Gudbranson Passes Test, Earns Stay

With his dad in the stands, Erik Gudbranson received the news many were expecting. It was just after morning skate at Scotiabank Place, and head coach Kevin Dineen called the team over. Dineen announced that Gudbranson would remain with the team after tonight’s game. His father, Wayne, was in tears.

@FlaPanthers very special moment watching Coach Dineen tell the team Erik is sticking.Made my day,” he tweeted. He (@WGudbranson on Twitter) followed up with a reply to TSN’s Bob McKenzie who offered congratulations via Twitter. “@TSNBobMcKenzie Pretty special moment watching it transpire right in front of me.Very proud.”

While the Elder Gudbranson shed tears, Erik’s teammates gave him high fives on the ice. He “rode” his hockey stick as if celebrating a goal as he skated around the ice, a look of shock, happiness, and relief on his face.

Gudbranson spent the past three seasons with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. The Ottawa native was to play the last game of his nine game tryout tonight against his hometown Senators. While the question of whether he would remain with the team was never really in doubt, Dineen could have waited until after the game to make the announcement, but he figured it better to get that out of the way early. “Playing in your hometown, there’s enough stuff going on already, so I think it was the right call to let him know, and to let him know in front of his teammates as well,” Dineen said.

While he has not been seen on the scoresheet this season, Gudbranson has been a force at the blue line. The defenseman has 24 penalty minutes this season, including fights in back to back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning this month. In just 44 games with Kingston last season, he put up 12 goals and added 22 assists, but had an astounding 105 penalty minutes to his credit. His discipline was in question, though, after he was suspended two times over two weeks for a total of nine games.

Incidentally, it was last year that Gudbranson thought he would be getting this news. In hindsight, the extra year of juniors helped his development. “I was able to work on my offensive skills.-.-. I played a very physical year,” he said yesterday. “Playing the World Juniors [also] was huge.”

It may be easier for Gudbranson to stay on this Panthers team as a defenseman, but there is still a lot of competition and depth on the roster. Last week, the Panthers traded forward David Booth for Marcos Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson. There is depth at the AHL level as well, and the pressure is on all of the Panthers players. “I can still get sent down,” Gudbranson said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to stay here and play well.”

CAT BYTES:

  • Jacob Markstrom gets his second consecutive start tonight in net. He is looking for his third straight win. Markstrom came in relief Saturday night, stopping 18 shots in the win. Monday night, he allowed just one goal to the Montreal Canadiens.
  •  Yesterday, Wayne Gudbranson’s youth hockey team took in Panthers practice. After practice, Dineen and Erik helped coach the kids, working on skating drills with the team.
  •  Samuelsson joined the team today in Ottawa. It can be assumed that his visa and health issues are behind him and he will be available Saturday in Buffalo. More on that to come.
  • Booth is without a point in his first two games with the Canucks. They are 0-2-0 since the trade while Florida is 2-0-0.
  • Prospects Alex Petrovic and Quinton Howden were named to the WHL Super Series team that will face the Russian national team. Last week, Jonathan Huberdeau was named to the QMJHL team that will also play in the series.
  • The Saveology IcePlex, which hosts Panthers practices and training camp, will host the 2013 USA Hockey High School National Championships. The tournament will take place March 20-24, 2013. This is the second time the facility has hosted the annual tournament.

Justin Cohen is the Florida Panthers beat reporter for Inside Hockey. He Can be reached at jcohen@insidehockey.com, or you can follow him on twitter @IHPanthers.

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