SUNRISE – Unless you’re a Panthers diehard fan, you were probably surprised at the starting lineup the Panthers put out in their fourth preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Club veteran Stephen Weiss was partnered with newcomers Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg, both of whom were playing their first games in a Panthers sweater. Between the pipes was another Panthers newcomer, 2002 Vezina Trophy winner José Théodore. Yet another new addition, former fan favorite Ed Jovanovski, was also eager to make his return to South Florida.
“My legs felt a little heavy, but it’s a good start”, said Jovanovski, who was also a Panther from 1995-99.
“Jovo-Cop” as he was called by fans for his presence on defense, was quiet on the scoresheet, but Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky both scored in their Panthers debut.
Unfortunately, it was an unhappy debut for the new players, as the Panthers fell in the game, 5-3.
In net, Théodore was kept busy, stopping a Carter Ashton penalty shot in the Second Period, but allowing a total of five goals, the final two coming within nine seconds of each other. With the score tied 3-3, Mattias Ritola scored the first goal 14:40 into the period. At 14:49, pressure on Théodore sent him deep in the crease, and a floater by Teddy Purcell put the game out of reach. Panthers Head Coach Kevin Dineen saw the positives in the outing, however.
“I don’t think he is happy anytime he lets in five goals but he had a good showing for his first time in 5 months,” the rookie coach stated.
Dineen said he was worried about the third period play, as the team allowed three goals after coming out of the intermission up 3-2, but he gave the benefit of the doubt to the veterans’ fatigue and their lack of chemistry, as the Panthers dressed 10 players tonight that were not on the roster in 2010-11.
All of the Panthers projected re-vamped roster have now played in at least one preseason game. Florida will have two more tuneups next week against the Dallas Stars in a home-and-home series before opening their season on October 8 at the New York Islanders. The Panthers will then travel to Pittsburgh before their home opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 15.
With the win, the Lightning swept the preseason home-and-home series.
12,713 fans attended the preseason contest at the BankAtlantic Center.
2011 3rd overall draft pick Jonathan Huberdeau, last year’s first round pick Erik Gudbranson, Steve Reinprect, and Evgeny Dadonov all played in their 3rd preseason game of the season. The four players are fighting for what are projected to be two roster spots for the start of the regular season. Reinprect and Dadonov played at the NHL level in 2010-11, with Reinprect being loaned to a German team over the course of the last season.
The Lightning, on the other hand, have several players fighting for spots on their roster. Regulars Martin St. Louis, Dominic Moore, Ryan Malone, Vincent Levacalier, and Dwayne Roloson did not make the trip to their Sunshine State rivals.
Prior to the game, the Panthers sent 13 players to San Antonio, their new AHL affiliate. Notable names include forwards Mark Cullen, Angelo Esposito, Scott Timmins, Anthony Luciani, Jonathan Hazen, and defenseman Nolan Yonkman. The training camp roster now stands at 32 players (19 forwards, 9 defensemen & four goalies).