After Thursday night’s spanking of the Boston Bruins, it became evident that Wojtek Wolski has become totally comfortable with the system the Panthers have in place here. Since coming to the Panthers a handful of days prior to the trade deadline, Wolski has accumulated eight points in 11 games thus far, including a game tying goal in the final minutes in his first game against the Carolina Hurricanes, which eventually lead to a huge win. With Kris Versteeg out over the past nine games, Wolski has stepped up his game and hopes to continue his hot streak in the final 12 games of the regular season.
Wolski has points in four consecutive games, including a spectacular goal against Boston in which Tomas Fleischmann gave him a beautiful feed and Wolski patiently waited for there to be an opening before wristing it into an open net vs. Tim Thomas. Wolski has meshed perfectly with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann, especially over that past 4 games. Wolski has proven before that he could be a very solid player in the NHL, his career high in points for a season is 50, which he did in Colorado back in the 2006-2007 season. He spent four full seasons in Colorado, and his lowest point total during those four years was 42. Once he left Colorado, he was never the same player. He spent a couple of seasons in Phoenix that were inconsistent. He played well after he was acquired late in the season, but the following year just wasn’t the same player and then, he was then traded to the New York Rangers where he saw minimal ice time. The 26 year old has seemed to have found new life here in South Florida, and he has to be considered one of, if not the best acquisition any team made around the trade deadline.
Since Versteeg went down with a lower body injury, Wolski has been recently filling in for him on the top line. It will be interesting to see what Coach Kevin Dineen will do when Kris Versteeg comes back, which can be early as tonight vs. Buffalo. I would guess that Versteeg gets back into that top line with Flash and Weiss and Wolski gets moved around possibly to the third line. The 2nd line of Marcel Goc, Mikael Samuelsson and Sean Bergenhiem to be is untouchable right now, as they’re such a solid trio, I would hate to break up. I think Wolski would fit pretty well with Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias on that 3rd line, and now that Kopecky has found somewhat of a scoring touch, if not luck over that past couple of games. After pretty much going silent for almost two months, Kopecky has 4 points in 3 games and probably must’ve read my lastest post on how he needs to wake up. Since then, he has a +4 rating, and like I said, 4 points in 3 games. Although his two goals have been one would say “lucky” they count either way and Kopecky will take them anyway he possibly can at this point.
Last night the top line, pretty much shut down Bostons first line which featured Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron. All three of them were a -1, and none registered a point, while the line of Weiss, Flash and Wolski tallied 5 points, two of which were goals and a combined +6 rating. The Panthers will be back at it tonight as they faceoff against the Buffalo Sabres, a team desperately trying to get points anyway possible so they can inch closer to a playoff spot. The Panthers are currently 6 points ahead of them in the standings, and with a win tomorrow the Panthers will reach a 4 game winning streak for the first time since who the heck knows? Along with a 5 game home winning streak. It’s crazy how when the Panthers last had 4 straight games at home, they only managed to get 1 point, but this home stand has been much more successful. Hopefully with Dmitry Kulikov and Kris Versteeg probably coming back, the Panthers will look to remain hot and battle now for the 2nd seed in the playoff hunt.
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