Cats Back On The Ice, Prepare With Smaller Numbers

Monday, 09.23.2013 / 5:30 PM Florida Panthers

Going non-stop for a week-and-a-half, the Panthers had their first scheduled day off on Sunday. For a team that has played five pre-season games in six days, the day off was welcomed.

"I think we were all excited to get back in the season but I think we were ready for a day off, get away from each other," said head coach Kevin Dineen following Monday's practice at Saveology.com Iceplex. "We had a good, constructive first week of camp here in Florida and then it was off to Texas for the four days. I felt we accomplished a lot of things there as well.”

Monday's practice, an hour-an-a-half on the ice was held with just one group. Having 31 players left on the roster after making roster cuts over the weekend, the Panthers were able to start getting into preparations for the season.

"We came back much lighter. I think there was 22 guys left in San Antonio and we're down to our numbers now," said Dineen. "Yesterday was a well scheduled day off and I think they came in here fresh and feeling like that we're ready to start moving forward and getting pretty specific about things like our chemistry and our personnel of who's playing with who."

Out on the ice once again were forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Kris Versteeg. Huberdeau skated on a line with Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann while Versteeg lined up next to rookie Aleksander Barkov and try out forward Brad Boyes. The duo have been held out of the first week of pre-season games but look to be ready for Thursday's pre-season game in Estero.

"We're tentatively schedule to have Kris Versteeg and Jonathan Huberdeau in the lineup on Thursday and I think that is encouraging for us to see them," said Dineen. "They're right on schedule, exactly where we expect them to be."

Netminder Tim Thomas on the other hand is in wait-and-see mode as to whether he'll see action against the Lightning at Germain Arena.

"He's been here, he's had a great week of practice. He was really strong out there today. I was really happy with the way things have gone for Tim," said Dineen. "I still think I'm on that day-to-day evaluation. I'll get a feel for where he's at. I have not committed to seeing him play on Thursday yet."

Dineen was impressed with defenseman Ed Jovanovski as the Panthers captain has gotten more involved in practice and has taken part in compete drills.

"Jovo has made some incredible strides. I couldn't be happier with the way he's moving in the right direction and he's competing in every drill," said Dineen. "Everything from our physical one-on-one battle drills, he's right in the thick of that so he's progressing as we have expected but that's still the time table for his actual game play is yet to be determined."

With 10 days left until the season kicks off on Oct. 3 in Dallas, the Panthers staff had to make hard decisions over the weekend but getting the numbers smaller and more managable was necessary. It makes practice from now on that much easier as they can start preparing to kick off the season.

"It is. You're getting much more specific," said Dineen on the managing of smaller numbers. "You're starting to have one-on-one conversations with players and I think getting a little bit away from the evaluating stage of training camp.

"More into the specifics of expectations for certain players and how guys are going to play together."

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