|Forward Jack Skille celebrates his third-period goal to put the Panthers up 4-2 against the Senators on Mar. 4th (Getty Images).|
The injury report, in fact, has been vast as 21 different players have missed a combined 291 man-games heading into Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers (INJURY REPORT).
With that, Kevin Dineen hasn't always had the luxury of playing guys based off of merit. But in the last 20 games of the season or so, he has as Panthers have or are returning from various injuries. While forwards Kris Versteeg and Scottie Upshall and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov are still out for at least this week, Dineen does have the chance to play his forwards based off of their production as well as due to health.
"We have 14 healthy forwards right now so I have options every night," said Dineen following practice at Saveology.com Iceplex on Tuesday. "I wouldn't say that it's always play based but I think I'm looking for the healthiest guys right now."
Dineen feels having extra bodies will help the Panthers immensely down the stretch. Both Marco Sturm and John Madden have been the forwards on the outside looking in but they've been held out do to the play of other forwards.
"Guys are fighting for those spots right now. Whether it's Krys Barch or Jack Skille (they) are doing what they can to stay in the lineup," said Dineen.
And once Versteeg, Upshall and Kulikov return to the lineup, it will present even more players looking to get playing time. That's something that the head coach has to enjoy as he tries to keep the Panthers on top of the Southeast Division.
"It's the only way you can stay now in the lineup," said Dineen. "They can count. it's very easy to figure out bodies are options for us to use. It's a good situation for a coach."
Speaking of the Panthers leading scorer, Dineen said that Versteeg is being considered on a short-term rolling basis in terms of his lower body injury.
"It's a little beyond day-to-day but certainly not considered a long term injury," said Dineen. "We don't expect him for the next couple of games and we'll re-evaluate at that time. We're kind of in that stage right now where we're looking at three and four day increments."
|Forwards Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky celebrate Goc's goal 33 seconds into the second period which started the Cats comeback from down 2-0 to win 4-2. (Getty Images)|
For the third time in the last four games and the sixth time in the last eight, Florida has given up the first two goals of the game.
While the Panthers might not have heard the boos coming from the stands while skating off for the first intermission, they certainly heard the between-periods speech. One can only imagine what was exactly said in the locker room during those 17 minutes. But there were some clues divulged following the Panthers 4-2 victory.
“When you get as thoroughly outplayed as we did in the first period, I think there has to be some kind of a response,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “We went in and had a little chat. I think they understood that there wasn’t going to be any change in the way we were going to play our systems or I wasn’t going to shake up the lines. It was basically going to come from within.”
“(Coach) just said got to go out there and look across the way and each of us have to outwork the guy across from us,” said forward Krys Barch who scored the equalizer 2:21 into the second on a breakaway. “I think we took that there and we brought it in and implemented it for the second.”
The Panthers came at the Senators from the start of the period and it showed in scoring three goals to take the lead away. Florida outshot Ottawa 14-8 in the second period alone.
“Obviously we weren’t happy so we got a little bit of a kick in the butt and got us going a little bit,” said center Stephen Weiss of the intermission talk. “That goal at the first shift of the second was big. It got us right into it and we were rolling from there.”
"Our competition level after the first period stayed the same and theirs obviously elevated to a higher level," said Sens head coach Paul MacLean to the media. “Instead of raising our competition level as the game went on to meet theirs, we got frustrated."
After Marcel Goc scored 33 seconds in and Barch tied it at two, Weiss set up Mikael Samuelsson for the eventual game-winner with the Cats on a power play. Forward Jack Skille added an insurance goal in the third. For the Panthers, it was their third time in the last six games in coming back from a two-goal deficit (also against Carolina and Montreal).
“Unfortunately sometimes we come out a little flat. I don’t know why that is but we’e been trying really hard to come out with a lot of push in the first period,” said Skille following the game. “I think right now, we’re just going to stick with our character and work hard and work through these things and hopefully we can play a full 60 minutes next game.”
Points down the stretch get harder to come by and a loss to the Senators would have been a blown chance to pick up ground on the rest of the Southeast. Luckily, the speech, along with the Panthers' play in the second and third gave the Panthers another two important points in moving to four points up on the Jets and five points on the Capitals.
While speeches are great for short runs, if the Panthers hope to continue their playoff push, they have to find a way to not continue to get down early. It’s tough sledding when you have to continually come back from deficits. The intermission speech isn't always going to do the trick.
“I wish I knew,” said Samuelsson of giving up the game’s first two goals. “That’s what we have to figure out these days. We have two, three days off. Get the energy back a little bit. No excuses. We have to obviously play for 60 minutes."
“We knew we had three days in between games here and we didn’t want to sit thinking about ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas’ there for those three days,” said Barch. “We come in here every day and we look at those standings. We know Washington (was) only three points behind and Winnipeg is right behind us. We know we can’t let these slip away.”
So was looking through the website backend today and saw that there was this blog "Panthers Insider" that was written on a couple of times back in June and then went underground; or somewhere unknown.
It must have gone into deep hibernation or something.
Well, the time has come to try and re-kick this blog into action. It’s been a long time coming and what better time than right now with the stretch run to the end of the season to get it going again. It would be a valid argument to say “the blog should have been going on the whole season.” No excuses there as to the reasons the writing went missing.
It’s all water under the bridge if the blog stays current and gives the fans an up-to-date background on all things Panthers. That’s what we’ll try to do the rest of the season (whenever that ends) and the future.
In saying that, it should be an exciting month as the Panthers chase for a playoff spot for the first time in over a decade. Here’s hoping it’s a great month ahead for the Panthers team and fans alike.
The Hockey Hall of Fame elected four more players with their class of 2011 and two former Panthers were among them as goaltender Ed Belfour and center Joe Nieuwendyk received the call Tuesday afternoon.
For Belfour, he was elected to the Hall on his very first try. The 18-year vet finished his NHL career playing with the Panthers. During the 2006-07 season, Belfour posted a 27-17-10 record with a .902 save percentage. 'Eddie the Eagle' is currently third all-time in goalie wins with 484, and twice won the Vezina Trophy while also winning the Stanley Cup in 1999.
"It is hard to put into words what this means to me," said Belfour in a release. "I would like to thank all of my teammates and people along the way who helped me achieve my hockey dreams."
Nieuwendyk spent parts of two seasons with the Panthers following the NHL lockout. Playing in 80 games with the Cats, Nieuwendyk recorded 64 points before back problems caused him to retire. 'Newy' recorded 564 career goals while finishing with 1,257 points and hoisted the Cup three different times (1989, 1999 and 2003).
"Every player does their best year after year and strives to play at a very high level," said Nieuwendyk. "I truly love the game and love to compete, and I'm pleased to be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame."
The duo join Igor Larionov (2000-01, class of 2008) and Dino Ciccarelli (1997-99, class of 2010) as players that have worn Panthers jerseys during their careers to become a Hall of Famer. Other people with Panthers ties that are currently Hall of Fame include Bill Torrey as a builder (class of 1995), Roger Nielson as a builder (class of 2002), Bob Clarke (inducted as a player in 1987) and Billy Smith (inducted as a player in 1993).
Other former Panthers that were up for the award included John Vanbiesbrouck, Pavel Bure, Stu Barnes, Sean Burke and Mike Vernon.
The induction of Belfour and Nieuwendyk as well as Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe will take place on November 14th in Toronto.
Just a quick post for now...
They say that waiting is the hardest thing and that's totally true.
The NHL Draft kicks off in less than four hours but it still seems like an eternity away. It's been a long day so far of just waiting around in the hotel, typing up stories, working on things for the website and just waiting for the phone to buzz to hear that there's been a trade, or to know who in fact the Panthers will go with at number three.
As much anxiety it is for the fans and the staff to wait until 7:00pm ET to get the draft started, it's got to be much worse for the prospects. The future, at least of where they could play, are hours away just awaiting for their names to be called. After that it's a lot of jubilation and relief to finally hear there names called.
As the time slowly ticks by, it will be interesting to see if/when the Panthers make a move. They've been busy at the draft in the past. In actuality, this is where they usually make the most hay with trades/draft picks/etc.
"A lot of conversation and a lot of pondering and a lot of positioning as far as what we might do or what we might trade and what we might get back in return," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon yesterday. "So it's very solid. It will be an eventful 10 days (including free agency) I would think but things are starting to percolate a little bit and it's fun. This is what I enjoy the most."
We'll just have to see what comes to fruition but can someone turn the clock ahead?
|The top 10 prospects pose for a photo at their Draft Luncheon the day before the NHL Draft. (Getty Images)|
For the Panthers it was full of meetings and more meetings, whether it was between the scouting department or a last chat with the prospects. Allowed to be in the room for some of them, there's definitely a lot of excitement that the Panthers will get a quality, highly skilled player wherever they pick. That should be music to Panthers fans.
"We're comfortable at three. That's a really good pick," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon. "We're going to get a really good player regardless of what happens in front of us."
"There's a lot of very good players," said Panthers head scout Scott Luce. "There might not be a lot of franchise guys that you can put that label on right now but there's a lot of players that have that ability to earn that based on the performance at the start of their careers. It might not be there now with the projection but in a couple of years of development and some NHL experience under their belt, they may become franchise players"
For the players, especially the top picks, their days were filled with a media tour throughout Minnesota, a coaching session with young skaters at the American Development Clinic in Mendota Heights, media luncheon to answer hundreds of media questions and then last minute interviews with interested teams.
"I think that would be easier but that's part of the whole draft process is the anxiety leading up to that moment," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 ranked North American Skater according to Central Scouting about not knowing if he would go number one to Edmonton. "It's all a part of the fun."
"They haven't been too bad because I haven't been getting much sleep," added Nugent-Hopkins about getting sleep over the last week. "I think tonight is going to be pretty hard to get to sleep that's for sure."
"I'm not used to all this attention," added Adam Larsson the No. 1 ranked European Skater. "But I like it so far. Hopefully it will be a great day tomorrow."
|Dale Tallon Interview|
|Scott Luce Interview|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Interview|
|Gabriel Landeskog Interview|
|Jonathan Huberdeau Interview|
|Adam Larsson Interview|
For the top three rated North American skaters, Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau, all have been in contact with Florida.
"It (the meeting at the combine) was great," said Huberdeau. "You can't say if it was better than other teams but it seemed like they liked me. We'll see."
"Every time you hear about Florida, you hear great things so it would be great to play there," said Nugent-Hopkins. "They (the meetings) have gone really well."
"It would be great to play there," said Landeskog who actually visited Miami a couple days ago for a vacation with his friends and get away from the draft hoopla. "Not just the life there and the hockey and the great future they've got in front of them."
Florida kicked off the draft trading frenzy last summer when they made the trade with Boston for Dennis Wideman and what would eventually be Nick Bjugstad. This summer it was Philadelphia who kicked off the draft trading session with two huge trades. They traded Jeff Carter to Columbus for Jakub Voracek, the Blue Jackets first and third round picks while trading their captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second round pick. With money to spend and picks available, Tallon has started to hear a lot of chatter.
"Lots of conversation. There's a lot going on. A lot of good things," said Tallon. "They (other teams) understand we have room and they understand we're going to be aggressive. We positioned ourselves painfully to get to this position so we have to start to reap the benefits of it."
It will make for an interesting 24 hours leading up to the first round. Draft coverage on VERSUS begins at 7pm ET.
The NHL released the 2011-12 regular season schedule today adding to a jam packed weekend with the NHL Awards and the NHL Draft sandwiched around it.
The Panthers will open up with two games on the road (at the New York Islanders on October 8th and at the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 11th) before finally opening their home portion of the 2011-12 season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the second straight year that the two teams will meet in the Cats home opener.
Remember last year's opener? Florida scored early and often with four goals in the opening period on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory. Would be nice for a follow up to kick off the We See Red home opener.
At first glance of the schedule, there's a lot of interesting things to take in. First off is the time change for Saturday night contests. In years past games have started at 7:00pm. This year game start will be 7:30pm. Wondering what effect it will have (if any).
Another interesting look is that this schedule seems to be more balanced than in years past. The most games in a row either at home or on the road is just four games. In year's past the team has played on the road or at home for five, six, even seven games at a time. A more balanced schedule should keep the team on their toes but not also make them traveling vagabonds. There will be four different four-game home stands as well as two different four-game road trips.
The schedule makers made sure that the Panthers played host during the holidays which is great because that's when some of the biggest crowds are on hand at the BankAtlantic Center. Florida will host the Penguns (Nov. 19), Devils (Nov. 21), Rangers (Nov. 23) and Lightning (Nov. 25) during Thanksgiving and then will host the Maple Leafs (Dec. 27), Rangers (Dec. 30) and Canadiens (Dec. 31) around the Christmas/New Years Eve time.
Florida will play in 14 sets of back to back games this year but only play five of them in the first three months of the season. That means a lot of them in the second half of the season. A lot of them will be played in the month of March where they will play in four different back-to-back situations.
One final interesting point, at least on our behalf is the amount of weekend games, especially on Sunday. The Cats are home for 22 games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Eight of them, which has to be the most in a long time, will be played on Sunday. It's great to see in that families can come out thanks to an early start time (5:00pm) and enjoy the game.
Welcome back everyone to the Panthers Insider blog. It's been a while, ok a long time since our last post but with the upcoming draft and free agency right around the corner as well as the release of the 2011-12 schedule, we figured it was a great time to fire up the Insider Blog. Hopefully this time it sticks longer than the last time.
There was a lot of excitement at the hotel in Minnesota yesterday when we arrived in the afternoon. Panthers scouts, as well as GM Dale Tallon and Assistant GM Mike Santos, were buzzing around the hotel lobby coming and going to meetings. Those meetings were meant to go over their final draft list to make sure the list was set.
There's a couple of big events today. First, we'll be in attendance at the Draft Luncheon where the top ten rated players or so will be on hand to talk to the media. We'll have interviews with them on the site later. Then the media will meet with Tallon and hopefully head scout Scott Luce to talk about tomorrow's draft. Following those meetings, Tallon and Luce will hold some meetings with some of the prospects before meeting with the Panthers staff again.
Much more later. We promise.