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Panthers to scratch Kulikov against Senators

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, a former first-round pick who recently has been the subject of trade rumors, will be a healthy scratch Tuesday when the Florida Panthers play host to the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center.

The move comes after a series of costly turnovers in recent games, the latest an errant pass in his zone that led to a Pittsburgh Penguins goal in a 5-2 loss Saturday.

"I think that's a good thing for a lot of players," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "They have to go through this process. They have to be accountable to their teammates, and when we decide that it's best for him, sometimes it's good just to sit back and see it. And you come back with a whole new approach to the game. Nobody wants to be in that situation, but sometimes it's just necessary."

The 14th selection in the 2009 NHL Draft, Kulikov, 23, has three points and a minus-9 rating this season, his fifth in the League. Kulikov said he was surprised by the decision.

"I don't think I've been playing bad enough to get thrown out of the lineup," Kulikov said. "But it's a coach's decision. I'm disappointed. That's the only way to describe it. I'm going to work hard to get back in the lineup."

Kulikov's place will be taken by veteran Mike Mottau, who was a healthy scratch for Florida's past three games. Another healthy scratch for the Panthers will be veteran center Scott Gomez, who will give way to left wing Krys Barch.

Tim Thomas will make his 12th consecutive start; he'll continue his streak of starting every game since Horachek replaced Kevin Dineen as Panthers coach.

"He's been really good," said Horachek, whose first game was a 3-2 loss at Ottawa on Nov. 9. "We're continuing to monitor to see where he is. Obviously he's not going to play every game, but right now every game for us becomes that much more important and we have days off in between. When we get to a back-to-back, that may become another issue."

The Panthers' next set of back-to-back games comes Saturday and Sunday when they play on the road against the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Against Ottawa, Thomas will be facing former Panthers backup Craig Anderson, who has been inconsistent this season but has enjoyed great success against his former team.

Anderson is 6-8-2 with a 3.51 goals-against-average and .894 save percentage, and he gave up four goals in each of his past two starts, including a 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Thanksgiving when he was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 15 shots.

But in 12 career games against Florida, for whom he played from 2006-07 through 2008-09, Anderson is 9-1-1 with a 1.90 GAA and a .938 save percentage.

"Craig is the No. 1 goaltender and he's played well against them," Senators coach Paul MacLean said after his team's morning skate. "He's bounced back well after games in the past. We just feel he gives us the best chance to win tonight."

It's a new-look Senators lineup Anderson will be playing behind; MacLean decided to shake up his forward lines.

He broke up the top scoring line of Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan by moving MacArthur on a line with Jason Spezza and Mika Zibanejad.

Mike Hoffman, recalled Monday from Binghamton of the American Hockey League and set to make his season debut, will skate with Turris and Ryan.

"We're still searching for our best team, what's our best group of 12 forwards, our best combination of 12 forwards and six defensemen to give us an opportunity to consistently win," MacLean said. "We haven't found that yet. We're still searching for it and we'll continue to search for it until we find it. If this ends up working out, we'll stay with it."

Hoffman, who played four games for Ottawa last season, is second in the AHL in scoring with 26 points in 21 games. MacLean is hoping Hoffman can help the Senators get back on track after they lost six of their past eight games but cautioned against expecting too much from the 2009 fifth-round pick.

"We're not expecting Mike Hoffman to come in and change the whole thing and make everything go the right way," MacLean said. "It's not going to be because Mike Hoffman is here. He's just a piece of the puzzle just like everybody else is and we just expect to come in and do what he does and to be himself. … He's not Guy Lafleur."

Here are the projected lineups:


Clarke MacArthur - Jason Spezza - Mika Zibanejad

Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Milan Michalek - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Cory Conacher - Colin Greening - Erik Condra

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Chris Phillips - Joe Corvo

Patrick Wiercioch - Jared Cowen

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Eric Gryba, Matt Kassian

Notes: Methot took part in the morning skate after missing the game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday because of the flu, and MacLean said he was confident Methot would be available to play against the Panthers.


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Jesse Winchester

Krys Barch - Shawn Matthias - Jimmy Hayes

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Mike Mottau - Mike Weaver

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Dmitry Kulikov

Injured: Tomas Kopecky (upper body), Matt Gilroy (lower body), Ed Jovanovski (lower body)

Notes: Kopecky will miss his fifth consecutive game because of an upper-body injury sustained in a 4-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 21.

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