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Cats Take To The Road

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
LW David Booth has 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists) in 29 games this season. He is tied for second on the team in goals.

By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

The Panthers took off Wednesday afternoon for a “crucial” four-game road trip without one of its leading goal scorers.

Left winger David Booth, who is tied for second on the team in goals (8) and has been one of the team’s hardest workers, will miss Thursday’s game in St. Louis due to a bruised knee he suffered Tuesday against Calgary.

“He won’t be able to play,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin of Booth, who suffered the injury when falling hard into the boards midway through Tuesday’s third period.

“He might meet us later on (in the trip),” added Martin of Booth, who did not skate with the team Tuesday morning at IncredibleIce before boarding a plane to St. Louis. “It’s still swelled up quite a bit so we may delay bringing him with us. We’ll probably have to call up a player to replace him.”

The Panthers called up forward Anthony Stewart to take Booth's place in the lineup.

Booth, playing recently alongside Richard Zednik and Stephen Weiss, has given the Panthers a huge lift this season, particularly in light of the lack of goal production the last 15 games from Jozef Stumpel and Nathan Horton.

Booth’s injury comes at a time when the Panthers need to pick up points on a four-game trip through St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and Montreal.

“It’s crucial for our season, where we stand,” said Martin of the road trip. “We have 28 points, we’re trying to climb up in the standings and we’re playing good opposition. We’ve been playing pretty good on the road. Even the game (Tuesday night), I thought we had a real good effort. A little bit of luck would have won the game.”

The Panthers arrive in St. Louis having won their past three road games. When asked the reason for the Panthers recent success on the road, Martin replied; “One is getting some production on the power play, but I think our play has been much better. I think the big difference is we’ve been better defensively, and I think that’s the key. If you cut back on the number of goals against, it gives you a much better chance of winning.”

Olli Jokinen said the Panthers have been “playing overall a little better the last month.”

“But we need to win every game, home or away,” he added.

Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who’s given up only one goal in regulation over his last 120 minutes, echoed Jokinen’s sentiments.

“We’re not in a good position to begin with, so we need to play every game like it’s a playoff game,” he said.

And this road trip could be the one that determines where the Panthers belong in the league since all four teams they face have better than a .500 record, beginning with St. Louis (18-10-2).

“When you look at their roster they have three times with pretty even production,” Martin said. “It’s a big game for us and we have to make sure we shut down people like (Keith) Tkachuk, and they got people like (Lee) Stempniak that are giving them good seasons. They’re well balanced – guys like Doug Weight – so it’s important to play well defensively.”

MCLEAN ON TRIP

Center Brett McLean, who’s missed the past 13 games recovering from a broken hand, will travel with the Panthers and begin practicing Thursday with the team.

“Hopefully, by the time we get back here against Carolina (Dec. 20), he’ll be ready to be in the lineup,” Martin said.

McLean, who’s been working the past few weeks on strengthening the hand, has never had an injury sideline him this long as a professional.

“In junior I broke a bone in the same hand and I was out a similar amount of time, but as a pro this has been the longest I’ve ever been out,” he said. “It’s tough. I take pride in practicing every day and being there with my teammates. It’s hard not being a part of it. I kind of look at it now as I’ve been fortunate I haven’t been out, that I haven’t had any injuries. It’s just bad luck.”
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