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Learning To Play Tough

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers right wing Radek Dvorak (14), makes a pass against Atlanta Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, during the third period, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, during an NHL hockey game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
By Dave Joseph for

After taking a day off Monday to heal physically and mentally after Sunday’s loss in Atlanta, the Panthers will have two days to work out the kinks before beginning a west coast road trip with three games in four days.

The Panthers will play Thursday in Los Angeles before playing on consecutive nights Saturday in Phoenix and Sunday in Anaheim. For the Panthers, 1-4-0-1 on the road this season, the trip is critical for a team that’s winless in its last four games.

Coach Peter DeBoer said Monday afternoon that he hopes to have defenseman Bryan McCabe (back) and forwards Stephen Weiss (groin) and Gregory Campbell (hip) on the road trip.

“They’ll be listed as day-to-day,” DeBoer said. “I imagine they’ll accompany us but I don’t know if they’ll be ready to play Thursday night.”

DeBoer made it clear after Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Atlanta that he was not happy with his team’s performance, particularly their first period. The Panthers allowed too many odd-man rushes, were whistled for three penalties and took only four shots on backup goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

DeBoer used the word “inexcusable” to describe his team’s first period.

On Monday, DeBoer said the Panthers must learn to be tougher both physically and mentally.

“We knew this was going to be a process,” he said. “We knew they’d be growing pains. They need to know how to play and the expectation level we have as far as them competing. We have not met our expectations.”

Part of the Panthers’ problems can be traced back to their offensive woes and injuries. The Panthers are last in the league on the power play and they’ve been hit with injuries to defensemen Bryan Allen, Cory Murphy and McCabe as well as Weiss.

But DeBoer isn’t using any crutches.

“I’m not big into making excuses,” DeBoer said. “It’s no secret we’ve been hit hard by injuries, harder than most teams. But we have to get mentally tougher and figure out how to compete.”

And that begins all over again Tuesday.
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