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:
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
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