Olli Jokinen and the Cats will take on the Hurricanes on Friday in Raleigh. Florida looks to win in Carolina for the first time since December 6th, 2002. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
RALEIGH – The Panthers arrived in this city Thursday afternoon under gray skies and rain after practicing earlier in the morning in Atlanta.
Friday’s game here against the Hurricanes will mark the last start of the season for goalie Tomas Vokoun, who has won 30 of his team’s 37 games and pulls into the RBC Center having had to make the most saves in the league this year – a mind-numbing 2,016.
For Vokoun, “our MVP this season,” according to GM and coach Jacques Martin, it’s been a trying seven months.
“It has been a really tough season,” he admitted Thursday. “I have been in the playoffs the last couple of years and it is unfortunate that this team will miss the post season this year. You win and lose as a team, and we have to learn a lesson from the early losses so we can stop answering the same questions about our inconsistent performances.”
The Panthers shouldn’t need a whole lot of motivation playing tonight in Carolina. Consider:
*The Panthers haven’t beat the Hurricanes in Raleigh since Dec. 6, 2002. That’s a 12-game losing streak. That’s when Ivan Majesky was a Panther.
*If the Panthers can win their final two games of the season, Friday at Carolina and Saturday at Washington, they’ll end the season with 39 victories, the most this franchise has seen since 1999-00 and the third most in franchise history.
“We owe it to ourselves to compete and play hard,” Martin said. “I would hope that we learn from the tough losses so we don’t make the same mistakes.”
Gregory Campbell admits it’s been a “challenge to win in Carolina.” But there are two reasons to come out strong, Campbell added.
“We can play a part in their playoff hopes, and we can give ourselves some confidence for next year by winning,” he said. BOOTH, ANDERSON READY FOR TEAM USA According to Martin, winger David Booth and goalie Craig Anderson have agreed to play for TEAM USA at the World Championships May 2-18 in Quebec City and Halifax, Canada. Lightning coach John Tortorella has been named coach.
“There is no higher honor then to represent your country, especially when it is a game like hockey,” Booth said. “I think the USA can capture the gold. That is what we are aiming for.”
Said Anderson: “I’m extremely honored to have been chosen among some great American goaltenders to represent my country. It’s a great reward for all the hard work we put in through the NHL season.”