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Gone To Plan B

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers went through an hour and a half practice at the BankAtlantic Center Wednesday morning. Thanks to Tropical Storm Nicole, they went through the drills hard, instead of the normal take it easy morning day skate (remember game against Carolina tonight has been cancelled).

With 29 players still on the roster vying for between 20-23 spots, it would have been nice to see everyone one extra time in live action, but the extra practice session did help none the less.

"I think it would have been nice," said head coach Peter DeBoer about the extra game. "Obviously we've only had seven scheduled which is what I thought was a perfect number.

"Is six enough? I don't know. I'm not going to sit here and say last year was too many, this year is not enough. We'll take this year's schedule any day, even with the cancellation. We had a good practice. We got to work on some stuff and we'll get ready for the Tampa games."

Two of those players were not on the ice as forward Chris Higgins and Byron Bitz missed the session.

"Some minor injuries, "I think Higgy's got a little bit of a groin thing going on and Bitz has got a minor lower body too. Nothing that I'm too concerned about long term."

There's still a lot of competition going on as there are 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders still in camp. With only four days left for the players to make an impression on the coaching staff before an expected cutdown to the final team, everyone is still trying to out do the next.

One of those players seen as "on the bubble" is center Mike Santorelli. Acquired in a trade with Nashville this off-season, the speedster has had a good camp.

"He's definitely challenging for the job, there's no doubt about it," said DeBoer. "He had a real good pre-season so far and he deserves to be continued to be look at based on his play."

"I think it's going well," said Santorelli. "I just want to keep getting better each day and just keep going. There's a lot of work to be done."

Santorelli's play of late has led to some line shifts in practice today with Santorelli centering Cory Stillman and Rostislav Olesz. With that, center Steven Reinprecht shifted out to left wing on a line with Shawn Matthias and Steve Bernier.

"He's got speed. He's got some offensive touch," said DeBoer of Santorelli. "He's got a lot of enthusiasm. He's got lively legs. He plays the way we want to play which is hard on the forecheck and closing on people quickly. He's also shown a knack to create some offense."
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