By David Aviles – University of Miami
CORAL SPRINGS, FL - It’s a balmy 50-60 degrees or so this morning, but only for those inside the Saveology.com Iceplex. Despite the cold temperature, the action on the ice was heating up on Day Two of the Florida Panthers 2013 Training Camp.
The Cats are looking fierce, showcased by the sudden crash of defneseman Dmitry Kulikov and forward Tomas Fleischmann against the glass. From drills to suicides, the team is already pushing each other. Only days away from Monday’s doubleheader at the BB&T Center, Jacob Markstrom is looking as strong and solid as a brick wall.
With several fresh faces on the ice, forward Scott Gomez, a seasoned veteran signed in early August, is glad to mentor and guide the young guys.
“We come in and it’s a big opportunity to get into the league and to do something, to start your career. You have to look at it that way,” said Gomez. “This year, you can tell right from the get-go that the main thing is to win. It would be a different story if the talent wasn’t in here. Its just young guys and for guys like us, we’re here to help them out. You can tell. If we go out really hard, we can be a team to reckon with.”
One of those less-seasoned players Gomez and other veterans are helping out, Aleksander Barkov, the just-turned 18-year old center, has never experienced NHL training camp and had no expectations heading in. The Panthers No. 2 pick in this past summer’s draft has centered a line with Fleischmann in each of the two days of practices.
“He is a very good player,” said Barkov of the Panthers leading scorer the last two seasons. “I know that he helps me very much, so I try to build good chemistry with him.”
With the season opener at home on October 11 rapidly approaching, each practice and preseason game is instrumental to getting that chemistry just right. And for the crowd in attendance, the excitement is palpable.
Just behind the glass David Lentz, season ticket holder and long time fan, updates his Twitter status with a face full of action.
“I can always be at practices,” Lentz exclaims, over the sound of the aggressive Panther action in the background. “But it is good to see them putting it all out there for a practice.”
Despite so many new faces on the team, the crowd and staff are confident they’ll come together, especially when seeing the Cats working with such intensity at practice.
“Today was about getting the defensive part of the game, getting their battle back up,” said Dineen. “They’ve been playing summer hockey and they’ve been working out with their trainers and now they got into the one on one battle side of things.”
Free admission to practice is a perfect opportunity for fans of all types to come out and see the action. Grab a seat directly behind the glass next to a diehard fan; just remember to wear your Panthers jacket!
The Panthers season officially begins at the American Airlines Center on Thursday, Oct. 3 where the Cats will start the hunt for success and glory. For more information visit floridapanthers.com.