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Rapid Fire: Woe Canada and Red-Hot Prospects

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 a big win in Montreal, Steve Goldstein picks his five topics with just six games left on the Panthers' schedule.

1. Woe, Canada: The Canadiens are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, nearly 20 years ago. Vancouver came close last year, losing Game 7 of the Finals to Boston. The Canucks have a chance to win it this season. After that, the Canadian Cup threat is virtually nonexistent. Despite adding a team this season as Atlanta moved to Winnipeg, bringing the great country's total to seven NHL franchises, odds are our neighbors to the north will be Cup-less, and for the most part, playoff-less this spring. Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary are on the outside looking in. Ottawa is trying to hold on to one of the final playoff spots in the East but won't be favored in the first round. The Canadian fans have great passion and their teams consistantly sell out, so Canada's teams' lack of success is a bit puzzling.

2. Rollin' with the Clemmer: Kevin Dineen went with Scott Clemmensen the last two Tuesdays on the road. Jackpot! After using a superb 35-save effort to beat the Flyer last week, Clemmensen was solid in a shootout win in Montreal. He is now 6-0-0 in his career against the Canadiens and helped the Panthers sweep Montreal for the first time in franchise history.

3. Closing in on the Southeast: There are still games that need to be won but the Tuesday night swing could be the key to Florida's first-ever division championship. The Cats win, combined with Washington's regulation loss has Florida five points ahead in the division. The Caps only have five games left so three Panthers wins in the final half dozen games gives tthe Cats the division crown. That number goes down if the Caps lose in regulation. Thursday, the Panthers play the Wild while Washington goes to Boston.

4. Steeger Back at it: It was encouraging to see Kris Versteeg's strong game in Montreal. He led all forwards in ice time with 22:45 and took 10 shots, five on goal. He seemed to have the swagger we've become acustomed to and Kevin Dineen rode his line, with Shawn Matthias and Wotek Wolski, throughout the night. They played a strong game and it's that type of good depth play that is so imperative this time of year.

5. Future Cats: The boatload of Panthers draft picks the past two years are getting valuable experience. First rounders Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden are in their playoffs in the junior ranks. Huberdeau's Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL may be the best in the juniors. Huberdeau continues to put up points in the postseason, totaling seven points (2-5-7) in three playoff games. His line, with Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips has totaled 29 points (12-17-29) in three games. You read that correctly, 29 POINTS IN THREE GAMES! Howden leads Moose Jaw with six points (3-3-6) in three games of the WHL playoffs. First-rounder Nick Bjugstad and third-round pick Kyle Rau are teammates at the University of Minnesota and helped the Gophers reach the NCAA Frozen Four, which will be played in Tampa later this week. Other players like Logan Shaw, Jonathan Racine and Vince Trocheck are all playing in the junior hockey postseason as well. University of Denver standout and 2009 second-rounder Drew Shore is now playing in San Antonio, as is 2010 second-round selection Alex Petrovic. The Rampage are battling to reach the AHL playoffs.

Author: Steve Goldstein |

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