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Learning Their Fate

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Forward Shawn Matthias has been one of those players that have impressed in camp according to assistant GM Randy Sexton. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
By Dave Joseph for

SUNRISE - Before the Panthers take the ice Wednesday evening at BankAtlantic Center for their only preseason game – before they play for the first time in South Florida in 164 days – the Panthers front office will make key decisions on how their roster will look come the 2009-10 season.
Wednesday is the day the Panthers will make cuts, pairing their 51-man training camp roster down by as many as 25 players. Some will go to Rochester, N.Y., and the club’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, some will return to juniors. And some will learn of their fate later in the week before the team leaves for Finland to open the regular-season Oct. 2-3 against the Blackhawks.
According to assistant GM Randy Sexton, there’s a possibility one or two of the team’s prized prospects may make it through the week and earn a spot on the roster.
“Yeah, I think there’s a good chance one of the younger kids may make it,” said Sexton before the Panthers skated in Dallas against the Stars. “We’re going to have to see how things turn out here tonight and what happens with some injuries.”
After six preseason games, Sexton said he’s been happy with the progress of many of the team’s young prospects.
“I think the good news is some of our young players have played pretty well, so it will make decisions difficult,” he said. “But those are good, difficult decisions to have. I wouldn’t say there have been any major disappointments in camp. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with Shawn Matthias. He’s played well. Dmitry Kulikov has played well. (Jason) Garrison has played well. (Michal) Repik and (Keaton) Ellerby have been pretty solid. Our guys have come along with good steps forward in their development “
The question is who sticks with the big club and who returns to Rochester? Fourth-line forward Nick Tarnasky, who underwent surgery on a fractured orbital bone, is day-to-day, according to Sexton. “But that might open a spot for somebody,” he said. That could be Repik or Matthias.
Defensively, the Panthers have been pleased with recently-signed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg – “He fits in well with the guys and brings an element that we need,” Sexton said – along with Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold. Ville Koistinen signed with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent and Ellerby and Kulikov have played well when given the opportunity during training camp.
Kulikov, the Panthers No. 1 draft choice (14th overall) this summer, has until Sept. 29 to sign a contract. And while defenseman Bryan Allen’s surgically-repaired knee has “responded favorably,” Sexton said, “there are still some potential issues there.” Fortunately, Allen skated once again Tuesday in Dallas.
The Panthers are also traveling with veteran defensemen Martin Skoula and Christian Backman, who were given camp tryouts. Sexton said a decision on the two veterans might not be made until Friday.
When the news hits about who the Panthers are sending to Rochester or keeping in South Florida, “No one should expect a bolt out of the blue…someone making it that was given a longshot chance of making the team,” Sexton said.
While most preseason games have a mix of veterans, rookies and free agents, Wednesday’s Panthers lineup against the Stars will be a mostly veteran team and one that will closely resemble the lineup come opening night.
“We expect to have a good lineup (Wednesday) night for our fans,” Sexton said. “Fans are going to see a game and a team that does what we want them to do – play with speed, pressure, physicality and get a victory.”
Forward Radek Dvorak has arrived in South Florida after tending to family and should be in the lineup.

9 - Stephen Weiss
10 - David Booth
14 - Radek Dvorak
16 - Nathan Horton
27 - Steven Reinprecht
28 - Kamil Kreps
32 - Michal Repik
41 - Shawn Matthias
61 - Cory Stillman
67 - Michael Frolik
68 - Mike Duco
85 - Rostislav Olesz
12 - Raymond Sawada
13 - Krystofer Barch
14 - Jamie Benn
17 - Toby Peterson
20 - Brian Sutherby
23 - Tom Wandell
25 - Warren Peters
29 - Steve Ott
52 - Luke Gazdic
58 - Francis Wathier
63 - Mike Ribeiro
96 - Fabian Brunnstrom
2 - Keith Ballard
  4 - Dennis Seidenberg
  5 - Bryan Allen
24 - Bryan McCabe
43 - Dmitry Kulikov
44 - Jordan Leopold
5 - Matt Niskanen
  6 - Trevor Daley
27 - Andrew Hutchinson
28 - Mark Fistric
37 - Karlis Skrastins
43 - Mathieu Beaudoin
59 - Ivan Vishnevskiy
29 - Tomas Vokoun
30 - Scott Clemmensen
31 - Alex Auld
33 - Matt Climie
35- Marty Turco

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