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POSTED ON Monday, 01.27.2014 / 11:30 AM
By Steve Goldstein - FloridaPanthers.com / From The Booth
Aleksander Barkov, Sean Bergenheim and Brad Boyes have been some of the Panthers best players this season (Getty Images).

It's been quite a turnaround for the Panthers. After winning just three of their first 18 games, the Cats have been one of the league's better teams since.

Tim Thomas and Scott Clemmensen have both provided goaltending that on most nights has been good enough to win with.

Veterans like Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall and Tom Gilbert have been key to the resurgence. Boyes and Gilbert were late pickups in training camp while Bergenheim and Upshall are both healthy and playing the type of hockey they're capable of playing.

All of it has been made possible due to the system, structure and overall environment created by coach Peter Horacheck. He is a good communicator and there is absolutely no confusion about the way he wants his team to play. That goes a long way towards fostering a winning attitude.

Whether it's all enough to  overcome the poor start to the season remains to be seen but the setup for next season is taking shape. The Panthers have some key elements in place, mainly at the center position. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Drew Shore are all young, have skill and have shown their ability.

There are many questions to be answered in goal, on defense and on the wings. The Panthers have numerous free agents to make decisions on. Will that happen during the season? Will the team make moves at the deadline to make a playoff push if they're close enough? Will the Cats make deals with an eye on next season? All these are questions that remain to be answered and many are tough decisions.

With owner Vinnie Viola declaring the Panthers will be a major payroll player spending in the upper threshold of the salary cap, things will be very interesting moving forward. This team is not that far from being a legitimate playoff contender. 

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 71 13 32 7 45
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 73 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 69 13 25 -4 38
B. Boyes 72 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 73 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 64 18 13 -4 31
A. Barkov 63 12 17 -2 29
B. Campbell 74 3 21 1 24
B. Pirri 41 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 11 .922 2.32
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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