With their opening night showdown against the Carolina Hurricanes just one day away the Florida Panthers spent Friday making final preparations for a shortened 2013 season. This is what we know so far leading up to tomorrow night’s game.
- During the final day of training camp this morning at the BB&T Center head coach Kevin Dineen picked veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski as Florida’s newest captain. Dineen also named Stephen Weiss and Brian Campbell assistant captains.
- Florida has re-signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a two year contract worth $2 million this season and $3 million in 2013-2014. There is a chance that he will play tomorrow night against Carolina in the home opener, but that depends on the results of his physical and if he can get some ice time in before Saturday evening.
- The Panthers announced that they have signed skilled forward Alex Kovalev to a one year deal. Kovalev made the roster after participating in Florida’s training camp on a tryout basis. Marek Svatos, another NHLer who was at camp as a tryout, was not signed.
- It was confirmed this morning that rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau will start the season with Florida. He will fill the second line LW position and play along side Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev.
- Multiple sources, including George Richards of the Miami Herald, have reported that Kris Versteeg left Friday’s practice with an undisclosed injury and is currently questionable for the home opener on Saturday. he joins a growing list of injured Panthers that includes Erik Gudbranson, Mike Weaver, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc.
- The Cats placed Mike Santorelli and James Wright on waivers Thursday afternoon. Santorelli cleared while Wright was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets.
Here is some information regarding opening night against the Carolina Hurricanes:
- Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, along with the Florida Panthers, are reporting that there are less than 1,000 tickets remaining for tomorrow night’s game at the BB&T Center. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster, StubHub, NHL ticket exchange, or at the arena’s box office.
- Parking gates open at 5:00 PM, doors open at 6:00 PM.
- Miniature SouthEast Division Championship banners will be handed out to all fans in attendance on Saturday.
- The Panthers sent out an e-mail this morning that asks fans to be in their seats by 7:15 PM because the on-ice festivities, including the raising of Florida’s SouthEast Division Championship banner, will begin at 7:20 PM.
- Players will be signing autographs after the game on the JetBlue Tarmac (outside the front doors). This was announced with the tagline “Players Subject to Availability.”
If anyone plans on arriving at the arena early feel free to stop by parking lot section A-52. A bunch of loyal Panthers fans, including yours truly, will be out their tailgating before and after the game.
Who is ready for us to finish our countdown of the top 10 moments from the Panthers 2011-2012 season? If all goes according to plan we should be able to reveal the #1 moment on Monday, but that depends if we can get everything together for our big surprise in time. It is looking like that will be the case but only time will tell for sure. Before getting to the top moment though we still have to reveal #2 on our list.
This next moment is going to go down as one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, especially considering the circumstances. As everyone knows by now before this season the Panthers failed to make the playoffs for over 12 years, so it is understandable that the majority of “outsider” fans would write off the Cats in their first round series against the New Jersey Devils. After splitting the first two games in Sunrise it was up to Florida to make a statement on the road in game 3. They did just that in one of the greatest games in franchise history.
#2 – Deja vu, Florida completes another comeback against the Devils (April 17th, 2012)
Moment #2 on our countdown is very similar to #7, with the only difference being the setting. Florida quickly fell behind 3-0 in the first period, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. Then, as the game progressed, the Cats found their groove and made an amazing comeback, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. The difference this time around is that the Panthers managed to pull off the difficult task in game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in New Jersey. With help from Sean Bergenheim, Jason Garrison, Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, and most importantly Scott Clemmensen, the comeback Cats were able to claw their way back for the win, sending everyone in attendance at the Prudential Center home in shock.
Of course we all know what happened after game 3. The Devils currently trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final while the Panthers anxiously await the start of next season, knowing that they gave the Eastern Conference champions a harder time than any other conference opponent. If this season was a preview of things to come then Panthers fans have every right to be excited about the future of their team. We speak for all Cats fans when we say bring on the 2012-2013 season.
For the full experience of moment #2 be sure to click through all of the links below. Check back with Sunshine State Hockey on Monday when we (hopefully) reveal the #1 moment on our countdown.
The fans in South Florida have been waiting a very long time for their hockey club to make another trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time the Florida Panthers were involved in the post-season Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Sony released their highly anticipated PlayStation 2, and yours truly was 12 year’s old. Thanks to General Manager Dale Tallon, rookie Head Coach Kevin Dineen, the entire Panthers staff, and the 2011-2012 roster no one has to wait any longer to see the Cats play some extra hockey.
While the Panthers fan base has every right to be excited they should also be worried about their teams’ first round opponents. The New Jersey Devils are one of the most balanced teams in the National Hockey League. They have a quick striking offense, a shutdown defense that can trap any club in the neutral zone, and one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, Martin Brodeur. Florida will definitely have their hands full in this series and it will take a complete team effort to even have a legitimate shot at making it past the well structured Devils.
The Florida Panthers were led offensively by the top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann until their opponents began to figure out how to shut the trio down. After that, around the halfway point of the season, it was up to everyone else on the roster to provide balanced scoring. That is exactly what happened as Florida got offensive help down the stretch from players such as Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc. Shockingly Fleischmann was the only one from the former #1 line to stay consistent throughout the entire 2011-2012 season, registering 27 goals and 61 points, while Versteeg and Weiss did very little in the final two months. The Panthers will need their top three forwards to produce at the level they did before and the rest of the club will have to keep up the balanced scoring if they want to keep up with the powerful New Jersey offense.
The Devils enter the first round match-up against Florida with three 30 goal scorers on their roster. Ilya Kovalchuk (37 goals), Zach Parise (31 goals), and surprisingly David Clarkson (30 goals) all had a great 2011-2012 regular season offensively and look to carry that success over into the post-season. New Jersey, much like the Panthers, also had balanced scoring outside of their big three led by the resurgence of Patrick Elias who picked up 78 points in one of his best seasons in the last three year’s. Put Elias together with Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus and the Devils have six forwards that are going to keep the Florida defense very busy.
Advantage: New Jersey
When the Panthers entered the 2011 off-season they already had a fairly impressive defensive core that included veteran Mike Weaver and youngster Dmitry Kulikov. Add them together with All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, former Panther Ed Jovanovski, and rookie Erik Gudbranson and Florida has one of their best D-core’s in franchise history. Of course when discussing the Cats defense it is important to mention the biggest surprise on the 2011-2012 Panthers roster, Jason Garrison. #52 had a major breakout season, finishing third in goals amongst all defensemen in the National Hockey League with 16. Florida’s D-men will have to jump in offensively all series long if they hope to continue the success they had in the regular season.
The New Jersey defense was anything but offensive this year, and that is going to be a problem for the Florida Panthers. The Devils have one of the best shutdown groups in the Eastern Conference, playing opponents into the classic NJ trap that the team has been famous for. This stingy style of play certainly helps an aging Martin Brodeur since he doesn’t have to face many shots on a nightly bases. Let’s also not forget that a solid defensive group plays an important role on the PK, and New Jersey has one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Devils react to Florida’s offensive minded defense and how the Cats handle going up against NJ’s shutdown crew.
When the Panthers began the season everyone thought that their weak point would be in net. Thankfully all of those people were dead wrong. Florida got strong goaltending all year long from surprise starter Jose Theodore, veteran backup Scott Clemmensen, and even rookie Jacob Markstrom when Theo went down with an injury. Truthfully if Florida did not have the good goaltending they would have lost a lot more games. The netminders, especially Theodore, absolutely need to stay solid between the pipes in this series.
It’s strange to think that the Devils have a question mark in net going into the post-season but age will do that to a person, even if it is Martin Brodeur. The legendary keeper hasn’t played his best post-season hockey in recent year’s and that’ll definitely be an issue for the Devils if that trend continues. Marty will have to stay strong in net and rely on his defense to keep the Panthers from getting to him.
The members of Sunshine State Hockey predicted that this series will be a long one with Florida coming out on top. Will the Cats be able to hold off the powerful Devils offense? Will Broduer live up to his legendary status? Will Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann return to early season form? All of these questions and more will be answered when the Panthers host New Jersey at the BankAtlantic Center tonight for game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Puck drop is 7:00 PM EST.