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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 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 63 22 16 -8 38
J. Huberdeau 60 9 27 4 36
J. Jokinen 62 6 28 0 34
A. Ekblad 63 10 23 8 33
B. Boyes 61 11 21 9 32
J. Jagr 59 12 19 -9 31
J. Hayes 54 17 10 -5 27
B. Campbell 63 3 20 3 23
A. Barkov 52 10 12 -4 22
T. Fleischmann 52 7 14 12 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 16 11 .920 2.40
A. Montoya 5 6 2 .891 2.98
 
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