A Veteran Presence
While the Panthers have counted on their young players to provide this season, they also have a quality leadership group to help them grow.
|Forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky and Marcel Goc celebrate a goal against the NY Islanders at the BB&T Center (Getty Images)
With the injuries that the Panthers have had to battle this season, they've had to rely on their young players and players from San Antonio quite a bit this season.
Players such as rookie forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore and netminder Jacob Markstrom certainly have taken turns playing extremely well and then there's Shawn Matthias who even though he's been on the team for several seasons, is blossoming at 25. But with the young players, the Panthers have also had to rely on their leadership group in helping them grow.
At the beginning of the season, the Panthers average age was 29.8. Heading into this past Saturday's game it was a shade over 2.5 years younger as a whole (27.3). For Florida, it's a chance for the veterans such as Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann and Marcel Goc to impose their knowledge on the young players to help them grow.
"I think that's just the way our sports work. Guys come out and they're new and fresh," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. "They're given instructions as far as systems and the style and the way we play but there's a lot of life lessons that are passed on from teammates and I'm very comfortable with the leadership group we have."
That leadership obviously always wants to help out the young players succeed.
"You always want to lead by example. There's always pressure," said Goc. "If guys get injuried, there's an opening for someone else. That's that."
The veterans are always talking with the young Panthers on the bench, going over all kinds of situations.
'You're out there in different situations," said Goc. "You have to know who you're out there against."
Not only do they want the young players to succeed but in the end, the team as a whole.
"We know we haven't been playing well consistently this season," said Goc. "There were games where we played well but we haven't put many games together where we play good for the whole game where it's 60/65 minutes."
For Dineen, his veterans haven't just filled a role but been an important part of the team, especially Fleischmann and Campbell.
"They come and it's not just, you can have guys that are just in the lineup but these guys are impact players every night. They're played hard against by other teams," said Dineen. "Other teams make a conscious effort to finish both of those players. They've just been good Florida Panthers for us. They come, they play they take pride in what they do. They're discipointed when we don't have success and they're always a part of the success that we do have."
BACK AT IT
Following Saturday's second come-from-behind victory in a row, the coaching staff gave the players off Sunday and then held a late practice on Monday at Saveology.com Iceplex. They were rewarded with a high intensity hour long session.
"I think everybody enjoyed their Easter and came in nice and fresh today," said Dineen. "Don't discount that you've had a little bit of success lately so that made for an enthusiastic bunch."
While Florida has certainly enjoyed the comebacks and the confidence from them, they know about getting down in the first place isn't a good recipe. But with the unit that Dineen has had in place of late, he feels good about the game they're playing overall.
"Remember to get comebacks that means you get down," said Dineen. "There are a couple of different ways to look at it but we're encouraged that we're playing the game with some pace and tempo right now and we've had the same group together for a good stretch now and I think that makes a little bit of a difference."
"It felt good. The last two we came back and ended up winning those games," said Goc regarding the victories and the confidence that come with it. "We have to remember how we did it. We didn't do it because we went out of our system. We stayed together. We were pushing."
SHORE AND SKILLE
Shore was the lone player to miss Monday's practice as he was given a maintenance day off while fellow forward Jack Skille skated prior to the team's practice. Dineen said it was a good step.
"Skille skated today and we're encouraged with his progress," said Dineen. "(He) will not be playing tomorrow night. Nobody injured is going to be available for tomorrow night (against Tampa Bay)."