There was a race horse in the 1960s named Silky Sullivan who would be so far behind in races that no one would ever give him a shot. But in nearly every race, he would make a furious run down the stretch. The horse, who once made up 41 lengths to win, wound up becoming a legend and folk hero. Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker once remarked you simply had to wait for the horse to make up his mind to run. “Then you hold on for dear life.” You still hear the name used sometimes in sports and politics to describe a beaten opponent who comes back and wins.
The Panthers have become a lot like Silky Sullivan. They dawdle at the beginning of their seasons, fall behind the pack, and then try to make a run at making the playoffs. After getting off to a 7-11-1 start last season, they closed out the year 34-19-10 and missed out on the playoffs by a tiebreaker. In 2007-08, again they started 7-11-1 before finishing seven games over .500.
So while the 2-7-1 Panthers left town Thursday to prepare for games Friday in Dallas and Saturday in St. Louis, there wasn’t exactly ‘the sky is falling’ mentality gripping the team after their 4-3 loss Wednesday to Ottawa.
“It’s a long season,” said coach Peter DeBoer. “I guarantee you almost every team in the league is going to go through a 10-game period like we just went through. Unfortunately, ours is right at the start and it gets magnified by the history here of our starts to the seasons. We were here in the same spot last year at the 20 game mark and dug ourselves out of it….we’ll turn it around.”
So maybe they kick into gear Thursday like Silky Sullivan against the Stars, who beat the Maple Leafs at home in overtime Wednesday 4-3 on a James Neal goal. The Stars are 6-2-4 overall, 2-2-1 at American Airlines Center, and are in the middle of a stretch in which they play four out of five games at home.
Brad Richards leads the Stars in points with 15 (10 assists) while Neal leads the team with seven goals. Goalie Marty Turco is 4-2-3 with a 2.26 goals against. He’s 2-4 lifetime against the Panthers.
MCARDLE PROVIDES A SPARK
DeBoer said he was happy with Kenndal McArdle’s play Wednesday against the Senators. McArdle played 4:12, had three hits, fought Shean Donovan after the Senators third goal, and nearly scored a goal.
“I really just wanted to bring energy for the team, whether hitting or using my speed or getting into the occasional scrap,” McArdle said.
“He gave us what he needs to give us,” DeBoer said. “He gave us some energy, he almost scored a goal, he got into a scrap. We need that type of desperation in our lineup. The saying I use with young players is, ‘Don’t let me take you out of the lineup,’ and…it’s hard to remove a guy from the lineup that plays a game like that. The key is to do it every night.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t know what the answer is. I think everybody believes that it’s in here. It’s just a matter of figuring it out.” Hurricanes forward Matt Cullen after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Blues, leaving the ‘Canes 2-6-3 on the season.
Happy 19th birthday to rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. The Panthers first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry draft has had a great start to his professional career, registering four assists in his first 10 games.
Marc Crawford coaches his 1,000th game against the Panthers, becoming the 15th coach in NHL history to do so. Hard to believe it was all those years ago he was behind the bench when the Avs beat the Panthers in the ’96 Cup.
Goalie Marc Cheverie, drafted in the seventh-round (193rd overall) by the Panthers in 2006, needs to shut out Minnesota State for the opening 5:24 Friday to set a shutout record at the University of Denver. Cheverie, who has pitched three consecutive shutouts for the Pioneers, could break the current streak of 208:42 set in 2005 by Peter Mannino, now a member of the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Speaking of the Wolves, Chris Chelios was a plus-2 Wednesday in their 3-2 win over Rockford. Playing on the other side of the ice? Former Panther defenseman Jassen Cullimore.
Song of the day: ‘Got to Get Better in a Little While,’ by Derek and the Dominos.