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New assistants bring winning experience to Panthers

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- New Florida Panthers assistant coaches Brian Skrudland and John Madden couldn't have more contrasting personalities. Skrudland is the brash, outgoing type, while Madden is known for his reserved style.

But as players, they were cast from the same mold. Both played in the NHL for more than a decade and survived in the League as hard-working penalty-killers and faceoff experts. They also won the Stanley Cup five times between them. And it's that winning history that interim coach Peter Horachek, who replaced fired Kevin Dineen on Friday, hopes can awaken the struggling Panthers (3-10-4).

"Obviously, their experience is unlimited. Both those guys have won [the Stanley Cup multiple times]," Horachek said. "Both of them are going to bring that aspect to the players. Our faceoffs are key. When you have two guys who have been key faceoff guys their whole career, that makes a difference. Both those guys are going to add a lot."

The fact that each had a decorated playing career isn't the only thing Madden and Skrudland have in common. Each also has a deep familiarity with the players on this young Panthers team. Before being named an assistant, Skrudland served as the Panthers’ director of player development since 2010, having a hand in the mentoring of many of the young players who make up the Florida roster.

As a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Madden won the Stanley Cup with three current Panthers: Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky. He also won the Stanley Cup twice as a member of the New Jersey Devils alongside Panthers forward Scott Gomez. Perhaps most importantly, he played on the Panthers team that won the Southeast Division in 2011-12, his final season as a player.

"It's great. Having talked to them about hockey when we were playing together, they know my ideas and there's that bond there," Madden said. "When you win a Cup, you can really trust somebody. Hopefully, all the guys respect me and my voice is heard."

While Madden has no previous coaching experience and it has been more than a decade since Skrudland served as an assistant with the Calgary Flames, both have learned from the best. Each considers the late Pat Burns a mentor.

But when it comes to rejuvenating the struggling Panthers, it's their experience as Cup-winning players that could be most useful.

"If these guys don't play [to win the Stanley Cup] every day, something is wrong. That's what you play the game for," Skrudland told "Once you win it once, you understand that even more so. Then you realize how special it is. I don't know what to say about someone who has never had that opportunity."


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