The Florida Panthers…Offensive juggernaut? Not quite, but the Cats have launched an impressive 105 hunks of rubber at opposing netminders in the past two games, including 50 tonight. But unlike Wednesday, the Panthers found the back of the net enough times (I guess working on accuracy in practice pays off!) to win their home half of a weekend back-to-back set with the Carolina Hurricanes. Scott Clemmensen relieved Tomas Vokoun less than eleven minutes into the game after the Czech netminder allowed his second goal on seven shots. Clemmensen battled the ‘Canes and the referees (7 penalties to FL, 2 to Car) to stop 22-of-24.
-Get this! Stephen Weiss, Michael Frolik, and Chris Higgins! If you’re a regular reader here, you know that the aforementioned trio have been whipping boys of ours since the season’s first game. But credit where credit is due, they collectively played their best game of the season. Weiss tallied two goals, including a beauty of a one-timer off a feed from Frolik. Weiss returned the favor to his linemate later in the game for the goal that helped put away the game. Higgins buried a shot from the slot off a gorgeous pass from Radek Dvorak to give the Panthers a lead in the 2nd that they would never relinquish.
-The Panthers PK was stellar once again, killing off every Carolina powerplay, including a 5-on-3 (a BS one at that) midway through the third while holding a one goal lead. It was here that Marty Reasoner, the game’s first star, shined the brightest. During the 5-on-3, Reasoner consistently cleared the puck and even drew a penalty to help bring it to an early end. He also deposited what would be the game-winning goal early in the third. Assistant coach Gord Murphy continues to do wonder the penalty kill, as it now ranks third in the NHL with a whopping 90.3% rate. Whatever Murph is teaching, the guys are buying in and putting the effort out.
-Keaton Ellerby, who got the call up to replace the injured Jason Garrison, once again looked comfortable on NHL ice. He didn’t have a point, but he played 13 minutes of hockey without any glaring mistakes. Depth has long been a problem in Sunrise, so it’s nice to see that Ellerby can step in and play well as the team’s 7th D-man when someone goes down.
-David Booth. What a difference having him back and healthy. His speed up the wing created two goals, one for him, and one for Mike Santorelli. He’s already a very good player, but just imagine if he could get some more accuracy on his shot. As he is right now, he’s a threat any time he’s on the ice with his speed.
-Vokoun followed up Wednesday’s lackluster effort (by his own admission) with a shaky start that found him sitting the rest of the night. I’m sure Pete DeBoer’s plan was to play Vokoun tonight and Clemmensen Saturday in Raleigh. Now PDB has a decision to make for Saturday as to who to start. Vokoun is still your #1 guy, but it’s nice to see Clemmensen come in cold and play well.
-Dmitry Kulikov hasn’t had a great start to the year. In addition to not registering a point, he has developed a habit for pinching in too far and not getting back on defense. It led to a goal Wednesday and it led to Carolina’s first goal Friday. His passing hasn’t been all that great this year as well. I want the Kulikov who wore 43 because the one who wears 7 hasn’t had a great run of things. Now, I know he’s 20 and a second year player, and I’m not ready to get down on the kid but he’s a guy who is in desperate need of a good game.
Saturday completes the home and home weekend series with Carolina. The Cat’s might be without the services of Cory Stillman, who left in the first period with an upper body injury. One would imagine Darcy Hordichuk would be in the lineup if Stillman were unable to go.
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Topics: Chris Higgins, Cory Stillman, Darcy Hordichuk, David Booth, Dmitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison, Keaton Ellerby, Marty Reasoner, Michael Frolik, Mike Santorelli, Radek Dvorak, Scott Clemmensen, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Vokoun