Here is this Thanksgiving Week edition of the Panthers Report:
The Panthers traveled to Dallas and St. Louis last week, before opening their Thanksgiving Feast with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Florida pushed the Dallas Stars to the brink of embarrassment, winning 6-0. Scott Clemmensen earned his first win and shutout in his first game of the 2011 season. Dmitri Kulikov scored his first goal of the season, and it was the game-winner. Jason Garrison also earned his career-high seventh goal. In all, a different Panther scored each of the six goals.
In St. Louis, David Backes scored two goals, including an empty-netter as the Cats fell 4-1 to the Blues. Mike Santorelli scored the lone goal for Florida.
The Panthers returned home Saturday for a thriller with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stephen Weiss had the game winning goal with just 3:30 left in the game, as the Panthers won 3-2. The win sent Florida into first place in the Southeast Division.
Florida is home this week, continuing their feast. If Pittsburgh was just the appetizer, the “turkey’s on the table” Monday. The Panthers welcome some old family on Monday, with Ryan Carter returning to face his old club. OK, that’s not the big story. Peter DeBoer, who coached Florida for three seasons, makes his first visit as coach of the New Jersey Devils. It may be more like the most hated in-laws coming to the table for some of the players:
“You’ve got more freedom to do what you want on the ice (under new coach Kevin Dineen),” Kulikov told the SunSentinel. “You feel if you make a mistake you can make up for it on the next shift.
“With Pete, it’s one mistake and you’re like shaking for the rest of the game.”
“Last year I came here from the farm team to make an impression,” Forward Michal Repik said. “To go out there, you are afraid to play; that’s not the right thing for us.
“Obviously you’ll be tight anyway, but you want to be relaxed. I hoped if you made a bad play you don’t get yelled at and the coach will help pick you up and give you confidence, too.”
For others, the homecoming is a bit more gracious. Weiss played for all three of DeBoer’s NHL seasons, as well as in juniors under the coach with the Kitchener Rangers. Erik Gudbranson was also a big fan the fiery head coach, who pushed him hard last training camp. If it wasn’t for financial issues with his contract, Gudbranson would be in his sophomore season right now.
On DeBoer’s side of the ice, this is not an ordinary game. He admitted such in an interview yesterday with the Miami Herald. He reiterated it this morning at the team’s skate.
“I just think it’s a lie,” DeBoer said jokingly about going against the cliche of “it’s just another game.” “Your first game back in a place you spent time is different and there’s no sense sugar coating that.”
After the mother-in-law leaves, Wednesday’s game is time for seconds for the New York fans, as the Rangers come to town. New York comes in tied with the Panthers in points at 23, but with what will be three games in hand. If the playoffs were to start today, Florida would take on the Rangers in the first round.
Dessert comes on Friday, when the Panthers in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning open up a home-and-home series. It will be the Lightning’s last trip to South Florida in the 2011-12 season. Florida has a 2-1-0 record against Tampa Bay. Game two of the weekend series will be on Saturday.
SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE (AHL)
With a banged up Panthers squad, the Rampage found themselves embarking on their longest road trip of the season without Michal Repik, Jacob Markström, Dmitri Kulikov, and Tim Kennedy. To add insult to injury, the Rampage came in as the last place team in the AHL’s western division. Tuesday afternoon, they took on the Abbotsford Heat at the AT&T Center. They were shut out 4-0 in front of 10,534 school children. Markström made 25 saves in the loss.
Then, it was off on the road. Things started well for San Antonio, as they beat the Grand Rapids Griffins 5-4 at Van Andel Arena Friday night. Eric Selleck scored his first goal just 3:07 into the game, and Greg Rallo followed up to put the Rampage ahead 2-0. After the Griffins bookended the first intermission with two goals, San Antonio regained the lead on Bill Thomas’ second of the season. Joakim Andersson scored two third period goals to give Grand Rapids a 4-3 lead, but Thomas tied it up 16:56 into the final frame. Cody Robak scored just 30 seconds into overtime to start the seven game road trip with a win.
The Rampaged looked to continue their winning ways Saturday against the Chicago Wolves. San Antonio came out flying, with Thomas, Mark Cullen, and Wacey Rabbit scoring the first three goals unanswered in the first frame. After a goal by Chicago in the first minute of the second period, Rallo brought the lead back to three goals. Chicago attempted a comeback, scoring two goals to wrap up the game, with the second scored by former Panther Mike Duco. Brian Foster was able to hold off the late attack, as the Rampage win 4-3.
The success could not continue Sunday, as the Rampage fell to the Milwaukee Admirals 3-1. The lone bright spot came from Bracken Kearns who scored his sixth goal of the season 14:30 into the second frame. Foster made 25 saves in the loss. An interesting note off the ice, Milwaukee and San Antonio share Cincinnati as their ECHL affiliate. Milwaukee is affiliated with the Nashville Predators.
The road trip continues through the Thanksgiving holiday. The Rampage travel to Rockford, IL to take on the IceHogs on Wednesday. After a travel day to western Canada Thursday, the team will take on the Abbotsford Heat on Friday and Sunday.
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (CHL)
The Bees closed out a nine-game homestand with a three-game week. On Wednesday, they topped the Allen Americans 4-3 in overtime. Colton Yellow Horn (yes Yellow Horn is really his last name) opened the scoring for Allen, but the Bees scored three unanswered before the Amerks came back with two more of their own, sending the game to overtime. AJ Mikkelsen scored the game winner with just 45 seconds left in the extra session.
The easy going continued in Hildago, TX, as the Bees swept the Laredo Bucks. On Friday, game one went the way of the Bees 6-2. Zach Pearson scored and added two assists, while Aaron Lee scored twice and assisted on Pearson’s goal. It was seemingly a carbon copy on Saturday as game two went to the Bees 5-2. Lee scored two goals, with Mikkelsen adding one of his own.
The Bees travel to Arizona this weekend for a Friday/Saturday tilt with the Sundogs.
CINCINNATI CYCLONES (ECHL)
The Cyclones topped the Toldeo Walleye 4-2 on Tuesday, which was Education in Hockey. AJ Jenks assisted on Garrett Willson’s goal. It was the lone goal by Panthers prospects in that game.
A three game weekend tilt began Friday as they took on the Reading Royals. Down 2-0, Wilson scored for the Cyclones in the third period. After a second Cincinnati goal, the game went to overtime and a shootout, where Wilson scored the clincher in the fifth round.
Cincinnati then took the road, falling to Chicago 2-1. Wilson scored yet again. It was the lone Cyclones goal.
Sunday it was off to Toledo, as the Cyclones fell to the Walleye 6-3. Anthony Luciani scored the lone Panthers prospect goal for Cincinnati.
Cincinnati returns home Wednesday to take on the Kalamazoo Wings. On Friday, it’s back on the road as the Cyclones return to Toledo for a rematch with the Walleye.
PANTHERS PROSPECTS IN JUNIORS, COLLEGE, AND EUROPE:
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