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Countdown 20: Jelling Of The D-Men

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers 2010-11 season is quickly approaching and with that, 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.

In today's topic, we take a closer look at how will the defensemen jell in our Top 10 Questions Of The Season.

The Panthers have seen their share of turnover throughout the seasons. That happens when you haven't made the playoffs in a decade. Where the team has went through a lot of it's turnover has been along the blueline.

Looking back at the 2008-09 season, the Panthers had three new defensemen from the year prior (Keith Ballard, Bryan McCabe and Nick Boynton) in their starting lineup. Last season they started the season with four new defenders (Dennis Seidenberg, Ville Koistinen, Dmitry Kulikov and Jordan Leopold).

With only McCabe and Kulkov along with Bryan Allen (fifth year with the team) and Jason Garrison (third season) returning from last year, the Panthers can again see at least three new players on the back end.

Among those players still vying for one of those spots are Dennis Wideman, Mike Weaver, Nathan Paetsch and 2010 first-round pick Erik Gudbranson. Wideman was acquired from Boston in a pre-draft trade while Weaver and Paetsch were signed as free-agents during the summer.

With so much turnover, how fast can the defense come together? And how do they jell sooner rather than later?

"Just talk," said McCabe. "Communication is the biggest thing.

"When there's new guys in the lineup, obviously the more you talk, the easier it is to play the game."

"Talking on the ice," echoed Weaver. "That's half the battle out there. Knowing what's going on behind you and just being aware on the ice. We've got a great tandem of goalies back there and hopefully us D are able to step up."

While it could take time for the defenders to get comfortable to their new partners, McCabe and Allen don't think it will be a problem. In fact, they think it will come quickly.

"I think through the exhibition games is when you're going to see it," said Allen. "Obviously we have a big number and playing with different partners and it's hard to get used to it a little bit but it will come through the exhibition games."

"It's just the nature of the beast," said McCabe of roster turnover. "There's always new guys coming in and out. We just have got to know each other a little quicker and be ready to perform."

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