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A New Phase

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Dave Joseph for

CORAL SPRINGS – The Panthers entered a new phase of their season Monday afternoon; the phase without David Booth and Radek Dvorak.
The million dollar questions are how long the phase will last, and how the Panthers respond to having two of their most energetic players out of the lineup.
Booth, who suffered a concussion Saturday in Philadelphia, and Dvorak, who injured his knee in the same game, were meeting with doctors Monday as the 2-6-1 Panthers practiced here at incredible ICE.
“They’re going to be missed,” said coach Peter DeBoer of Booth and Dvorak. “They drive a lot of our offense and forecheck. It’s not something you replace easily, but we don’t have a lot of choice.”
With no timetable for the return of either Booth or Dvorak, the Panthers dialed up their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., and called up first-round draft pick Kenndal McArdle (20th overall) from the 2005 Entry Draft and ’07 second-round pick (40th overall) Michal Repik.
Repik leads the Amerks in points (11) and is tied for third in goals scored in the AHL with six. The right winger scored two goals while seeing limited playing time in five games last season with the Panthers.
McArdle, who played in three games with the Panthers last season, is in his third year with the Amerks and is having his best season to date with six points (two goals), a plus-3 rating and 54 penalty minutes.
When the Panthers took a three-game road trip to Canada last December with a lineup missing Booth, Cory Stillman, Nathan Horton, Rostislav Olesz and Richard Zednik, both Repik and McArdle were called up and the Panthers won three of four games.
“Both guys are playing very well within their identity,” said Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting. “One guy (Repik) has more offensive upside and is a skilled player while the other (McArdle) has great speed, some grit, and is creating separation on the forecheck.”
The Panthers skated for approximately 45 minutes Monday with no set lines while doing three-on-three drills. DeBoer said he’ll set some lines Tuesday morning for Wednesday’s game at the BankAtlantic Center against the Senators, who are 5-2-2 and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers will try to rebound from Saturday’s loss in Philadelphia while playing a more consistent game. They put together two strong periods Friday against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins before losing in a shootout. In Philadelphia, they had a strong opening period Saturday but fired only seven shots the final 40 minutes.
DeBoer said the Panthers are finding themselves.
“I think we’re battling a few things,” he said. “We’re battling finding our identity as a team. Some guys are battling coming back finding the same game that made them successful last year individually. I think we’ve done some good things in spurts but, yeah, it’s consistently putting 60 minutes together. We’re one of those teams that don’t have a big margin of error. We can’t show up for 40 of 60 minutes. We can’t take bad penalties. There are teams out there with enough talent to compensate if they’re weak in an area like that. We have to do everything right, and we’re still struggling with that.
“We out-played the Stanley Cup champs (Friday) I thought for most of the game. We sat back a little in the third and the penalties sort of took our momentum away. But I really believe we’re moving in the right direction. We’re doing more of those good things more often than not. The Philly game, even the first period, we hit a crossbar and David Booth missed a breakaway. We’re not getting rewarded a lot on the offensive end, and when the other team scores we’re not handling those situations well.”
It’s no secret the Panthers are struggling offensively and one of the reasons is the fact they haven’t gotten a goal from their blue line. Through 10 games last season, the Panthers had six goals from their defensemen…Repik and McArdle come to the Panthers after being part of the resurrection in Rochester of the Amerks. The team is currently first in the AHL with an 8-1-1 mark. Last year, the Amerks didn’t win their eight games until Dec. 19…DeBoer said there’s still no timetable on the return of forward Nick Tarnasky, who fractured his orbital bone before the season. Tarnasky will skate a few days a week, DeBoer said, and his progress will be monitored….
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