup.

Coach Joel Quenneville said it was too early to determine whether Keith would be back in action Friday night when the Hawks play at Tampa Bay.

Forward Daniel Carcillo will be back in the lineup against Florida after serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 1:05 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blackhawks, Panthers

Here's how the lineups could look when the Florida Panthers play host to the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the BankAtlantic Center:

BLACKHAWKS


Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Andrew Brunette
Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Nick Leddy - Sean O'Donnell
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Sami Lepisto - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille
Scottie Upshall - Mike Santorelli - Tomas Kopecky
Sean Bergenheim - Shawn Matthias - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Monday, 10.31.2011 / 12:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Jets, Panthers

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers face off in a Southeast Division battle at the BankAtlantic Center:

JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Kyle Wellwood
Evander Kane - Nik Antropov - Alexander Burmistrov
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Kenndal McArdle - Tim Stapleton - Blake Wheeler

Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Randy Jones

Ondrej Pavelec
Peter Mannino

Jets coach Claude Noel said he's hoping D Ron Hainsey (upper body) will be cleared to practice by the end of the week and could return to the lineup before the end of Winnipeg's seven-game road trip. Noel said goalie Chris Mason (groin), who was injured in the third period of Thursday's 9-8 victory at Philadelphia, is day-to-day,

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Scottie Upshall - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Marco Sturm - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Tim Kennedy - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom

Forward Sean Bergenheim (lower body) and goaltender Scott Clemmensen (knee) both took part in the morning skate, but coach Kevin Dineen said neither will be in uniform tonight and they're not likely to play against Chicago on Thursday, either.
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 1:20 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gudbranson hopes to stick in South Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. — Erik Gudbranson will be playing his third game at the BankAtlantic Center Saturday night when the Florida Panthers take on the New York Islanders. The third pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is hoping it won't be his last this season.

The Panthers will have to decide after their ninth game whether to return Gudbranson to his Ontario Hockey League team in Kingston or keep him in the NHL, which would move him a year closer toward free agency.

Tonight will be Florida's seventh game, and its next two will be the road — Monday at Montreal and Thursday at Ottawa, which happens to be Gudbranson's hometown.

"I think you just go back to keeping it simple and looking at it as a team game," Gudbranson said after Saturday's morning skate. "For the next three games, this is my team and hopefully I get the 10th game in. That's obviously in the back of my mind, but never when I'm playing and never when I'm with the guys."

In his first six NHL games, Gudbranson has yet to record a point. He's averaging 12:39 of ice time and is tied for the worst plus-minus ratio among Panthers defensemen with Brian Campbell at minus-4.

Gudbranson has had 24 penalty minutes, which includes fights against Steve Downie and Ryan Malone in games against Tampa Bay Saturday and Monday, respectively.

Along with the physical aspect, Gudbranson has shown crisp passing from the back end as well as an impressive slap shot.

"I like his game, I like what he's brought," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He still shows his youth at times. I think that doesn't surprise anybody that he can go out there and just bring so much enthusiasm that sometimes that youth gets him in positions he doesn't want to be in. But the overall picture is he's off to a good start to his NHL career."

After failing to reach agreement on an entry-level contract last summer, Gudbranson spent all of the 2010-11 season in the OHL. If he does go back to Kingston, Gudbranson again will get to play with his younger brother Alex, who is also a defenseman.

The Frontenacs sure could use Erik Gudbranson, considering a 4-0 loss to Brampton Friday night dropped them to 1-11 on the season.

But Gudbranson clearly wants to stay in the NHL, and he feels he belongs there.

"In my mind, I do, and that's not only just for the 10th-game mark," Gudbranson said. "You have to think that when you're playing on the ice. You have to believe that you're in the right place and that you're making a difference on the ice.

"I've been happy (with my performance). I've been trying to get better every single game. I think that's the biggest thing, working on your gaps, on your stick, really adjusting to the speed. I'm trying to pick up as much as I can, game in, game out, and be a better player the next day."
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 12:45 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Rolston out for Islanders, projected lineups

SUNRISE, Fla. — Veteran forward Brian Rolston will miss the Islanders' game at Florida Saturday night after he flew home to be with his wife as she prepared to give birth.

Rolston, an alternate captain in his first season with the Isles, had no goals and two assists in the team's first five games.

In Rolston's place, Matt Martin is expected to skate on the third line with Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, who will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last two games.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are likely to have veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski back in the lineup after he missed Thursday night's game against Buffalo because of a hip injury.

Jovanovski took part in the morning skate, as did wing Shawn Matthias, who missed the Buffalo game because of flu symptoms. Matthias should be in the lineup Saturday night.

Forward Sean Bergenheim, however, will miss his third consecutive game because of a lower-body injury. Coach Kevin Dineen said it was even possible Bergenheim could be left behind when the Panthers go on a three-game trip that begins at Montreal on Monday.

Projected lineups

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Matt Moulson - John TavaresPA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Blake Comeau - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Trevor Gillies-Marty Reasoner-Jay Pandolfo

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
David Booth - Tomas Kopecky - Tim Kennedy
Scottie Upshall - Marcel Goc - Jack Skille
Shawn Matthias - Ryan Carter - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Jose Theodore
Jacob Markstrom
Full Story ›|Email & Share Options ›|Print ›
Posted On Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 1:36 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Santorelli could make season debut for Panthers

Florida Panthers center Mike Santorelli might make his season debut Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Santorelli, who has been sidelined by a shoulder injury, took part in the Panthers' morning skate and coach Kevin Dineen said a decision on his status would be made after pre-game warmups.

Santorelli skated Thursday morning on a line with Ryan Carter and Matt Bradley. Shawn Matthias, who played on that line in Florida's first five games, missed the morning skate -- Dineen said Matthias was sick.

Sean Bergenheim, who missed Tuesday’s game at Washington with a lower-body injury, took part in the morning skate, although he left the ice early.

The Panthers announced they have recalled left wing Tim Kennedy and center Bracken Kearns from San Antonio of the AHL, a sign Matthias and Bergenheim might miss Thursday's game.