The Panthers will be without netminder Tim Thomas for at least a couple of games for the second time this season as he was placed on Injured Reserve Wednesday. Leaving late in the third period of Tuesday night's 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, head coach Kevin Dineen said that Thomas will miss at least this upcoming weekend's games.
"We just put him on Injured Reserve which will rule him not able to play on Friday (against Buffalo) or Saturday (against Tampa Bay)," said head coach Kevin Dineen following practice at Saveology.com Iceplex. "That's the update and that's where we're at."
Dineen said that Thomas suffered a lower body injury, leaving the game with less than three minutes to play, but said that the injury was not the same one that kept him out of four games after suffering a groin injury on Oct. 8 in Philadelphia. He doesn't expect the goaltender to be out for too long.
"We're confident that he's not going to be long term," said Dineen. "He's a quick healer."
Coming back from his injury the first time around, Thomas played well in games against Boston, Minnesota and Chicago, giving the Panthers a chance to win in each of those games while earning the 2-1 shootout victory over Minnesota on Saturday so it’s tough to see him go down once again.
"He played very well," said Dineen. "He played well against Boston. He played fabulous against Minnesota and we had a really good game going against Chicago so it's unfortunate but on the short term situation is, we'll give (Scott) Clemmensen a call and get him on the way here.
"Goaltending depth is playing a factor in our season already."
Goaltending coach Robb Tallas served as the second goaltender in Wednesday's practice with Scott Clemmensen en route for South Florida and with the Panthers looking to continue their consistency off the last few games, gave the shooters some pretty good competition.
"He's good out there. We had a little competition in the end and if you scored on Robbie, your day was done and if you didn't, you had to do a few wallies," said Dineen. "He made a few guys skate today so it was good to see."
Clemmensen will take over Tallas' role starting with Thursday’s practice with what looks like Markstrom seeing the starters action in the weekend's games at the very least. The Swede came in and stopped a shot in the third and overtime against Chicago before suffering the loss in the shootout after Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp found ways to get the puck past the big netminder.
"You have got to prepare. When I'm on the bench, I don't just sit there and watch the stands, I try to be in the game," said Markstrom about being pressed into duty late in the game. "You try to be in the game as much you can and I have no problem with that at all."
Thomas got the majority of the starts while healthy for the Panthers but the situation, whether Thomas was healthy or not, doesn’t matter for Markstrom as he'll prepare just like any other day of the season.
"Same mental process I've been doing before every game and every day coming into practice," said Markstrom.
On tap at Wednesday's practice? Shooting accuracy.
When asked what he saw following watching tape of Tuesday night's game, arguably one of their best of the young season, Dineen came up with one simple aspect of the game.
"Hit the net," said Dineen before repeating himself for emphasis. "Hit the net. How we didn't break a few panes of glass there. There were opportunities where we were really diverse in where we were shooting the puck, we just have to make that conscious effort."
Florida was credited with 18 missed shots on the night with six different players picking up at least two missed shots each. Dineen credits the reigning Stanley Cup champs for their defense but wasn't just about to let his own players off the hook.
"I think (the Hawks) did a good job of getting sticks in the way and that was effective," said Dineen. "If somebody's stick is in the way, then you have to make a conscious effort to move. Sometimes that is a part of our game plan to shoot wide but we are looking to get pucks on net and create opportunities from there if the first one's not effective."
One of the drills brought out on Tuesday was an offensive zone drill with two nets splitting the offensive zone in half. The drill had three-on-three play and four-on-two play as the puck traveled between the two zones and the teams attempting to score. Dineen brought that drill out of his bag from his college playing days back in the 1980s with the University of Denver.
"It's just about quick puck movement, about using your teammates, about being sharp and being able to make plays in tight quarters," said Dineen. "Those little tight plays, we're looking to shoot and we're looking to be crisp and use each other and work for each other."