SUNRISE – The Panthers made some major moves Wednesday before their only preseason game of the year at BankAtlantic Center. Along with coach Peter DeBoer naming Bryan McCabe the sixth captain in franchise history, the Panthers paired their roster down from 51 to 27.
Among the 19 players assigned to the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., were defensemen Keaton Ellerby
and Clay Wilson and forwards Evgeny Dadonov and Kenndal McArdle. Veteran defenseman Martin Skoula was one of three players released from their professional tryouts and center Scott Timmins
was assigned to his junior club.
“There were some tough decisions,” said DeBoer before Wednesday’s game. “The nice thing about our camp was all those guys got an opportunity. It wasn’t like we made those decisions saying, ‘I wish we could have seen those guys in one more game to see what they could do.’ There wasn’t anyone on the bubble that we didn’t get to see more than enough times and make the right decisions. They’re not easy to make, but we feel comfortable.”
DeBoer said the Panthers would still likely take 24 players Friday to Finland to prepare for their season-opening series against the Blackhawks. One of those players who will make the trip is defenseman Christian Backman, who signed a professional tryout after playing 56 games last season with the Blue Jackets. A first-round pick (24th overall) by the Blues in 1998, Backman has impressed DeBoer.
“He’s going to hang around,” DeBoer said. “We still have until the start of the regular season to make a decision on him. So we’re going to bring him to Finland with us and, hopefully, see him again and take as much time as we can with him.
“I think we’ve paired it down to a point where we’re almost to where the roster is going to be and we want to take the last 10 days to make the final decisions.” DVORAK RETURNS
Radek Dvorak, who was tending to family matters back in his native Czech Republic, will play in his first preseason game Wednesday evening. Despite not making the first six preseason games, Dvorak said he’s been skating for approximately six weeks overseas and has been skating at the Panthers practice facility incredibleIce for the past week.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to play a game. It’s been five months and, as a player, you always want to play a game before the season starts.”
Dvorak said it would take one or two games to get his timing back. As far as traveling back-and-forth across the Atlantic Ocean, Dvorak said; “Obviously, there’s the time change. But you don’t think about that. You’re here to play the game. We’ve got five days (in Finland) before the season starts so you have enough time to get used to it.”