Game Day Preview: Oilers vs. Panthers. Still Breathing When I Walked Away



GAME DAY SONG:  LOST IN THE FLOOD (1975). Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

The Edmonton Oilers make a rare appearance here in South Florida tonight in a battle of two teams searching for answers.  Or at least some victories.  The Oilers with new coach Dallas Eakins, are at the bottom of the Western conference riding a five game losing streak, that includes being shutout twice.  One of those losses was a result of a shootout, but as we say here at Panther Parkway….a loss is still a loss.  Coming into the season with high expectations, Edmonton is 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, and you can point your finger to goals against as the main culprit.  Much like the Panthers who’ve given up 49 goals, the Oilers have given up a league leading 59.  Also  not helping their situation is the amount of injuries that they’ve suffered.  Ryan Smyth, Taylor Hall and Jesse Joensuu are among the top names of players that are on injured reserve, and Devyn Dubnyk, David Perron and Richard Bachman are day to day with various ailments.

Adding to that, Sam Gagner missed the first 13 games of the season due to a broken jaw, and has just returned to hopefully inject some life into the Oliers roster.  More frustration set in when last season’s number one pick Nail Yakupov was benched for two games in hopes of sending a message about his play.  It’s not a pretty sight in Edmonton these days, and one would think that with all the young players that have been drafted over the past few years, their progress should be better.  Unfortunately, without some skilled veterans to round out the roster and provide the right leadership, the rebuild in Oil country is taking much longer than people expected.  Sound familiar eh?

Florida can relate to much of what the Oilers are going through, yet the Panthers are suffering their agony with a healthy roster.  Minus the injury to Tim Thomas, the Panthers can’t blame their woes on health.  What they can blame it on is the inability to play a full 60 minutes.  There have been games where the Panthers have fought hard to tie a game, only to lose in overtime or the shootout.  And there have also been games where they’ve had a decent start, but after giving up the first goal, the wheels have fallen off, and they’ve let the opposition take the game over.  Putting together a complete effort shouldn’t take 15 games to figure out. Things are beginning to get itchy at this point in the season, and when you’ve only won 3 games out of 14, the prognosis on the balance of the season can’t be good, unless things get turned around quickly.

Coach Kevin Dineen is starting to send messages by benching players during games, as well as providing a comfortable seat in the press box for players who aren’t performing.  No really, the seats are comfy, especially with the access to swedish meatballs, and the assortment of candy now available.  I digress.  Defenceman Ryan Whitney was the first to experience watching the game from upstairs, but finally returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Capitals.  Kris Versteeg however was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career that same game, and wasn’t happy about it.  He also played as an “extra” forward on the fourth line at practice on Monday.  Yea, good times are a happening.  Brad Boyes, who happens to be the teams leading goal scorer has seen games with his minutes cut as well, and was also threatened with being a healthy scratch himself last Friday against Buffalo.  If not for a flu bug to Tomas Fleischmann, he would have been.

Tonight’s game can go either way for either team.  Both clubs are looking to stop 5 game losing streaks, yet one will continue for sure after this game is completed.  This could be a very sloppy game that ends up a high scoring affair, or both teams are so uptight, we could see a scoreless game not decided until the shootout.

If things don’t change much for either team, and soon,  you’d have to think that something is going to happen.  Someone will get fired, and or players will get traded.  Neither club can afford to let this type of slide continue for too much longer without some sort of shakeup.  The Oilers are a proud franchise with a smart and knowledgeable fan base that is growing impatient waiting for a rebuild to take hold.  The Panthers on the other hand are fighting for respect, aiming to improve, but having difficulty putting together the right mix.


* Jesse Winchester has 3 points in his last 4 games.

* Tomas Kopecky is still scoreless in his first 14 games.

* Tom Gilbert and Matt Gilroy are pointless in their last 6 games.

* Scott Gomez is pointless in his last 7 games.

* According to the TSN Game Day above, Edmonton has no “hot players”.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Late Goal Spoils Tim Thomas’ Big Night (Quotes)

Sunrise, Fla. — Over a year of controversy and anticipation came down to just the final 59 seconds of Thursday night’s game as a bouncing puck made its’ way past Panthers’ goaltender Tim Thomas to give his former team, the Boston Bruins, a heartbreaking 3-2 victory in front of a divided crowd at the BB&T Center.

Thomas, a longtime staple of the professional sports culture in Boston, suited up for the first time against the Bruins since his controversial decision to take a leave of absence following the 2011-2012 season. While with the Bruins, Thomas earned a  921 SV% / 2.48 GAA with a career record of 196-121-45 in 378 games played.

Based on his history with Boston - both positive and negative - it suffices to say that this wasn’t just a normal regular season matchup by any means for either party involved.

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Panthers Begin Crucial Six-Game Home Stand

Sunrise, Fla. — After losing five of their first seven games, the Florida Panthers will look to get back on the right track against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night as they begin a crucial six-game home stand at the BB&T Center. Amazingly, even with their early struggles this season, the Panthers don’t find themselves too deep in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings just yet.

Coming off a 4-3 road loss to the Nashville Predators, the Panthers currently sit in 7th place in the newly formed Atlantic Division, but have yet to lose too much ground in the Eastern Conference standings as the Western Conference continues to dominate their eastern opponents in the early stages of this season’s inter-conference match-ups.

If the Panthers hope to amend the current course of their season, they will begin with the daunting task of besting last season’s Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Bruins.

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Game Day Preview and Discussion: Lightning vs. Panthers

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-2-0 (2 PTS) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: 2-1-0 (4 PTS)


Game Day Song: “I Can Change” - LCD Soundsystem 

In the last leg of a grueling four game road-trip to begin their 2013-2014 campaign, the Florida Panthers will get their first taste of the Sunshine State rivalry this season tonight as they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning before heading home to take on the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Not suiting up for the Panthers tonight will be starting goaltender Tim Thomas who suffered a “slight groin pull” in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. However, fans should still have reason to feel optimistic as youthful goaltender Jacob Markstrom will get the start in net tonight after stopping all 25 shots he faced in relief against the Flyers. Though it is reported that Thomas’ injury most likely won’t keep him out for an extended period of time, Markstrom could still grasp this opportunity and use it to earn more starts down the line as he still looks to prove himself as an everyday NHL goaltender early on in his career.

While you may think that losing their starting goaltender three games into the season would be the Panthers’ biggest cause for concern at this point, that is sadly the least of their worries. Heading into tonight’s game in Tampa, the Panthers have still yet to register a power play goal - going an astounding 0-16 with an extra man this season thus far. Although the Panthers’ power play has proven to be formidable in the past - 6th in the league last season - it is possible that the arrival of so many new faces has disrupted the Panthers’ once potent chemistry on the power play. For example, Tom Gilbert, who joined the team right before the season started, has clocked the 2nd most power play minutes on the team this season. Hopefully for the Panthers’ sake, once the team is given more time gel, the power play will start to click once again.

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Vote: Who Will Lead The Panthers in Scoring This Season?

After a season in which they scored an NHL-worst 2.27 goals per game on average, the Florida Panthers will enter the 2013-2014 season with a handful of new faces that will try and improve on last year’s stagnant offense. Newcomers like rookie Aleksander Barkov and veteran Brad Boyes will look to make headlines during their first year wearing Panther red, while South Florida mainstays such as Kris Versteeg and Jonathan Huberdeau are set to add to their growing Panther resumes. Although winger Tomas Fleischmann has quietly led the team in scoring for the past two season, this new influx of offensive talent may finally place a new face atop the Panthers’ scoring charts.

Just days away from opening night and the final roster nearly in place, the question can now be posed  - who will lead the Panthers in scoring this season?

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The Florida Panthers Start The Season Desperately Seeking Respect

This season is the 20th anniversary of South Florida’s hockey club, the Florida Panthers.  A franchise that was born the same year this writer moved to the Sunshine State, and has provided the fanbase with thrills and disapppointment just like any other sports team.  The negatives may have outweighed the positives during these two decades, however with the announcement of new ownership which came on Friday, the Florida Panthers are about to embark their way back.  Back to a team that had the respect of the league and it’s fans when they first joined the NHL.  It’s going to take time, but maybe not as long as was originally thought.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced this past Friday that Vincent Viola has become Chairman, Principal Owner & Governor of SSE, the Florida Panthers and the Broward County-owned BB&T Center. 
In addition to that, Douglass Cifu will take on the role of Vice Chairman, Partner and Alternate Governor, as Michael Yormark has been promoted to President and CEO of the organization.  The announcement and video from the Panthers website can be found here.

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Florida Panthers Projected Lineup For 2013

Last season’s lockout shortened campaign was made even more frustrating for the Florida Panthers by all the injuries that hit the club much harder than anyone expected.  Coming off their first division championship ever the season before, there were hopes and dreams of a repeat in 2012-2013, especially after the opening night victory over the Carolina Hurricanes which saw Jonathan Huberdeau steal the show.  Huberdeau would go on to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, however that would be the only highlight coming from South Florida, as the Panthers finished dead last in the league.  Only four players played all 48 games last season for Florida, in a year that was as tough to watch as it was to make a lineup, seeing a number of players who weren’t supposed to, made their NHL debut did.

With the initial wave of free agency over, the Florida Panthers appear to be finished as they made four signings of note, two of which will likely be for depth.  Joey Crabb and Jesse Winchester are projected to make up two thirds of the fourth line, and Matt Gilroy and Mike Motttau were signed as defensive depth and should start the season in San Antonio. Dale Tallon indicated that the Panthers still have the balance of the summer to tweak the roster, one has to think that for all intents and purposed, there won’t be any major signings.  As of this writing, players like Mason Raymond (have I told you I want him signed?), Brenden Morrow, Ilya Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas remain available.

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Could Derek Stepan Be a Good Fit For the Panthers?

Offer sheets.  I like offer sheets about as much as I like shootouts and steamed broccoli.  (If you’ve ever gone to have a meal with me and watch a game you know I hate both).  Nonetheless offer sheets are a tool that can be used to, dare I say “steal” a player from a team that refuses to make a qualifying offer to that player whose contract has expired, and is too young, or hasn’t played enough to qualify for unrestricted free agency.  Offer sheets like shootouts (and broccoli for me anyway), can cause the involved parties to become quick enemies based on the end result.  Remember the Dustin Penner incident when Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke called Edmonton’s GM, Kevin Lowe gutless?  Good times.

While the unrestricted free agent pool has produced over 60 signings, there are a few restricted free agents that are quite intriguing.  For the sake of the Florida Panthers future, none of these players is more intriguing than New York Ranger center Derek Stepan. Stepan is a former second round pick, who was taken 51st overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, and has been not only a dependable player, but a durable one at that.  Stepan hasn’t missed an NHL game in the three seasons that he’s played, and his point totals have increased in each of the three seasons he’s been in the league.

[Read more...]

Kris Versteeg Wants Your Vote For NHL 14 Cover

Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg is on a campaign and needs your help.  The spunky, and colorful forward of the Panthers is running for the cover of NHL ’14, and want you to vote for him.

Here is the official announcment from NHL 14 and their own video trailer explaing what you need to do. 


Voting begins on Monday April 22nd.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: me @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Josh Luecht @eyesonsunrise, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman,  Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind

Florida Panthers’ Easter Eggs

Happy Easter hockey fans! While many of you will find Easter baskets filled with chocolate and scratch off lottery tickets waiting for your this morning, we here at Panther Parkway decided to give you a new kind of Easter Egg. For this special holiday, we have put together a list of fun Florida Panthers’ Easter Eggs for you to enjoy. Everything from fun stats to interesting facts about the Panthers’ season are listed below, enjoy!

*Statistics shown are correct as of March 30, 2013.

  • Between Stephen Weiss, Sean Bergenheim, Ed Jovanovski, Kris Versteeg, and Jose Theodore, the Panthers currently have $15,875,000 worth of salary out for the remainder of the 2013 season.
  • The Florida Panthers are heading towards being the first Southeast Division champion to miss the playoffs the following year since the Atlanta Thrashers failed to reach the playoffs during the 2007-2008 season.
  • Panthers’ rookie forward Drew Shore and Head Coach Kevin Dineen both played college hockey for the University of Denver.
  • Forward George Parros needs just 21 PIM’s to reach 1000 for his career.
  • [Read more...]

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