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Smiling Along The Way

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers
Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann celebrates a goal last season

In the two years that Tomas Fleischmann has been a member of the Florida Panthers, there's been pretty-much two guarantees. One, he was leading the way in the scoring department and two, he was doing it with a smile on his face.

The charismatic winger has always been that way and in the doldrums of a long season, he’s a breath of fresh air for his teammates.

"He's just been funny to be around," said Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. "He knows when to be serious but he can be funny as well."

"He's also a guy that brings a strong level of enthusiasm," said head coach Kevin Dineen. "Every day he comes to the rink with an infectious personality and that's always on the positive side."

Fleischmann led the team in goals (27) and points (61) helping the Cats capture their first division title in franchise history in 2011-12. In a lockout-shortened season, the winger led the way in assists (23) and points (35). That success has the third-year Panther forward looking to repeat his past success.

"For me personally, just do whatever I did the first two years," said Fleischmann. "Hope it's going to work right like the first year (for team success)."

After going through a health scare during the 2010-11 season, that ended his season pre-maturely, he signed with Florida in July 2011. Since his signing, Fleischmann has been a model of consistency. He's played in every single Panthers game (130 regular season games).

"There's a durability factor. We're all a little bit sensitive to the health issues after last season," said Dineen. "Flash has been extremely durable and valuable in an offensive role."

Entering his ninth season in the NHL, Fleischmann has been a role model for his younger line mates.

"He's been good. I think he's a great teammate to have on the team. As a young kid last year, he helped me," said Huberdeau. "He just helped me on the ice to where to go. I played (center) for years so he's trying to help me on where to go."

While still early in the pre-season this year, the duo have been skating on a line together, looking to build chemistry, especially coming off a combined five-point performance (2-3-5) in the final game of last season against Tampa Bay. It's something that the duo are looking forward to.

"We played maybe three games last year together. We have got to find a chemistry," said Huberdeau. "He's just helping me to get to know him a little bit on the ice and to find him a little bit easier."

"This is (the) Rookie of the Year. He's one of the best players I've played with," said Fleischmann. "He's probably going to lead our team in points this year so that's probably good for me."

Asked more about not wanting to win the points race for the Panthers a third straight season, the witty Fleischmann was quick to respond. It's definitely something that if he's not leading the way, it's for the best.

"Because I don't have to. Because he's the guy that's going to," said Fleischmann nodding Huberdeau's way following a recent practice at Iceplex. "Just watching him last year, he's way smarter and I would say stronger than last year. I think he's going to be really good for us and when he's going to be really good then the team is going to be playing well."

Fleischmann has certainly embraced his role on the team. While most other teams have their super stars, Fleischmann has led the way in a different way for the team. And even though he's been the Panthers best offensive player in the past, he views the future much differently.

"I think every player who starts playing hockey wants to be like that, like (Washington and former teammate Alex Ovechkin) or those (super star) guys," said Fleischmann. "I know what I can do and every night I'm trying to do that and that's all I can do. The points are there then it's good, if not, it might happen. It's nothing I can do about it.

"Now we have younger guys like Huby or (Aleksander) Barkov and those guys can chip in and make the team better." 

And that's all that Fleischmann really cares about; returning to the playoffs and smiling along the way.

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