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."