Battling The Champs
A tall task ahead, Florida looks to start stringing victories together.
After a day off, the Panthers were back on the ice on Monday as they prepared for a big game on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center against the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Heading into their 10th game of the season, Florida will look to win their second straight game after earning a 2-1 come-from-behind shootout victory on Saturday against the Wild. After putting themselves in a hole to begin the season with two three-game losing streaks, a winning streak would obviously be a welcome as Florida looks to move up the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division standings. Getting that started against the reigning champs will certainly be a tall task.
"I think every game right now should be a measuring stick on a certain level. Obviously we're 3-6 and no one should be happy in this room right now," said forward Kris Versteeg who won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks back in 2010. "We need to start stringing wins together and that will come from solid efforts.
"We need to start beating these big teams too. Just like we did against Pittsburgh, hopefully getting some momentum off games like tomorrow night."
You often hear about the Stanley Cup hangover where a team gets off to a slow start to the season following their Stanley Cup run but the Hawks haven't seen that this season, going 5-1-2 in their first eight games of the season.
"It's going to be rich. They picked up right where they left off," said head coach Kevin Dineen. "They're off to an excellent start. They're a well-oiled opponent that has been together for a long time and it's an excellent challenge for our team right now."
Having won the Stanley Cup in the two of the last four seasons, there's a lot of teams trying to take the formula that the Blackhawks have put together as they have been the cream of the crop of the NHL.
"There's something there that makes you a champion and there's a difference. There's styles of play, there's different things but there's a level of confidence that has come with success there that that team understands they are a team," said Dineen. "They play like a team, they play hard every night…They picked up where they left off."
"I remember when I was there, they really tried to emulate the Detroit Red Wings style and that’s why they brought in Scottie Bowman," said Versteeg. "It seems to have poured into their team because now it's just like Detroit, year-after-year Chicago is the team that other teams probably try to emulate now."
Chicago has gotten production throughout its lineup on the offensive side but where they've been extremely effective is in their own zone. Led by goaltender Corey Crawford, they've allowed a little over two goals a game (2.12), good for fifth best in the league.
"They have a consistent level of play because there's a lot of guys that have been there a long time," said Versteeg. "You see the odd time they switch it up but these guys play as line mates and as a team consistently every night for the last five, six, seven years. They know where they are on the ice and understand their roles."
Both teams have been off since Saturday so the teams should be well rested. With the extra time to prepare for the Champs, Florida knows they’ll be ready for a great test.
“You watch their game and the same things that I saw them be successful in June last year is also working for them right now,” said Dineen. “We'll be prepared and it has the makings of a very good game for our team.”
BERGENHEIM ON THE ICE
Forward Sean Bergenheim returned to the ice to practice with the team at Saveology.com Iceplex Monday morning. It was the first time in about a week after the forward went to Toronto to see his physical therapist for extra work after having surgeries on his groin/hip and abdomen in March.
“He has not been cleared,” said Dineen. “He's back with us and we'll see where he is tomorrow.”
While still not close, Bergenheim believes he’ll return sooner rather than later.