Drew Shore is back.
After being assigned by the Panthers to their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, shortly before the Olympic break, the young center was recalled by the parent club Monday morning after playing a key role in helping the Rampage get back into the playoff race.
While the rodeo was taking over the AT&T Center in San Antonio for its annual residency, the Rampage went on the road and roped in some big wins, lassoing points in 12 straight games, the longest streak in the AHL this season.
Shore put together a run of his own during that span. As the top line center for San Antonio he notched goals in four straight contests and tallied six points in his 9-game run with the Rampage. The experience allowed him to build on his already growing confidence in his own play while also getting some valuable game experience during what would otherwise have been a lull on his calendar.
“A lot of things were rolling down there,” said the 23-year old Colorado native following Florida’s practice on Monday at the Panthers IceDen. “The whole team is playing well so it made it really easy to hop down and jump in the swing of things. We were on the road and we were winning and it was fun.”
While the hockey world was fixated on Sochi, Shore’s play certainly caught the eye of Panthers management, who cited the center’s strong play as the reason for his call-up.
“What a great way for him to respond. He left here, he went down there and had five goals in his first six games and played really well,” said a clearly impressed Panthers interim head coach Peter Horachek. “He did exactly what you want a player to do. He approached it the right way. To lead the charge and take the positive mojo that he got up from playing here and take that down with him.”
Shore credits the approach to his game in San Antonio to his strong play with the Panthers prior to the Olympic break. During that time he was featured prominently on the team’s penalty-killing unit which went 10 straight games without allowing a power play goal. Most notably, Shore scored two goals, including a shorthanded marker, in the Cats 5-1 road win over the Penguins on Jan. 20. It was his first multi-goal game in the NHL.
“I had a lot of confidence going down and obviously it was a little different than at the beginning of the season when I knew (this time) that I was just getting sent down because of the break,” said Shore. “I just wanted to go down there and work as hard as I can, keep improving and I think that's what I did but it's nice to be back.”
His coach in Florida hopes some of Shore’s success with the Rampage rubs off on his Panthers teammates.
“The best gift you can give your teammates is your attitude,” said Horachek. “If you can put that on the line every day with your teammates, they see you come down here, have a little extra jump on your feet boy that gets them enthused as well. He earned it, did a great job down there so it's good to have him back up.”
Shore will look to continue to ride the wave of confidence when he steps on to the ice at the BB&T Center on Thursday night for his first game back with the Panthers.
“I'm a young guy just trying to find my way in this league. I'm going to keep believing in myself. I've had that since I'm a little kid and I think I'm going to accomplish a lot in this league.''