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The Return Of Weiss

The Panthers franchise leader for games played and assists, suits up as an opponent at the BB&T Center for the first time.

Tuesday, 12.10.2013 / 3:30 PM ET / News
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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The Return Of Weiss
The Panthers franchise leader for games played and assists, suits up as an opponent at the BB&T Center for the first time.
Center Stephen Weiss, the Panthers first pick (fourth overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft owns franchise records for most games played (654) and assists (249). (Getty Images)

It was just like old times Monday night for Shawn Matthias and Stephen Weiss when they had dinner together.

Well, there were two minor differences.

For one, this time it was Matthias who did the cooking unlike earlier in his career when Matthias lived with Weiss for two years. The most significant change, of course, is that Matthias and Weiss no longer are teammates.

Weiss is back in South Florida, but this time it’s as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, who the Panthers will face Tuesday for the second time in four nights.

This game, though, will mark Weiss’ return to the BB&T Center, the place he had called home for the past decade.

“It’s special,” Matthias said after the Panthers’ morning skate Tuesday. “He came over for dinner last night and we talked about it a bit. It means a lot to him and he’s excited for the game. He’s going to push a little extra. He wants to have a big night here. I’m happy for him, but at the same time I don’t want him to have too big of a night.”

About an hour after Matthias spoke, it was Weiss’ turn after the Red Wings’ skate and he was greeted by a group of reporters.

Yep, this is a big deal, both in Detroit and South Florida.

“First time back, real excited to get the game under way,” said Weiss, whose South Florida dinner also included defenseman Erik Gudbranson. “The last few days I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. I’m just real excited to start.”

It’s actually been strange watching the Panthers play this season and not seeing Weiss in the lineup.

After all, he had been a fixture since the 2001 NHL Draft when the Panthers made him the fourth overall pick.

When he signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent in the offseason, Weiss left as the Panthers’ all-time leader in both games played and assists.

Clearly, the organization appreciates Weiss’ contributions through the years, which is why he’ll be recognized with a video tribute on the giant center-ice scoreboard during the game.

For Weiss, just walking into the BB&T Center Tuesday morning was a weird sensation.

Weiss is in his first season with the Atlantic Division rival Red Wings (Getty Images)

“It felt strange for sure,” Weiss said. “I really didn’t know which way to come in the building, didn’t know really where to go when we got in. A different feeling for sure coming to the rink.

“Like I said, just excited to get the game under way, but it certainly feels a little bit strange being on the other side.”

Weiss didn’t get on the scoresheet Saturday night when the Panthers recorded a 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena.

“It was weird the last game,” Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann said. “I think it’s going to be really weird for him (tonight). For me, I’ve been through it. It’s tough going out to play in the rink you know and you were sitting on the other side on the bench. It’s a weird feeling. But he’s been a pro for a long time. I think he’s going to get through it.”

As he looked ahead to the matchup Tuesday night, Weiss also looked back at his time with the Panthers, which ironically began at the BB&T Center (then named the National Car Rental Center), which was the site of the 2001 draft.

When asked for the memories that stand out from his time with the Panthers, Weiss mentioned two.

“The draft is one for sure and then fast forward to nine or 10 years later winning the division for the first time,” Weiss said. “Clinching a playoff spot was pretty special for me having stayed here for a long time and not getting a chance to do that. To finally break through for one season was something I was proud of.”

Weiss is wearing a different jersey now and he’s got a new number, too. He wore 9 with the Panthers, but that number belonged in Detroit to the legendary Gordie Howe and has been rightfully retired.

Tuesday night will be all about trying to win a hockey game for Weiss, whose team hasn’t played since losing to the Panthers. That doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy seeing his old teammates again.

Said Weiss: “It was fun to catch up and tell some stories and see those guys again.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 74 46 20 8 195 162 100
2 NYR 72 46 19 7 219 167 99
3 TBL 74 46 21 7 242 191 99
4 NYI 74 44 25 5 226 205 93
5 PIT 73 40 22 11 202 181 91
6 DET 72 39 21 12 208 195 90
7 WSH 73 39 24 10 212 180 88
8 OTT 72 37 24 11 212 190 85
9 BOS 73 36 25 12 193 190 84
10 FLA 73 33 26 14 180 201 80
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 73 31 31 11 164 186 73
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 72 26 36 10 165 199 62
15 TOR 74 27 41 6 193 237 60
16 BUF 73 20 46 7 138 245 47

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 70 12 32 5 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 72 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 68 13 24 -6 37
B. Boyes 71 12 23 9 35
A. Ekblad 72 11 24 8 35
J. Hayes 63 18 13 -4 31
A. Barkov 62 12 15 -4 27
B. Campbell 73 3 20 -1 23
B. Pirri 40 18 2 4 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 25 17 11 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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