Quick Decisions Needed To Make A Quick Start For The Florida Panthers

The first five games of the season that we’ve all been waiting to start could tell us a great deal about this Florida Panthers team and their ability to not only reach the post season, but repeat as division champions as well.  It was confirmed on Saturday that the home opener will be against the Carolina Hurricanes and the “Staal Brothers” on Saturday January 19th in Sunrise at the BB & T Center.  Carolina has always been a difficult opponent for the Panthers in the past, and with their off season additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, this year promises to be more of the same.  We’ll delve more into the home opener later this week after each team has had a few days to round out their roster.  One glaring weakness that has always been an issue for the “Canes is their defence.  They rely way too much on goaltender Cam Ward to bail them out.  Ward has been a workhorse for Carolina and unfortunately for opponents he’s actually pretty good at keeping the Canes close in games that they should lose, and he’s been known to steal a few as well.

The Panthers who will play five games in eight nights will travel to Canada after the home opener to face the Ottawa Senators on January 21st and the Montreal Canadiens on January 22nd.  The  the Cats return home to face the Ottawa Senators again on January 24th and host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday January 26th.  From all angles that’s a tough opening, however it will be a good measuring stick to start out the season.  If the Panthers can be 3-2-0 after these five games it will set a much needed positive start for their season.

With a few roster spots up for grabs, the next few days of training camp will be extremely important as head coach Kevin Dineen will need to figure out line combinations, power play and penalty killing units and defensive pairings.  Also, the bottom six forwards are anything but settled.  Marek Svatos and Alex Kovalev could be more important than you think.  Players however like Jack Skille, Jerred Smithson, Mike Santorelli and Shawn Matthias will be fighting for roster spots as well.  And that’s just the forwards.

On defense with Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Weaver and newcomer Filip Kuba making up four of the six, there are two remaining open spots.  One will eventually be filled by second year defenceman Erik Gudbranson who must be cleared to play due to his off season shoulder injury.  However until then Keaton Ellerby and Tyson Strachan will fill out the bottom two slots.  Let’s also not forget Dmitry Kulikov who is a restricted free agent and must be signed to a contract.  There is healthy competition and in a very short time frame to figure things out, camp promises to be intense.

Many questions to answer over the next few days.  Pay attention right here as we’ll bring you all the latest news, updates and comings and goings.

Thank you for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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About Frank Rekas

Founder and owner of Panther Parkway, I'm originally from Chicago, and moved to Florida in 1993. Yes a Blackhawks & Panthers fan. I'm the original writer for The Rat Trick, and I'm also a credentialed media member for the Florida Panthers. Follow me on Twitter at @TheRatTrick.

Posted on January 12, 2013, in Panthers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.

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