Panthers forward Jozef Stumpel skated with the team on Monday and could suit up for Wednesday's game against Buffalo. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
The operative number was three Monday afternoon for the Panthers.
After a three-day break during the All-Star break, and sitting three points out of first place in the Southeast Division standings, the Panthers went back to work at IncredibleIce to prepare for three games this week: two at BankAtlantic Center (Wednesday vs Buffalo and Friday vs Vancouver) and Saturday in Tampa.
Tomas Vokoun, the loan Panthers representative in Atlanta over the weekend at the All-Star Game, was given the day off. The only other member of the Panthers not in attendance was GM and coach Jacques Martin, who experienced flight delays after spending the weekend watching the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
Assistant coaches Guy Charron and Mike Kitchen ran practice along with Tomas Pacina, a skills development coach out of Calgary by way of the Czech Republic who has worked with the Panthers the past three seasons.
“I’ve been at the rookie camps and development camps the past three years,” said Pacina, who previously worked with the New York Rangers. “Jacques asked me to come down about six times a year, once a month for a week, when the Panthers have a home stand.”
There’s several reasons for Pacina’s visits.
“What you’re trying to do during the season is give the guys confidence and work on stuff they don’t have the time to work on during the regular practices, because they’re focusing on the team systems.”
Players have the option to work with Pacina on everything from puck handling to shooting to skating.
“It’s all individual,” Pacina said. “It really depends on the needs of the players. Like Gregory Campbell and David Booth like to work on scoring, on shooting around the net because that’s something you can never do enough. So we work on details, hand positioning, body positioning. With David, I’m happy because he’s really having a good season. He always wants to do more, the same with Gregory, and the guys who do extra work have pretty good games.”
With the Panthers having played 51 games, Pacina is also out to correct bad habits that might have developed and to put them in check before the team embarks on its final 31 games.
“I was just talking to Olli Jokinen about it,” Pacina said. “He did a lot of speed skating over the summer. As the season goes on, you’re getting tired and, obviously, you’re starting to not have such a good knee bend and not the weight transfer you need.”
At the end of Monday’s practice, Pacina had the Panthers skating in circles while having them focus on their body positioning, telling the players to “stay low and transfer your weight.”
“Everyone gets a little worse during the season,” he said. “Their game sense gets better, depending on your ice time, but your hands and your instincts sometime gets worse because you might not get ice time or you have a certain role to dump it in and chase it. So you don’t handle the puck as much as you need to.”
Jozef Stumpel skated with the team Monday and Charron said he expects the forward to play Wednesday when the Panthers play host to Buffalo. Stumpel has missed seven games with a shoulder injury…Forwards Ville Peltonen and Rostislav Olesz did not skate with the team…Anthony Stewart and Tanner Glass, who spent the weekend in Rochester, are back in South Florida…The Panthers return Tuesday to IncredibleIce with a 10:30 a.m., practice…