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Countdown 14: How Does The Top Six Go?

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers 2010-11 season is quickly approaching and with that, floridapanthers.com is taking a look at the top ten questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 16th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top ten on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.



Florida Panthers' Steven Reinprecht, left, and Rostislav Olesz (85), of the Czech Republic, celebrate teammate Cory Stillman's third-period goal as Ottawa Senators' Jesse Winchester, right, looks on during NHL hockey game action in Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Pawel Dwulit)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at Who Plays In The Top 10 in our Top 10 Questions this season.

The Panthers don't have that star forward that can dominate a game like most of the other teams. There's no Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Alex Ovechkin (Washington), Zach Parise (New Jersey) or Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay).

The Panthers instead will have to rely on depth scoring if they are to be successful this season.

Last season, the Panthers offense struggled, especially when David Booth and Nathan Horton went down thanks to injuries. The attack couldn't overcome those injuries and it helped lead to steps back and a 14th place finish in the East.

That's why Dale Tallon went out and signed Chris Higgins and traded for Steve Bernier. And with another year on the belts of Michael Frolik, Shawn Matthias and Stephen Weiss, the team is hopeful that the offense, especially the Top 6 forwards will be in capable hands.

So who will make up those Top 6 forward spots?

Weiss, Frolik and Booth will make up the first line. But who makes up the second line? Or does the team consider it more of a Top 9 with other forwards such as Cory Stillman, Steven Reinprecht, Radek Dvorak, Rostislav Olesz and Mike Santorelli are all mixed in.

"We're going to move guys around until we find the right combinations," said head coach Peter DeBoer. "I don't think that I've ever been married to combinations unless they're dominant. My feeling on that is they usually dominate for spurts but eventually you have to shake almost every combination up.

"We're starting with Weiss, Booth and Frolik but that's not in stone either. Any way we can create offense, we're going to do it. I think this year we're going to have the luxury of being able to move guys up and down the lineup."

One of those players looking to get more playing time this season is Matthias. After what was deemed as a slow start, Matthias was strong down the stretch, recording four points in the last five games and posting seven points (two goals) in seven games with the Rochester Americans in the playoffs.

"Last year I started coming into my own," said Matthias. "I'm more comfortable around the guys. The guys are great. I just feel like if I play like I did at the end of the year right off the start. I feel really good about my game. It's going to be an exciting year."

The way that the team looks at this year's situation is that any guy can come out and jump up. And if you are bringing your "A" game, you'll be rewarded.

"We're going to have guys on our fourth line that can jump up and grab a second line job on a night if someone isn't getting the job done," said DeBoer.

"I think we have four really solid lines," said Matthias. "I think everyone that's in this room is a solid player and no matter what line you're on is capable of scoring. There's a lot of good players in here. A lot of gritty players. I think we're going to be an exciting team and a tough team to play against."

"We want interchangeable parts and guys are going to play with different guys as we go forward here and different positions," added DeBoer. "The key here is the desperation to play. Guys are going to have to be prepared to play different roles and different spots and bring different things to the table if they want to be in the lineup."
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