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Hitting The Road

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers start their three-game road trip to end the month of October against Toronto Tuesday night. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)
By Glenn Odebralski for

The Panthers left for their three-game road trip to Eastern Canada following a 75-minute practice at Iceplex Monday.

With six games in the books for the 2010-11 season and sitting at .500 (3-3-0), Florida looks to have a good trip to close out the first month of the season as they take on Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

"We've been playing some pretty good hockey," said head coach Peter DeBoer following practice. "Now for me we have to start seperating ourselves from winning two out of three, not every other one."

For the Panthers to continue their success and get above the .500 mark, they'll have to continue keeping the shots down on net. Finishing last in shots against last season, Florida is 10th in the league, giving up 27.7 shots a game.

"We've been a little more aggressive in our defensive zone coverage," said DeBoer of the reduced shots. "I think the addition of Dennis Wideman and Mike Weaver has helped a lot and the maturation of Kulikov and Garrison. Obviously McCabe and Allen are stalwarts and veteran guys that give us that presence but I think those other four guys this year really solidified things.

"They move the puck out of our zone quicker and on the tape and that leads to less time in our zone rather than in the past, we've spent way too much time in our own end of the ice because we haven't been able to get out quickly and cleanly."

The Panthers look to keep that stat down against a very tough Toronto team. The first opponent of the trip has gotten off to a great start this season. Following a 29th place finish last season, Toronto started the season by winning their first four games and are 4-2-1 through their first seven games.

"Toronto is a different animal this year then they have been in the past," said DeBoer. "They're a very good team so I'm expecting that we'll have a good game but at the same time we have to make sure that we're prepared to play."

Florida should get a boost this trip with the return of defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Shawn Matthias. Garrison missed the last two games due to a strained groin while Matthias missed last game after being struck by a puck in the ankle in practice.

"(Garrison) looks good," said DeBoer. "It held up. We'll see if it stiffens after practice and on the plane to Toronto but he looks like he's back to where he was which we'll stick him back in if that's the case."

"(Matthias) was good today too. He got through the whole practice. Nothing broken. Just had to wait for some swelling to go down. He looked like he got through it and we'll see as long as it doesn't stiffen up so he should be ready too."

For Garrison, it was tough sitting out so early in the season, but he feels ready to get back on the ice and re-join Mike Weaver as part of what had been the Panthers best shut-down pair through the first four games.

"I feel good. Obviously those five days off, I lost a little bit, conditioning wise, but I was able to get on the ice the last couple of days and I'm starting to get that back," said Garrison.

"I try to prepare myself so I don't get any injuries throughout the season. Something like this was definitely tough to handle but I'm just happy that it's not anything long term. I just have to take it in stride and thank that it's only the start of the season and we still have a lot of games left. I'm ready to play the rest of them."

Forward Radek Dvorak will tie Olli Jokinen for second all-time in games played as a Panther when he takes his first shift on Tuesday (567 games). After that, it will be just seven more games until he takes over atop the list for most games played. Defenseman Robert Svehla owns the club record with 573 games.

Tuesday night's game will be blacked out in the South Florida market on television and on-line.

This from FOX SPORTS on the blackout:
Unfortunately, the decision by another provider, Dish Network, to drop FOX Sports Florida has impacted the availability of some Panthers games on NHL Center Ice for all other distributors, including DirecTV and cable providers.
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