Panthers forward Scottie Upshall is no stranger to Peter Horachek behind the bench. After spending a couple of years together in the Nashville organization, Upshall has taken advantage of the familiar face, and has been on fire since Horachek took as interim head coach in early November.
After a slow start to the season, lately Upshall has upped his game and even matched a career high for points in a single month. There, he’s recorded 12 points in the 14 November games (6-6-12) including points in each of the last three games (2-1-3). He also recorded 12 points in 15 games in December, 2009. That followed an October in which he recorded two assists 10 games.
“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to come out and prove myself and be better,” he said recently. “I just think right now some things are working, I’m getting some bounces, I’m playing hard, I’m just trying to do the right things.”
Upshall, who began his pro career in the AHL with Horachek as head coach in Milwaukee, has a positive outlook on the changes for the team.
“I feel there’s a responsibility on me to be able to help our group understand where Peter’s coming from,” said Upshall.
And with that, Upshall’s game has taken on a leadership role, being one of the team’s alternate captains over the last few weeks.
“Since I've been here, Scott's work ethic, he's been a leader, he's been outspoken in the locker room,” said Horachek. “He's been in our leadership group. He's done a good job on the ice so I take from what they are doing and he's earned the time he has been playing. He's put the work in.”
The familiarities amongst the system Horachek had in Nashville and what he brings to the Panthers, have certainly helped Upshall’s reemergence.
“There’s light, there’s new opportunities, and there’s chances for everyone to get on board and be better,” said Upshall. “He demands that everyone is accountable.
“It’s a system that’s in place to play hard, first off and foremost, to come out and put forth hard work every night. And then play fast, play a north style of game.”
And that’s something that Upshall has appreciated.
“When you’re name is called you step out on the ice, you work hard and you have short shifts and you do the right things and you play the game the right way, or you’re not going to play.”
The veteran player knows what it takes to have to put in the effort to get the results they want as a team.
“I think that system and attitude is there to make us better and to get the best out of the group we have,” he said.
Upshall’s confidence has boosted on the ice, and now with having a familiar face behind the bench in Horachek, he’s bound to continue his success. The forward leads the Panthers in points with 14.
“We got guys here that have a lot of upside. We got a lot of young, good players that are going to be better professionals and better pros in the short term and in the long term.”
As for the team, Upshall says, “everyone here has to do things the right way, and I think if we believe in the system, we have a goaltender that is going to be able to keep us in games every night. We have young talent that are going to get better. And then, all of us who are here who have been here for a couple years, guys like [Boyes] and [Winchester] who just got here this year, they have something to buy in for now.”
The new coaches and new system is a breath of fresh air and Upshall is one of the Panthers mostly benefiting.
“I think Peter and [Skrudland] and [Madden] are all guys open to us going in and saying something to them whether we disagree with it,” said Upshall. “They’re going to take what you have to say and they’re going to talk to you about it.”