CORAL SPRINGS – Shawn Matthias
sat in front of his locker late Friday evening at the BankAtlantic Center a bit dejected and frustrated.
“I could have played better,” said the Panthers’ rookie in regards to his performance against the Rangers. “I don’t think I did enough of what I should be doing to help the team. Hopefully, I can get another game in and show them why they called me up.”
Matthias got his wish Saturday as he joined the team on the plane to New York for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
For Matthias, it’s a bright spot on what has been a tough season. Projected as possibly making the Panthers out of training camp, Matthias was one of the final cuts and assigned to the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester to begin the season. To say Rochester has struggled would be an understatement. The Amerks are 3-16-0-1 and Matthias had three goals and an assist in 19 games while being a minus-19.
Matthias, who was called up to the Panthers’ Oct. 30 for a game against Ottawa (he had no points and played 7:21), was a minus-1 Friday against the Rangers. After playing 3:55 in the first period, Matthias played 1:47 in the second before remaining seated in the third when coach Peter DeBoer shortened his bench.
DeBoer refers to Matthias as a “sure fire NHL player, either now or in the near future.” At 6-4 and 225-pounds, Matthias has the physical tools to be an impact player. Now it’s a matter of confidence, according to DeBoer.
“I think with all young players, its confidence,” said DeBoer after Saturday’s practice at IncredibleIce. “He’s got to get comfortable on the ice. You’re starting to see Michael Frolik feel comfortable out there and that’s been a process. It’s taken 15 or 20 games to get to that point. Shawn is probably no different.”
DeBoer said he thought Matthias was “tentative” in his own end Friday night. Part of that is an extension of playing on a struggling team in Rochester. “I’m sure he has it in his head that if he makes a mistake it’s in the net,” DeBoer said.
So it’s something DeBoer discussed with the 20-year-old during Saturday’s practice.
“I said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to make a mistake lets make a mistake being aggressive,’ ” DeBoer said. “I think that’s the mindset he has to have. You can’t get on the ice wondering where to go and play passive. I think if he can get his head wrapped around that he’ll be better.”
Matthias is more than willing.
“I just have to keep playing hard in my own end,” he said. “Just play hard, just win battles, and so what I did to be successful last year. I’ve gotten away from it. I just have to work harder and do the little things. Once I start doing that I’ll be rewarded.”
NO DECISION ON GOAL
DeBoer said Saturday he hadn’t made a decision on whether Tomas Vokoun or Craig Anderson would play goal Sunday afternoon against the Rangers. He didn’t single out goaltending, however, as the sole reason for the Panthers early season struggles.
“I think like a lot of areas of our game, they’ll probably be the first to tell you they both have to play better,” he said. “But that’s not the only area we need to improve on.
“It’s (goaltending) such an important position for us, and it’s been so good for so long you expect a certain level of play, and when it’s not there it’s disappointing. We know what (Vokoun and Anderson) are capable of and we’ve got to get that type of goaltending.”NOTES
The Panthers are 9-16-4-1 all-time at Madison Square Garden. Their last victory there came October of 2006… David Booth is riding a five-game scoring streak and four-game goal streak… Ville Peltonen has two goals and two assists in his last five games… The Rochester Americans won their third game of the season Friday evening, beating Lake Erie 2-1. Michael Repik got the game winner…