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Weiss back with Panthers following tough few days

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Stephen Weiss was back with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday morning and looking forward to Thursday's game against the Buffalo Sabres after a few tough days personally and professionally.

Weiss missed the Panthers' prior game, a 6-4 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins, after flying to Toronto to attend his grandmother's funeral.

Weiss flew to Canada on Monday, one day after he was benched for most of the third period of Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

After taking part in the Panthers' optional morning skate Thursday, Weiss was asked whether he was getting a fresh start.

"Yeah, it was definitely nice to go back home and see the family," Weiss said. "Anytime something like that happens, it kind of refocuses you. I'm kind of looking forward to playing tonight."

In his previous game, Weiss played two shifts in the third period against the Bruins and didn't see the ice in the final 6:01 while the Panthers were attempting to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

It was the low point in what has been a tough season for Weiss, who has one goal and three assists in 14 games along with a team-worst minus-11 ratio.

Weiss said his grandmother's health was not a factor in his play.

"No, absolutely not," he said. "Actually, my parents kept it from me. I didn't know until after the Boston game. I talked to my dad and he let me know that she passed that morning. I knew she was not in the best shape over the last year, so quality of life was a little bit low. But certainly over the last couple of days before the Boston game, she wasn't doing too well. But they didn't tell me."

Weiss said he was able to catch the last 10 minutes of his team's victory against Pittsburgh, which snapped a five-game home losing streak.

Weiss is hoping to bounce back with a strong effort to help the Panthers win back-to-back games for the first time since they beat the Winnipeg Jets (6-3) and Buffalo (4-3) on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3.

"It's never fun to be sat and the easy answer is to play better," Weiss said. "That's the bottom line. If I play better, it's not going to happen. But that stuff doesn't bother me. It's not the first time I've been benched and it's probably not the last time I'll be benched. It's just a matter of how you deal with it. You put it behind you and just keep pushing forward, try to play better."

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