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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."
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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.
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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."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Panthers vs. Devils series blog

Panthers, Devils set to play Game 1 Friday

After waiting more than a decade to return to the postseason, two more days will seem minimal for the Florida Panthers. In the last series to get underway in the first round of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup playoffs, Florida will end the longest postseason drought in the League when it faces the Devils Friday night at BankAtlantic Center.

The Devils and Panthers will drop the puck at 7 ET. Game 1 will be broadcast nationally on NHL Network in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
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