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Ending Their Groundhog Day

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov, right, battles Edmonton Oilers' Ethan Moreau (18) for control of the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com


“It’s like Groundhog Day.”

That’s the tongue-in-cheek phrase Panthers head coach Pete DeBoer offered following the Panthers 3-2 shootout loss to the Oilers Monday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

Because just like the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray, the Panthers have seen this picture before. They’ve lived it before.

It’s the 12th time the team has gone to overtime or a shootout (6-6 in the extra sessions), and it’s the eighth time in the last nine games that they’ve either held a lead or been tied at some point in the third period, coming away with just one victory in that span.

But unlike Phil Connors (Bill Murray’s character), the Panthers aren’t getting down on themselves as they “relive” Groundhog Day. Still only 30 games into the season, the Panthers are just two points from eighth in the Eastern Conference.

“We're playing the right way, we're doing things the right way, we're not getting rewarded for it right now,” said DeBoer. “But you have to stick with the program and know if you keep doing that, good things are going to happen.”

“It will come,” said winger Radek Dvorak who played in his 1,000th NHL game against the Oilers. “I'm positive. Every time you play like this, every time you play hard like this, creating chances, playing good in our zone, it will turn around for us.”

“We have to continue to be positive," added center Dominic Moore who netted both of the Panthers goals Monday. “It's easy to get down when you don't get the results you maybe deserve. We've got too many games right now to have any memory.”

Florida has done several things well, especially as of late. They played a very good game against Edmonton, netting scoring chances while limiting the Oilers opportunities. The Panthers held a 35-28 shot advantage, 23 through the first 60 minutes.

“I thought we played a good game,” said DeBoer. We limited their chances other than the power play.

“We had some two-on-ones. We hit a post. We had some opportunities around the net. I thought their goaltender made a couple of key saves early in the game to get them through the first period and I thought we were pretty even after that.”

They’ve also have their power play going lately. Which anyone knows, wins you games. Florida has scored on eight of their last 33 chances (24.2%) over the last seven games. Despite going just 1-for-5 last night, the Panthers had numerous opportunities, putting 12 shots on Oilers netminder Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers.

“We had good movement, good puck movement as well,” said Moore. “Guys weren't afraid to shoot.”

“We got some good looks at the net,” added DeBoer.

For Florida, getting on the road could be all that’s needed to get them back to winning. A team tends to play a simpler game when playing away from the home crowd.

They were two games under .500 the last time they went on a lengthy road trip and had a daunting trip ahead of them, playing in Buffalo, Detroit and the Rangers within a four day span.

They took home all six points from that trip.

“Obviously we've come up short the last few games but we have a group of guys over here, said Dvorak. “I believe we'll turn this thing around for sure. We play good games. We just have to keep our heads up, get on the road and win some hockey games.”

As well as end their Groundhog Day.

FOUR GAME ROADIE
Speaking of the road, the Panthers left for their longest road trip of the year as they head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets Wednesday night. Following that, they’ll be in New Jersey on Friday and Pittsburgh on Saturday before finishing off the trip on Monday with a meeting on Long Island.

SOUPY BEING CHECKED OUT
Florida Panthers General Manager Randy Sexton announced that Gregory Campbell will not make the trip with the club this afternoon to Columbus. Campbell will be re-evaluated by team medical personnel today and a further update on his status for the club’s upcoming road trip will be available on Wednesday.
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