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Rapid Fire: Coaching Decisions And Holy Stamkos

by Steve Goldstein / Florida Panthers
Welcome to Rapid Fire. Panthers broadcasters Steve Goldstein and Bill Lindsay will hit five different thoughts on a daily rotating basis. It's up to them as far as what topics they want to talk about as teams, and more specifically the Panthers, make a push towards the playoffs and the Stanley Cup.

After Thursday night's overtime loss to the Wild, Steve Goldstein tackles his five topics with another big game on tap for Florida in Columbus friday night.

1. Flashin' It: Tomas Fleischmann is having a career year for Florida. His 25 goals lead the Panthers and he has played in every game. The guy they call Flash has been the Cats most consistent offensive player and is one of three Panthers, along with Mike Weaver and Brian Campbell, to play all 77 games. Fleischmann has been big down the stretch, averaging a point per game. One more week of solid play is needed out of the forward, who is trying to help end the playoff drought in his first season in Florida.

2. Overtime Over And Over: The last four Panthers games have gone to overtime with three going even further, to the shootout. No one said this would be easy but holy cow! The Panthers have managed to win just one of the four games, thus leaving some points on the table. But if I told you in September the Cats would have a four point lead in the division with five games to play, we all would've taken it. It would be nice if more overtimes and shootouts went the Panthers way but it's been a sore spot all season. A regulation win tonight would be great!

3. Pre-Playoff Playoffs!: My TV broadcast partner Billy Lindsay had a great approach as we left for Montreal on Monday. He looked at the final seven games as a 7-game series...Win four games and make the actual playoffs. After the first two games, the Cats are 1-1 but do have three points. So I guess look at it as needing 8 points, and having 3 so far.

4. Holy Stamkos: The young big gun across the state is lighting it up for the Lightning. The unique thing about his 55 goals is that his team isn't going to the playoffs. The last time an NHL player scored that many an didn't reach the post-season was 2000-2001...when Pavel Bure scored 59 for the non-playoff Panthers. Amazingly, the highest goal total for a player whose team didn't go to the playoff is 70 by Mario Lemieux in 1987-88. Current Tampa GM Steve Yzerman scored 62 goals for the 1989-90 Red Wings as Detroit missed the postseason.

5. Decisions, Decisions: It's a tough call on a nightly basis for coach Kevin Dineen. The Panthers have 15 healthy NHL forwards and only 12 dress each game. The rotation of scratches is difficult on players as everyone wants to play, especially this time of year. But Dinnen says he has the responsibility to put who he feels are the best dozen forwards on the ice and which gives the Panthers the best chance to win. Mike Santorelli has been scratched the past week with mainly Marco Sturm, John Madden, Krys Barch and Jerred Smithson rotating. Last night it was a rare night off for veteran Mikael Samuelsson. We will see how the coach plays his hand tonight here in Columbus.

Author: Steve Goldstein |

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