RALEIGH – The Panthers sailed through their morning skate Friday at the RBC Center in preparation for tonight’s opening-season game against the Hurricanes.
Coach Peter DeBoer said everyone on the trip skated, was healthy, and ready to start the 2008-09 this weekend with tonight’s game in Carolina and Saturday night’s home opener at the BankAtlantic Center.
DeBoer said the healthy scratches for tonight’s game will be Anthony Stewart and Michael Frolik up front and Noah Welch on the blue line. With Welch a healthy scratch, Cory Murphy, who cleared waivers earlier in the week, will be starting.
“I talked to (Murphy),” DeBoer said. “There’s a lot of guys who go through waivers and come back and have great seasons. I think it was important to get him in. He deserves to play tonight. I don’t think (putting him on waivers) was anything against his training camp. It’s part of the business.”
Overall, DeBoer said he’s happy with his blue line and will stick with Jay Bouwmeester starting with Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton and Murphy and Bryan McCabe.
DeBoer said All-Star goalie Tomas Vokoun will start both games Friday and Saturday.
“He’s played a lot of games,” DeBoer said of Vokoun. “This isn’t going to be anything new for him. We all know what (backup) Craig (Anderson) is capable of doing and we’re going to definitely utilize him as the schedule gets a little busier.”
The Panthers’ first-year head coach also addressed the decision making behind keeping Frolik and sending Shawn Matthias
to the Panthers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
“(Matthias) had a real good training camp,” he said. “Obviously, the 23 number up here plays a role. You have to get down to that roster (number) before the season starts. I told (Matthias) in our exit meeting I thought he did everything he could in training camp to make the team. But he has to go down, and when we call him, when we get an injury, he has to make sure the reports are that he is a dominate player and doesn’t belong in the American League but the NHL. He has a bright future. I’m impressed with him.”
“Really, it was a pick ‘em situation. I could have flipped a coin. I think (Matthias and Frolik) both handled themselves exceptionally well. I think we had a few more questionable injuries on the wing than center and I think Frolik can fill out the wing a little easier than Shawn can.”
DeBoer said he doesn’t mind opening the season with games on consecutive nights.
“My history, my experience, with opening nights is you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “You get some nervous energy. I think (assistant coach) Jimmy Hulton said it best on the ice: ‘We could be Calgary or we could be Vancouver tonight.’ I think it was 6-0 last night for Vancouver.
“So it will be good to jump right back into another game tomorrow night, get the first one past everybody.”