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The Panthers 2011-12 season is quickly approaching and with that, floridapanthers.com is going 15 in 15 by taking a look at the top five questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 15th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top five on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

PURCHASE TICKETS TO THE HOME OPENER

POSTED ON Friday, 10.14.2011 / 4:05 PM
By Jared Levine - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Defenseman Brian Campbell (left) and forward Kris Versteeg (right) are one of the new players brought in over the summer to go with holdover forward Stephen Weiss (center).
In today’s topic, we take a closer look at how long it will take for the Florida Panthers to play as a team after acquiring 12 new players (either via free agency, draft or trade) in the Top Five Questions of the season.

When acquiring a new player, it usually takes some time for the individual to get adapted to a new coaching philosophy and playing style of other players.  Now imagine the task that head coach Kevin Dineen has after an offseason that brought in 12 new players (including defenseman Erik Gudbranson who as the Panthers top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, made the opening night roster).

Dineen, in his first year, gets to be the interior decorator of this new look Florida Panther team.  His early season assignment is to get all the new pieces to fit, and to fit early.  He recognizes that it will be a challenge, but he’s been in this position plenty of times before.

"In my six years there, there's probably about 70 percent change in your lineup year to year," said Dineen about coaching in the AHL for the Portland Pirates where turnover is the norm. "That's just the nature of the game. There's players coming up from junior, first-year pros, there's guys who have played in the NHL that are trying to re-establish themselves at that level. So I think you get used to that in the American league. You have to get everybody on the same page, and that's what's really exciting for me, to have that nice window of time to spend some time together as a group before we start the regular season."

The Panthers had six preseason games and training camp to get prepared for the regular season.  If you look at their record (1-4-1) on paper, you will see they didn’t have much success.  However, just getting these players experience playing with each other is good enough.  Players like Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg made an immediate impact on the team, Fleischmann recorded a goal with two assists and Versteeg had a goal with one assist for the preseason.

There was plenty of positivity coming out of this offseason, but there was still one major question to be answered, who was going to be their goalie?  With Scott Clemmenson out with a knee injury, it was Jose Theodore’s job to lose, and that he almost did.  Theodore would go on to have an offseason he would like to forget, but coach Kevin Dineen still had faith in his old netminder plugging him in as the starter for opening day.

The Panthers would start the season off right, in their first regular season game, the Panthers would go on to beat the New York Islanders 2-0.  Their success on this night was due to two newly acquired players, Brian Campbell and Jose Theodore. Campbell would play 30 minutes of ice time while logging two assists and Theodore would go on to have a shutout, saving 27 shots.

Even though the Panthers would lose their next game 4-2 to the Penguins, they are still 1-1 for the season.  The Panthers seem to be ahead of schedule on the learning curve, by getting a win in their first game of the season.  It will be interesting to see how this team progresses over the season.  As of right now, Dineen and the new look Panthers have some work to do, but they’re not too far off.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 5:30 PM
By Andrew Imber - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Defenseman Brian Campbell has posted 40-plus points in four seasons during his 11-year career including a career-high 62 split between Buffalo and San Jose during the 2007-08 season.
In today’s topic, we take a closer look at defenseman Brian Campbell in the Top Five Players To Watch this season.

After another finish out of contention during the 2010-11 regular season, the Florida Panthers were on the lookout for a turning point this offseason. On draft night in Minnesota, GM Dale Tallon found one in a familiar face – Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. Tallon convinced Campbell to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Panthers, after explaining his plan to recreate his masterpiece in Chicago, which resulted in a Stanley Cup, here in South Florida.

“He brings us credibility,” Tallon said in an interview after the trade. 


Tallon, himself, may not have known how right he was, as the move started a general migration of players to hockey’s most Southern market. Next on board was another Blackhawk – Tomas Kopecky, who was quickly signed by Tallon after the Panthers acquired his negotiating rights.

Then came the much talked about free agency haul that brought the Panthers into the South Florida spotlight for perhaps the first time since the glory days of 1996.

But it was the trade for Campbell that got the process started, and it is just one of the many reasons that he is the number one player to watch this season on our countdown.

A former sixth-round (156th overall) draft selection in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Campbell is the definition of a late-round gem. He spent eight seasons trying to establish himself as a contributor at the NHL level, before bursting onto the scene in 2005-06 with the Buffalo Sabres. That year he racked up 44 points, before improving to 48 points the next season. On pace to smash that pace in 2007-08, with 43 points in 63 games, the Sabres dealt Campbell to San Jose at the trade deadline, where he scored a whopping 19 points in 20 regular season contests, and 7 points in 13 playoff games. The next year, Tallon signed Campbell to a long-term contract in Chicago, and Campbell justified the decision with a 52-point regular season, and 10 point playoff campaign.

Campbell enjoyed a successful run in Chicago, including the championship season in 2009-10.

It’s really no wonder why Tallon chose “Soupy” as the main piece to help turn around the franchise. Championship teams are made up of championship players.

Campbell fits the bill perfectly.


BY THE NUMBERS

2 - Posted two assists in his first game as a Panther on October 8 as he set up Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison for first period tallies.

6 - Finished with a career-low (for playing more than 40 games) six penalty minutes last season with Chicago.

12
- Netted career-high 12 goals during the 2005-06 season with Buffalo. Had a career-high five game-winners during that campaign.

53 - Entered 2011-12 season with Florida with a plus-53 rating. Has finished with plus-28 in two seperate seasons (2006-07, 2010-11)
 
62 - Registered a career-high 62 points split between Buffalo (43 points) and San Jose (19 points) during the 2007-08 season.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.12.2011 / 4:00 PM
By James Kent - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

David Booth and the Panthers look to start the home slate off against Pavel Kubina and the Lightning just like last year's opening game. (Eliot J. Schechter)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 15th in the Top 5 Games this season.

After two road games to start the season, the Panthers return to South Florida for their home opener at the Bank Atlantic Center October 15, against Eastern Conference rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers look to open up at home against the Lightning the same way they did on the road, with a victory. As the Lightning look to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row the Cats will look to calm the storm and establish themselves as the top dog in Florida.

The Panthers, who have themed this season in a way with the slogan “We See Red”, will sport their new red jerseys in Saturday’s game in hopes that new jerseys and a revamped lineup, featuring three former Stanley Cup Champions in Thomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell, will help the Panthers finally make it back to the playoffs where they have not been in over a decade. GM Dale Tallon thinks that with the panthers very active offseason there’s no reason this team can’t make the playoffs this season.

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning, look to pick up right where they left off last season; however the Panthers and newly acquired all-star defensive duo, Ed Jovanovski and Campbell have other plans for Mr. Stamkos when he takes the ice at the BankAtlantic Center. Campbell and Jovonovski will provide leadership and experience to a very young and talented defensive unit that includes the 3rd overall draft pick (Erik Gudbranson) in the NHL entry draft in 2010.

On the other side of the ice the Panthers have brought in some firepower on offense as well to lend a hand to fan favorite David Booth.  The Panthers lack of experience showed at times last season, but Tallon and Dineen refuse to make the same mistake two years in a row so on top of recruiting top defensemen this off-season the panthers loaded their offense with more experienced players but the question with guys like Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann is, will they stay healthy?  

It will be the second year in a row that the Panthers open their home schedule against their cross-state rivals. In last season's home opener, the Panthers scored four times in the first twenty minutes on their way to a 6-0 victory.

It's the home opener so why wouldn't this be the top game of the season? A chance to see the new team up close for the first time during the regular season coupled with the fact of seeing the new jersey and a whole new game presentation for the upcoming season.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 4:25 PM
By Andrew Imber - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Two forwards that should see a lot of top-six minutes are Tomas Kopecky (82) and Tomas Fleischmann (14). Both were added this off-season by GM Dale Tallon. Kopecky was traded for and then signed on June 27 while Fleischmann signed as a free agent on July 1.(Getty Images)
In today’s topic, we take a closer look at how the top forward pairings will shake out for the Florida Panthers in the Top Five Questions this season.

With so many new faces in the Panthers lineup this season, including seven forwards that weren’t here at the end of last season alone, chemistry will be key for Florida to sort out. The sooner they find the right balance, the better chance the team will have at a strong start to the season.

Early season play suggests that the top forward line will consist of Tomas Fleischmann (21 points in 22 games with Colorado last year), Stephen Weiss (team-high 49 points last year), and Kris Versteeg (46 points in 80 games last year). Looking at the trios’ numbers, as well as their potential to grow even stronger, and it’s a logical choice of a line combination to stay together and perform well.

With health issues in his rearview mirror, Fleischmann is oozing with breakout potential. He scored nearly a point per game after being traded to the Colorado Avalanche last season, and is just entering his prime at 27-years old. After leading the team in points last year, Weiss looks ready to pick up where he left off, with a goal in the team’s first game. At 28-years-old, he is also entering the prime of his career and could be poised for his best season to date. And finally, even while bouncing around to a few teams in the past couple of years, Versteeg has shown that he has loads of potential. Just 25-years-old, Versteeg already has three twenty-goal seasons to his name, and a Stanley Cup ring. Not to mention, he may be available to sing at your next big gathering.

The probable second line for the Panthers features a similar combination: two new Panthers and a familiar face. David Booth is the mainstay, and boasted a team-high 23-goals last season. His blazing speed and aggression to shoot give the Panthers a solid weapon up front. Tomas Kopecky enjoyed a breakout season last year, recording 42 points in 81 games for the Chicago Blackhawks. He’ll have a chance to show that the progression is a trend playing in a top six role for the Cats. Scottie Upshall should round out the Panthers top six, after scoring 22 goals and recording 34 points split between Phoenix and Columbus last season. The former sixth overall selection (2002 NHL Entry Draft) could blossom in the role, after setting a career high in goals and points last year. 

Although each of those six forwards will make the case to remain firmly planted in that role, there are at least a few players who may push for extra ice time. Playoff wonder Sean Bergenheim scored nine goals in 16 games during last year’s postseason with Tampa Bay, and will certainly garner extra attention if that carries over to this year. Marcel Goc is coming off a year in which he probably would have set career highs across the board had it not been for injury. He'll be waiting to fill in a top-two line center role if the injury bug comes around. Jack Skille is another former top-ten pick that has shown flashes of that talent in his short time with the Panthers. Young Russian sensation Evgeny Dadonov could take a top six role and run with it if he gets an opportunity, after representing the Panthers in the YoungStars Game last season. Also, don’t forget about Shawn Matthias, whose size and skill could become a dangerous combination in an expanded role and Mike Santorelli who could easily find himself back in the top-six after coming back from injury. In the top-six for most of last season, Santorelli posted a career-high 21 goals with the Panthers.

Overall, the Panthers have to be thrilled at the depth they possess at forward.  Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but this year, Florida will be equipped with the weapons to overcome obstacles in their way.

 
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POSTED ON Monday, 10.10.2011 / 5:07 PM
By Jared Levine - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Goaltender Jose Theodore, one of seven Panthers signees this off-season posted 15-11-3 record with Minnesota last season.
In today's topic, we take a closer look at goaltender Jose Theodore in the Top Five Players To Watch this season.
   

Looking for a netminder on July 1 after unable to come to terms with Tomas Vokoun, the Panthers quickly made a call to a former Vezina Trophy winner as free agency started.

Jose Theodore, was their target, and the veteran 35-year-old goaltender quickly signed a two-year contract with the club. Theodore has seen plenty of action during his 13 seasons in the NHL (581 games) and though Theodore is coming off a season in which he was a backup with the Minnesota Wild, he is capable of being a starter and producing a winning season as he has had six of them in his career. He also has played in more than half of his team’s games in eight of his seasons.


“Jose is a veteran goalie who has won both the Vezina and Hart Trophy,” said Tallon at the time of the signing. “He has played in more than 500 games in the National Hockey League, earning more than 250 wins, and adds depth and experience to our team.”
   

With backup goalie Scott Clemmensen out with a knee injury, Theodore is going to have to carry the early season load. If you look at last seasons games played (32) you might be worried how he could hold up for the whole season, but in an interview Theodore stated he could have played in up to 55 games last season and that he wants “to return to playing at a high level.”

Theodore didn’t get off to a good start in a Panthers jersey, in his final start of the preseason he surrendered seven goals. That followed a game in which he allowed five goals. Coach Kevin Dineen had faith in his netminder, he believed that once the season started he would be ready to play.
   

Dineen was right, in his first regular season game for the Panthers, Theodore shut out the Islanders 2-0.  Theodore now has 31 shutouts in his career, hopefully there will be plenty more of that to come in this young season. 

“Things didn’t go as planned during training camp,’’ said Dineen to the Miami Herald, “but he’s a professional. He has played in Montreal, where everything is magnified to such a high level. He’s patient.’’

Theodore, starting in the most important position on the ice, will be an important player to watch this up-coming season.


BY THE NUMBERS

.916 - Recorded a .916 save percentage last season with Minnesota, his highest save percentage since 2003-04 when he had a .919 save percentage with Montreal.

7 - Had a career-high seven shutouts during 2001-02 season, helping him capture the Vezina and Hart Trophies.

40 - Started the season in 40th place among netminders in victories with 260. Added another one against the NY Islanders in game one of the 2011-12 season.

67 - Played in career-high 67 games twice, during the 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons with Montreal.
 
77 - Recorded 77 victories in the previous three seasons with Washington and Minnesota. Had a .606 winning percentage while going 77-35-15 over that span.

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POSTED ON Sunday, 10.09.2011 / 4:47 PM
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Forwards Kris Versteeg (left) and Michael Frolik (right) will be switching jerseys from the time they faced off against one another in Helsinki two seasons ago. November 3rd will be Versteeg's first time playing against his former team, the Blackhawks. (Getty Images)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Chicago Blackhawks on November 3rd in the Top 5 Games this season.

While it's often tough to start a rivalry with a Western Conference team due to the lack of meetings in a given season, the Panthers could easily have that against the Chicago Blackhawks. That rivalry, if there is one, is all of the personal variety as seven players (and a General Manager) have spent playing time on the other team.

Forwards Jack Skille (one game) and Michael Frolik (two games) have already played against their former teams after being traded in a February 9th deal that involved five players.

Then there is veteran defenseman Steve Montador who spent three seasons in South Florida (2005-2008) who will suit up for the Blackhawks for the first time in a Chicago jersey but has faced the Panthers seven times either with Anaheim or Buffalo.

Where the game gets really interesting is it will be the first time against their former team for four players with three of them wearing the opposite jerseys as late as the Western Conference first round. Brian Campbell's arrival in South Florida was the kick-off for General Manager Dale Tallon (who everyone knows that he has Chicago roots) to his makeover of the Panthers this past summer. Tallon acquired Campbell at the NHL Draft on June 24th for forward Rostislav Olesz. Tallon then acquired forward Tomas Kopecky for a conditional seventh-rounder three days later. On July 1, after signing several free-agents early in the day, Tallon swung a deal for former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg (spent last season split between Toronto and Philadelphia). Campbell, Kopecky, Versteeg and Olesz will all be playing against their former team for the first time.

What makes this meeting all the more story like is that it's the first of two meetings between the two. The two teams will meet again on January 20th in Chicago. The schedule makers have seemed to want to start a bit of a rivalry as this will be the third consecutive season that the teams meet twice. Florida and Chicago has split each of their games the previous two seasons. Florida has won both of their games (in Helsinki to open 2009-10 season and last March in Sunrise) by a one-goal margin while Chicago dominated in their two victories (in Helsinki in the second game of the 2009-10 season and last March in Chicago) by identical 4-0 shutouts.

The Blackhawks, while losing a lot of parts of the roster that earned them a Stanley Cup (including Campbell, Kopecky and Versteeg) two seasons ago, still have a lot of firepower. Led up front by captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. They have two of the game's best on the blueline in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook while goaltender Corey Crawford had a breakout season last year as he went 33-18-6 with a 2.30 goals against average and .917 save percentage.

It will be a tough task but the Panthers, led by their new charges, will be juiced up for their first action against their former team, thus making for a great game on November 3rd.
 
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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 10:14 AM
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

The Panthers will rely heavily on new acquisition Jose Theodore to start the season with Scott Clemmensen out for about a month. (Getty Images)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at how the goaltending starts might be divided in the Top Five Questions this season.

  Before the start of the season, this question might have been more of a hot topic as Scott Clemmensen was having a very solid training camp and looked to be pushing Jose Theodore for split duties if not more.

Then came news that Clemmensen went through a minor knee procedure and would miss about a month put that whole debate on the shelf. At least for now.

Theodore, meanwhile had an unnormal pre-season, giving up 12 goals in two starts. For Theodore, he'll be looked upon early and often between the pipes and while the pre-season has some people nervous, he has shown that he is a gamer.

“At the end of the day, a lot of our success early is going to ride on him,’’ said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. “He’s a guy who has been down these roads before. I believe in him."

"I’ve been around long enough to know I need to be better," said Theodore following the pre-season. "I’m pretty confident. I will work hard and work ethic overcomes many things. I’m confident for the start of the season."

Theodore has been a successful netminder in this league, having seven seasons with more wins than losses. He's won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) while in Montreal and posted solid numbers with Washington (30-7-7, .911 SV%) and Minnesota (15-11-3, .916 SV%) in the last two seasons.

With Clemmensen out to start the season, the backup position falls to 21-year old Swede Jacob Markstrom. How much Dineen decides to play him remains to be seen but with 11 games in the opening month, one would think he gets into a game or two, if not more. With goaltenders taking usually the longest to develop, maybe Markstrom "grows up" quickly when thrown in a game and seizes momentum.

Once Clemmensen comes back healthy, he'll figure to push Theodore and get several starts. The netminder has averaged 31 games the last three seasons, 27 the last two with the Panthers. Last year, Clemmensen had very respectable numbers, posting a .911 SV% and 2.62 GAA.

Keep an eye on the man between the pipes. Like a quarterback in football, the goaltender is an integral part of the team and a reason why they could return to the playoffs or why they could be on the outside looking in.
 
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POSTED ON Friday, 10.07.2011 / 4:55 PM
By Jared Levine - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Forward Tomas Fleischmann, one of seven Panthers signees this off-season posted 21 points in 22 games with Colorado last season.
In today’s topic, we take a closer look at forward Tomas Fleischmann in the Top Five Players To Watch this season.

After missing more than half of the season last year, Fleischmann is itching to get back on the ice and start a new season. He might have only appeared in 45 games last season, but in his previous three campaigns, he has averaged 72 games. His health is no longer an issue coming into this season after recovering from the blood clots found in his lungs . Therefore the main question is, how well will he fit into the Panthers first line plans?  

Fleischmann was one of seven players acquired via free agency over the offseason to start the season with the Panthers, but to GM Dale Tallon, he has the potential to be the staple to this year’s offseason.

Tomas Fleischmann,” Tallon said with a smile, “is going to be something special.”

Starting off the 2011-12 season on the first line, Fleischmann will be asked to carry a lot of the offensive load this year. What he will benefit from is that he gets to play alongside other talented forwards like David Booth, Stephen Weiss, Scottie Upshall and Kris Versteeg.

“He hasn’t reached his peak yet,” said Tallon. “His numbers are just going to go up. He’s a very skilled guy who makes other players better.”

Others are labeling Fleischmann as a “wildcard,” but Tallon sees something special from this young forward. He believes Fleischmann has the ability to score and make plenty of plays if the offense focuses on him. 

It’s not like he hasn’t performed before, it was only two seasons ago when Fleishmann scored 23 goals and added 28 assists for the Washington Capitals.

Keep an eye on him this season, because if he can remain healthy for the majority of the season, Fleischmann has the capability to improve those numbers and even become a star in the Panther offense.



BY THE NUMBERS

.955 - Points a game that Fleischmann averaged last season in Colorado, posting 21 points in 22 games after being acquired from Washington.

3 - Recorded a hat trick, including the game-winner December 15, 2010 at Chicago for Colorado.

6 - Had six multi-point games this past season split between Washington and Colorado.

21 - Averaged just 21 penalty minutes in last four seasons while averaging 66 games played.

51 - Recorded career high 51 points during 2009-10 season with Washington.
 

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 7:08 PM
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and goaltender Scott Clemmensen defend against Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis during a game last season at the BankAtlantic Center. (Getty Images)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 19th in the Top 5 Games this season.

For the Panthers, one of the biggest games on the docket this season will be against the Penguins on November 19th. There are numerous reasons, stemming from the Penguins having the Panthers numbers the last couple of years, to the match-up against Pens superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to the start of a four-game homestand over Thanksgiving week.

Starting with the first part, the Penguins have taken seven of the last eight games over the last two years. While the Panthers have been competitive in games (losing four times in overtime or the shootout) over that span, Pittsburgh has found ways to come out on top. Florida lost all four matchups last season, going 0-3-1, while being outscored 14-7.

Then you have to factor in the fact that the Penguins, have a deep team that has been to the playoffs, has won a Stanley Cup (2009) and therefore is battle tested. They just go through the regular season and prepare for a Cup run.

That deep team is led by their superstars; Crosby and Malkin. Prior to a concussion last season, Crosby had posted more than a 100 points in four of his first five seasons in the league. Malkin, also has put up 100 points in two of his last four seasons prior to 2010-11 where he faced several injuries which limited him to just 43 games. Malkin is back healthy this season while Crosby is still working his way back but both should be around when the Panthers and Penguins take to the ice.

Pittsburgh isn't limited to just the two superstars as they have Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and James Neal up front along with Kris Letang and Paul Martin on the back end and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes.

For Florida, this game marks the start of a busy eight day stretch as they play five games over that span. Four of those will come from the comfort of the South Florida ice as the Panthers will host Pittsburgh (Nov. 19), New Jersey (Nov. 21), the NY Rangers (Nov. 23) and Tampa Bay (Nov. 25) before traveling to Tampa Bay to finish it up (Nov. 26). There's nothing like a Thanksgiving week with four strong opponents (Tampa twice) during one of the busiest holiday weeks of the year. The BankAtlantic Center has some of it's largest crowds on hand over the week and it all starts with Pittsburgh.

The November 19th meeting will be the second time the two teams meet (October 11th in Pittsburgh is the first). With Thanksgiving around the corner, it's a great time to start the week off right, against a formidable foe with superstars throughout the lineup.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.05.2011 / 5:29 PM
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

Head coach Kevin Dineen and assistant Craig Ramsay discuss strategy during a Panthers pre-season game. The duo will be making their Panthers coaching debuts on October 8th on Long Island. (Eliot J. Schechter)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at how much of an impact the new coaches might have in the Top Five Questions this season.

About half of the Panthers roster will be taking the ice come October 8th for the very first time in a Cats jersey. Behind the bench it will be the same as half of the coaching staff will get their first games as Panthers against the Islanders.

The Panthers hired former NHL forward Kevin Dineen as their new bench boss on June 1. They then added former Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay as an assistant to complement assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas who were kept on from the previous regime.

Add in new Panthers video coach PJ DeLuca and three of the six coaches (other being Strength and Conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite) and the Panthers have a different look and voice heading into the upcoming season.

With three new coaches to go with a multitude of changes on the playing roster, the question is how quickly can the staff come together and what kind of impact will they have on their "charges".

If experience in the ranks are any indication then the Panthers should be just fine.

Dineen spent 19 years in the league playing and picking up 760 points in 1,188 career games. After his career, he spent a season with the Columbus Blue Jackets before coaching the Portland Pirates (AHL) for the past six seasons. There he had a brilliant career as the main bench boss for the affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres. Dineen compiled a record of 266-155-59 (.619 winning percentage) while developing players such as Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam. The last three won AHL Rookie Of The Year awards the past three seasons.

"You see the potential that's there," said Dineen. "The youth, the veterans, the skill that was added this summer, you have a lot of reason for optimism. It makes for a very exciting time."

Then you can't forget about Ramsay who has nearly 40 years of NHL experience as a player and a coach. Hired on July 7, Ramsay played in 1,070 games (all with Buffalo) over his 14-year NHL career while registering 672 points. After retiring, Ramsay has been an assistant coach in Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Boston. Ramsay was the Atlanta Thrashers head coach this past season.

“He brings an in-depth knowledge and experience to the Panthers organization which will be an invaluable resource for our players to draw from," said Dineen of Ramsay.

The Panthers staff, led by Dineen, infused with talent thanks to Panthers management should see the results this season. Finishing with just 72 points last year, the Panthers new coaching staff has a chance to make a big difference.

"I think Dineen has an opportunity in Florida to make the most dramatic improvement of all the coaches mentioned," said ESPN's Craig Custance in a response to a twitter question about what new head coach (Dineen, Minnesota's Mike Yeo, Dallas' Glen Gulutzan and Winnipeg's Claude Noel) will do the best and why. "GM Dale Tallon has not only done a great job accumulating talent, he's creating an atmosphere in South Florida in which players should enjoy playing. There are some great personalities on that team, and I think Dineen has the opportunity to mold them into a squad that should well exceed the 72 points Florida posted last year. If success is measured in improvement over last season, I think Dineen will lead the way."
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UPCOMING EVENTS

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 7 6 1 0 22 21 12
2 TBL 7 4 2 1 21 14 9
3 OTT 5 4 1 0 14 10 8
4 WSH 5 3 0 2 18 11 8
5 DET 6 3 1 2 12 10 8
6 NYI 6 4 2 0 22 20 8
7 NYR 7 4 3 0 21 23 8
8 BOS 8 4 4 0 20 20 8
9 NJD 6 3 2 1 20 20 7
10 TOR 7 3 3 1 20 21 7
11 PIT 5 3 2 0 19 15 6
12 CBJ 5 3 2 0 15 12 6
13 FLA 6 2 2 2 9 14 6
14 PHI 7 2 3 2 22 28 6
15 CAR 5 0 3 2 11 18 2
16 BUF 6 1 5 0 8 22 2

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
B. Boyes 6 2 2 2 4
S. Bergenheim 6 2 1 2 3
D. Olsen 6 0 3 2 3
D. MacKenzie 6 1 1 -1 2
J. Huberdeau 6 1 1 0 2
B. Campbell 6 0 2 -1 2
J. Jokinen 6 0 2 1 2
A. Ekblad 6 0 2 -1 2
A. Barkov 6 1 0 0 1
B. Pirri 2 1 0 1 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Montoya 0 0 1 .974 0.59
R. Luongo 2 2 1 .906 2.72
 
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