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Panthers Mailbag: 1.08.10

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Welcome to the fourth Panthers Mailbag of the season, a feature that can be found only on

Questions from around the world came in for our players and coaching staff so look below to see if your question was answered. If not, don't worry, it could be answered in future mailbags. And if you haven't submitted a question or would like to, just fill out the form found on this page.

Questions can be found in bold. And if something needs additional commentary or clarification, it will come in italics before the player provides his answer.

And away we go.

Question for Keith Ballard - Are you as superstitious as you appear to be in the pre-game warm-up? We always get there early and notice that with 2-3 minutes left, you offer up a souvenir puck after your "figure 8 dance" every game. Just like to say thanks because we have been the recipient of several of them, as well as our guests.

Mitchell Klaristenfeld - Lake Worth, FL

Ballard - "I always flip a kid a puck. All these kids come to a game. Who knows whether it's their first or second or tenth NHL game. You see these young kids that come to these games and they look up to us. It's something they can take away and hopefully they'll remember for a long time.

"For the figure eight dance, I'm just skating around and do a lot of forward to backward stuff and just get comfortable on my skates and comfortable on the ice. The ice conditions are hit or miss. Some nights they're good and some nights they're bad. It's good to be comfortable as a defenseman because you're going backwards a lot as well as side to side. That's what warmups are for."

Question for Peter DeBoer: Which Panther players do you feel have another level to them and which player has surprises you this year?

Marco Occhionero - New York, NY

DeBoer - I’ve been real surprised with Dmitry Kulikov and how good he’s been. You never know with a young kid how he’s going to adjust, especially a defenseman. We knew this kid was good but I don’t think anyone realized how good he was and how seamless a transition he would make and how much we miss him with him not in the lineup. So I think he’s been a real pleasant surprise for us.

I think as a group there’s some guys on pace for career years and we’ve got a big group of other guys that have to have career years. We’re a team that everybody has to overachieve in order for us to get where we want to be. There’s been some guys that have had some disappointing first halves but that’s why you play a whole season. You have a good second half and people won’t remember that.

Question for Gregory Campbell - How do the players know when to come off the ice? Line changes seem like organized chaos. Do they get a signal from the bench or do they just stay on for a specified time period?

Dennis St. Cyr - West Palm Beach, FL

Campbell -
"There's kind of an unwritten rule in hockey, at least for forwards anyways. It's kind of a 35/40 second shift. If you're going as hard as you can, that's usually the max unless you get stuck out there for a reason such as getting caught in your own zone or an icing.

"As the level of hockey gets better, shifts get shorter just because the intensity is so much higher and you can't hold it for as long. Younger, minor hockey players or even in the junior leagues, you'll see players tend to stay out there for a minute but then you'll notice why the level of intensity isn't as high as it is at the pro level."

Question for Tomas Vokoun - How do shootouts make you feel? Are you more nervous with lots of stress?

Karoline S - West Palm Beach, FL

Vokoun - "It's obviously a pressure situation. I think that they're fun to win and not so much fun to lose. But I think they're exciting for the fans and they're good for the game. That's how I look at it. Fans responded to the shootouts positively and they ultimately decide what's right and what's wrong."

Question for Michael Frolik - Hi Michael, what do you usually do on your day off, any specific places you love to go?

Yury K - Ft Lauderdale, FL

Frolik - "We play so much right now, playing almost every second day so when it's a day off, I like to be at home, spend some time with my girlfriend, just relax and sometimes play PlayStation."

Question for Stephen Weiss: If you could change one thing about the game of hockey, what would you change?

Catherine Bienvenu - Woodstock, GA

Weiss - "That's a good question. I don't know. I would maybe shorten the season just a little bit. I think you would put a little more emphasis on the games. It's just a really long season so maybe make it 70 games or something."

Keith Ballard with David Hargitai in Zurich, Switzerland
Question for Keith Ballard: Do you often think back to the World Ice Hockey Championship held in Berne and Zurich this year? I was honoured to take a picture with you, was a great experience for me.

David Hargitai - Zurich, Switzerland

Ballard - "The Championships were fun. When you look back at things you've done in your career, thats definitely something I'm proud of, being able to represent my country a number of times at the World Championships. It's a huge honor when you can do that and play against a lot of great players from all over the world."

Follow up: Were you disappointed about not getting the call to represent the US at the Olympics and have you heard anything on possibly being an injury replacement if there is one?

"Nope. I got a call that said I wasn't on the team and that was a nice gesture of USA hockey. I know they called a lot of guys, just kind of inform the guys that weren't going to be there. It was a classy move.

"I'm disappointed but at the same time, I didn't have a great start to the season. I think that for me, i needed to have a real great start to the season to maybe play my way on and i think at the beginning i was on the outside looking in. I was pretty realistic about it."
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