OTTAWA -- Peter Horachek got right to work in his new position as interim coach of the Florida Panthers. A busy weekend schedule left him little choice.
With Florida in town to play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon, Horachek ran his first Panthers practice Friday at the University of Ottawa.
Horachek was promoted from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League by Florida general manager Dale Tallon, who fired coach Kevin Dineen and assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay on Friday. The Panthers are in seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic Division with a 3-9-4 record.
"I had a heart-to-heart meeting with the team and explained to them what went on today, and the reasons for it and what my expectations were, and it was loud and clear," Tallon said. "Hopefully they get the message, because if they don't, they won't be here."
Horachek, who was advised of the coaching change Thursday, is in his first season in the Panthers organization after spending the previous 10 years with the Nashville Predators.
"We can't change the past now," the 53-year-old said. "We only can control what we do now, how we want to play. I think it's not going to probably change all in one day, but what we can change is our 60-minute consistent attitude and approach to the work ethic, and it all starts with your backbone and how you want to work and how you want to approach the game.
"Are we working hard going forward, are we working hard enough coming back, and when we do that, I think we'll become a better team and we become a real team."
The Panthers lost 4-1 to the Boston Bruins on Thursday in Dineen's last game behind the bench. Horachek and new assistant coaches Brian Skrudland and John Madden will make their debuts against the Senators.
"I don't think it needs to be an overhaul, but there's a certain way that I like to play so I'll adapt that and put that into it," Horachek said. "But obviously not having a number of practices and not having a lot of time to get into video sessions and coming in basically today is a difficult thing, so I think everybody's going to have to get have to get comfortable with each other and learn each other and what our expectations are."
Florida plays its third game in four days Sunday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"It's obviously hectic any time this happens, so it's disappointing for us as players," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We definitely share or take most of the blame for what has gone on, but we're trying to look forward now, and it was a good practice for us today. Obviously, it's a little hectic implementing different things and everything, so we've got to get used to it, but we'll learn quick."
Horachek coached Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver when the Orlando Solar Bears of the International Hockey League won the Turner Cup in 2000-01.
"He's come in today the same as he was back then," Weaver said. "He's a coach that keeps it simple. He's pretty straight up with us. He wants energy, and it's a pretty good refresher. I think everybody's excited to move forward here."
|Horachek goes over a drill at his first practice as interim head coach. |
Center Jonathan Huberdeau said he expects the Panthers will come out flying this weekend.
"I think we're going to be a more aggressive team than we have been," Huberdeau said. "We were more passive and other teams were taking advantage of that. We need to have more intensity and be the aggressive team."
Dineen led the Panthers to the Southeast Division title and their first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 years in 2011-12, his first season as an NHL coach.
After seeing the team fall back to a League-low 36 points in 48 games last season, Tallon decided to make the change with the Panthers in a 1-6-4 tailspin.
"Obviously this season hasn't gone the right way and changes needed to be made," defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "Who knows who's safe and what not, but now it's just going out and playing the right way as a team, trying to win hockey games. That's what we need to do.
"We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early in this season, and the only way that we can get out of it is within our dressing room and going out there and playing hard and playing the right way."
Author: Sean Farrell | NHL.com Correspondent