The following is a transcript of Nathan Horton's chat Thursday evening with Panther fans.
(7:01pm) Question from Rolex: Do you have any rituals before games or charms you keep during games?
(7:02pm) HORTON: No, I try to stay away from it, but, obviously, if something is going good you don’t want to change it. I can’t really say I have something right now but if I use something and it works I just keep trying until it doesn’t. At one point (the luck) runs out and you’re done with it. You forget it.
(7:02pm) Question from Alex from Argentina: My question is when the hockey season is over do you still train or take a vacation?
(7:04pm) HORTON: This time I took a couple weeks off and started getting back at it. I trained with guys here for a while. In the summer, guys went their own way and I continued training. I stayed here all summer. I really didn't go on a vacation.
(7:04pm) MODERATOR: What was your first summer like in South Florida?
(7:05pm) HORTON: It was awesome. It was hot but it was nice. It's nice in the summer.
(7:06pm) Question from Jim: You open the season on the road in New York against the Rangers. You also play a tough opening month. What's that going to be like, playing in New York, and getting ready for the month?
(7:08pm) HORTON: It's going to be pretty special. They're going to have a good team this year. That first game is going to be nice and we'll do best to win the game. The first month, like you said, is going to be a tough task. But we need to win the first couple games and never look back.
(7:09pm) Question from Bryan: Do you think you'll get to play with (Stephen) Weiss this year or do you think he might leave?
(7:10pm) HORTON: Of course I think we'll be here. He's piece of the team and an important part. He's a great player. We want him here, the Panthers want him here, and he wants to be here. I think things will be fine because we need him.
(7:10pm) Another question from Rolex: Have you talked to goalie Tomas Vokoun since he was traded here and what are your thoughts about him?
(7:11pm) HORTON: No, I haven’t talked to him but, obviously, he’s a top five goalie in the league and, obviously, the Panthers and players and everyone here is excited about having him come here. He’s one of the best goaltenders and it’s going to be nice having him here.
(7:11pm) MODERATOR: You’ve faced him before?
(7:12pm) HORTON: I only played him one game and it was such a long time ago…my first year.
(7:13pm) Question from Tim: Do you have a favorite place to play away from Florida?
(7:13pm) HORTON: Yeah, probably Toronto and Montreal. I'm from Toronto and Montreal is so packed in there. Montreal is one of my favorites but family is close from there.
(7:14pm) Question from Nicholas: The team is fully loaded with talent at every position. What kind of progress and goals does this team need to achieve in training camp and the beginning of the season to turn the Panthers from a team with 86 points to one with 97-to-100?
(7:15pm) HORTON: I think evrrybody knows all the games count. The extra point in the shootout, they all count. What you need is points, early on late in the year. You can't take any nights off. Everybody knows what we've been doing wrong and that's not getting points at the beginning of the year. I think this year will be different. We realize we have to be in the playoffs no matter what.
(7:16pm) Question from Geoff and Marcie: What is your opinion of the NHL schedule, particularly the overloading of games against division teams?
(7:17pm) HORTON: I think it's good because it creates rivalries with us, Tampa, Atlanta. It's good for the entertainment.
(7:18pm) Question from Alex: Before the game, what do you eat?
(7:19pm) HORTON: I usually eat pasta that Tammy cooks for me. Just some homemade stuff.
(7:20pm) Question from Josh: What can you do to improve your road record?
(7:22pm) HORTON: I think we need to come together more as a team, do more stuff as a team rather than in groups. All our guys are pretty much young and everybody likes each other. I think it’s going to get better on the road, just like winning at home in the beginning of the year. Things are going to be different.
(7:23pm) Question from Mack: Why has the team had such a tough time early in the year, specifically November?
(7:23pm) HORTON: I think we didn’t pay too much attention to the beginning of the year, and that’s what (GM-Coach) Jacques (Martin) and everybody stresses. We have to win those games to make it into the playoffs. Those are the biggest points and I think everybody realizes that now since we’ve missed the playoffs the last couple years. It’s not fun and we know we need those points.
(7:25pm) Question from Mike R: He wishes you the best, Nathan, and wanted to know what you thought of the off-season signings, specifically Richard Zednik, who he thinks will be a big help due to his speed and, hopefully, his scoring touch?
(7:27pm) HORTON: I'm pretty excited like everybody else...to have some fresh faces in here. They're talented players. Zednik has speed and McLean is a talented player.
(7:28pm) MODERATOR: Have you played against these guys?
(7:29pm) HORTON: Played couple times against McLean. Not too much. But when played it was nice to have him here.
(7:31pm) Question from ETCPSSwartz: What personal goals do you have?
(7:31pm) HORTON: Just, in the summer, to be in the best shape I can and everytyhing will fall into place. I've set no statistics. As a team, we need to get into the playoffs. Everyone wants it, the fans and organization. And we're well on our way.
(7:33pm) Question from Troy: What did you think of the Reunion Game (for the ’96 Panthers)? Do you remember the team and did you see any of the players?
(7:34pm) HORTON: I remember watching them but I was a little young. It was nice to see everybody here when they came. There were a lot of fans and that was nice to see.
(7:35pm) Question from Justin from Sault Ste. Marie: What do you think of the new jerseys?
(7:36pm) HORTON: I think they’re good colors. It’s a switch going from the other ones for such a long time. I think they’re nicer. The one I had (tried on at the Reunion Game) was a little bit tight, but it felt lighter.
(7:38pm) Question from Kevin: You played 82 games last season for the first time in your career. How did you feel late during the season and after and will that make you better for the upcoming season?
(7:39pm) HORTON: Well, 82 games is a long time. I never realized because I never played 82 games. It’s a long time and you have to do a lot to keep your body managed because it’s such a grueling season. I try to keep in shape as much as I can. I’ve learned you have to come into the season in shape and stay in good shape throughout the season. With injuries, you have to keep yourself in good shape.
(7:39pm) MODERATOR: During the season, did you back off in the weight room at any time or still keep working?
(7:40pm) HORTON: Yeah, as the season went on you realize you still have do your stuff in the weight room because it’s important and it makes you feel better on the ice. After the season, just been trying to make myself better.
(7:41pm) Question from Cecilia: How much does it help that so much of the team has played together for a long time?
(7:42pm) HORTON: It’s definitely important. It’s going to make you win games because you’re going to be a family and you care about each other. A lot of the guys on the team right now are in a pack. We’re all friends, we care about each other and we want the best for each other.
(7:44pm) Question from John Yap: Would you like to see JM get a tough guy for the team, someone along the lines of Eric Godard or Brian McGratton:
(7:45pm) HORTON: Well, I think we have a lot of guys who aren't afraid to fight and play a physical game. I think with the guys we have are pretty much set. All the guys can do pretty much anything and play the game, too.
(7:45pm) Question from Teri: Being from Canada, do you drink Tim Horton's coffee?
(7:47pm) HORTON: Actually Tammy orders Tim Horton's coffee on line. She likes to drink it everything morning. She likes it and gets it shipped here because she likes it so much.
(7:50pm) Question from Brian: What's it like playing with Olli Jokinen and what have you learned from him?
(7:51pm) HORTON: It's special playing with Olli. I watched him play as a kid, one of my favorites as a kid. I get to be friends with him and he's the best captain and best leader. It's nice to have him here and he's been through it all. He's a great guy and a great player. We've gotten really close. I guess we're the same type of people.
(7:52pm) Question from Icezone: Who was your idol growing up? Why? And what's your first memory of skating?
(7:54pm) HORTON: Probably Marty McSorley. He lived around the area and came to my house a couple times. I always liked him and he's been a nice guy to me. It was pretty special for me. I think my dad, they had a scrimmage game on the ice, and they'd come over after and hang out at the house.
My first memory of skating...probably just my parents bribing me with chocolate bars to go around the ice. And another chocolate bar to go around again.
(7:55pm) Question from XMetallicaAX: With your cannon, don't think you could have had 50 goals if you shot the puck more? Anybody will tell you there were quite a few moments where you were way too unselfish?
(7:56pm) HORTON: You know, it's a little bit different being on the ice. I want to shoot the puck a little bit more. Don't know if I would have had 50 but I'm probably a better shooter than a passer.
(7:57pm) Question from Sam: What's your favorite move on a shootout and who's the toughest goalie to face for you?
(7:59pm) HORTON: I'm not really that much of a deker so it's probably just a shot. It's tough to do a shootout and there's tough goalies out there. We play Atlanta and Kari Lehtonen is pretty tough.
That concludes tonight's Live Chat with forward Nathan Horton. Stay tuned to floridapanthers.com for more features, live chats, and videos.