-- Kevin Dineen
has been both excited and proud to see some of his former AHL players enjoying success in the NHL. For tonight at least, he wants that to stop.
Dineen will be facing six players he coached in Portland over the past three years when his Florida Panthers
take on the Buffalo Sabres
at the BankAtlantic Center.
"It's great," said Dineen, who's in his first season as Panthers coach. "I really enjoyed watching players that I had and (see the) progress they've had in their career. It's been great to follow their success and their rise to the NHL. Obviously, they have really contributed to the Sabres' early success."
The six Dineen-coached players who will suit up for Buffalo on Thursday night are left wings Luke Adam
, Tyler Ennis
and Matt Ellis
, center Nathan Gerbe
, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani
and backup goalie Jhonas Enroth
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Under Dineen, Adam, Ennis and Gerbe were the last three winners of the AHL Rookie of the Year award.
"He helped me a lot," Ennis said. "It was my first year. I was a rookie and I struggled right off the start. Obviously, I was a little frustrated and he kind of just took me aside and said, 'It's a long season, it's your first year, just go have fun and it'll go.' That helped a lot and I played well after that.
"He's a motivating guy. He's personable, but if you're not playing well or he doesn't like what you're doing he's going to tell you. That's the kind of guy he is. He can be tough at times, but there isn't a guy that I played with there that played with him that didn't like him as a coach."
Ennis has struggled so far this season, with no points in Buffalo's first five games, but Adam and Gerbe have played big roles in the Sabres getting off to a 4-1 start. Adam has 3 goals and 3 assists, while Gerbe has 1 goal and 3 assists.
Adam, who played in 19 games for the Sabres last season, has been paired with Thomas Vanek
and Jason Pominville
, and he's taken full advantage of it.
Adam had a chance to chat with Dineen at Thursday's morning skate.
"It was great to see him," Adam said. "I can't thank him enough for what he did for me last year. That's the fun part about the game. You get to play against old teammates, old coaches, and see how they react. It'll be neat to see him on the other bench.
"He did a ton for me last year in my development, and I can't thank him enough and can't be happier that he got a head coach job in the National Hockey League this year."
For his part, Dineen said he wasn't surprised with the success Adam has had early in his first full NHL season.
"Luke got off to such a fabulous start last year," Dineen said. "He was a young kid and he was a dominant player in the American League and it doesn't surprise me at all. He has that talent. Obviously, he recognized that he had a good opportunity. He's playing with fabulous players and he's really taking advantage of his opportunity.
"Extremely happy to see Luke and I hope his success continues after tonight."
Emphasis on the word "after."