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Playing His Way Back

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
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By Dave Joseph for

Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen says he has a “pre-routine and after routine and an in-between routine” when it comes to his surgically-repaired left knee.

But the veteran defenseman isn’t complaining.
Allen, who missed all but the first two games last season due to surgery on his knee, was a bit of a question mark coming into camp. How would the knee respond? How would Allen respond?
But through the six weeks of training camp, pre-season and the first two games of the regular season, Allen’s knee has responded fine. The 6-4, 220-pound defenseman played 16:58 against the Blackhawks in the season-opener Oct. 2 and was on the ice the following evening for 18:10.
“It felt good…better the second game than the first,” said Allen after Tuesday’s practice at incredible ICE. “Hopefully it will keep progressing that way. It’s not where I want it to be. There’s a lot of room for improvement. But I have to stay positive and build off that.”
Allen said he hasn’t played tentatively whether it’s been skating the puck up ice or going into the corners. “I don’t believe there’s any hesitation right now.”
The news has all been good to coach Peter DeBoer, who said Allen is much-needed on the Panthers blue line.
“He gives us something we don’t have back there, which is a physical element,” DeBoer said. “He’s a big guy. He’s hard to play against. I would like him to be a guy who plays against the other team’s better players because good players don’t like to play against guys like (Allen); guys who take their time and space. I think he’s going to eventually work his way back to where we can use him in those situations.”
DeBoer said he’s been impressed with how far Allen has come.
“He’s missed a year of hockey, but I think he looks pretty good,” he added. “This guy went through a real tough year last year, sitting and watching. He’s a competitive guy. Coming to the rink just working out every day is not easy to do. A year is a long time. I expected him to be further behind than he is. He actually jumped in and I think handled himself real well. You know he’s just going to get better and better.”
The Panthers will try to keep Allen’s playing time under 20 minutes early in the season to ease him back. “I don’t think we’re trying to push it where I play 30 minutes and we’re behind the eight ball,” Allen said. “We’ll slowly work our way into it.”
Allen said his daily routine includes “icing and massages, it’s stretching and it’s strengthening.”
“It’s a lot of work,” he added. “But it seems to be worth it and it seems to be paying off.”
Even before they allowed three power-play goals Oct. 3 against the Blackhawks, the Panthers knew their penalty killing unit was going to be a work in progress. Jay Bouwmeester led the team last season in penalty killing time, averaging 3:24 a game, and Karlis Skrastins was second with 3:14.
“We knew when Bo and Scratch left there would be a hole in the penalty killing,” DeBoer said. “They were a pair that played against everyone’s top lines, too. They played against (Patrick) Kane and (Vinny) Lecavalier. So we need guys to step into those spots. But I’m comfortable our penalty killing will be good again this year. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”
Just in case, assistant coach Mike Kitchen has an early-bird session Wednesday morning for the team’s specialty teams.
“It’s something we’re watching and will continue to keep working on,” Kitchen said. “When you lose a guy like Bo on the back-end…he can recover so quickly and he covers so much ice. Now we got (Jordan) Leopold and (Dennis) Seidenberg and (Keith) Ballard’s been here before. But with the personnel changes, it’s almost like you have to go over everything all over again. And it’s hard to dictate that in training camp. We tried to this year but with the broken lineups all the time - you have young kids in the lineup – you don’t have your penalty killing tandems.
“When you’re killing penalties everyone has to move together, all four guys on the ice. If you have one guy going in (a different) direction, that throws everyone else off.”
Goalie Scott Clemmensen missed practice Tuesday tending to family matters, so Alexander Salak was flown in from the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Salak, who had been assigned Sunday to Rochester, said he spent less than 22 hours in Rochester before being recalled back to South Florida…The Panthers practice at 10 a.m., Wednesday at incredible ICE before attending the annual Face-Off Luncheon at the Signature Grand in Davie at noon…
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