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Countdown 7: No. 3 Question; How Wil The Starts Be Divided?

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

The Panthers will rely heavily on new acquisition Jose Theodore to start the season with Scott Clemmensen out for about a month. (Getty Images)

In today's topic, we take a closer look at how the goaltending starts might be divided in the Top Five Questions this season.

  Before the start of the season, this question might have been more of a hot topic as Scott Clemmensen was having a very solid training camp and looked to be pushing Jose Theodore for split duties if not more.

Then came news that Clemmensen went through a minor knee procedure and would miss about a month put that whole debate on the shelf. At least for now.

Theodore, meanwhile had an unnormal pre-season, giving up 12 goals in two starts. For Theodore, he'll be looked upon early and often between the pipes and while the pre-season has some people nervous, he has shown that he is a gamer.

“At the end of the day, a lot of our success early is going to ride on him,’’ said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. “He’s a guy who has been down these roads before. I believe in him."

"I’ve been around long enough to know I need to be better," said Theodore following the pre-season. "I’m pretty confident. I will work hard and work ethic overcomes many things. I’m confident for the start of the season."

Theodore has been a successful netminder in this league, having seven seasons with more wins than losses. He's won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) while in Montreal and posted solid numbers with Washington (30-7-7, .911 SV%) and Minnesota (15-11-3, .916 SV%) in the last two seasons.

With Clemmensen out to start the season, the backup position falls to 21-year old Swede Jacob Markstrom. How much Dineen decides to play him remains to be seen but with 11 games in the opening month, one would think he gets into a game or two, if not more. With goaltenders taking usually the longest to develop, maybe Markstrom "grows up" quickly when thrown in a game and seizes momentum.

Once Clemmensen comes back healthy, he'll figure to push Theodore and get several starts. The netminder has averaged 31 games the last three seasons, 27 the last two with the Panthers. Last year, Clemmensen had very respectable numbers, posting a .911 SV% and 2.62 GAA.

Keep an eye on the man between the pipes. Like a quarterback in football, the goaltender is an integral part of the team and a reason why they could return to the playoffs or why they could be on the outside looking in.
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