Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Panthers update

The cats are playing the Ottawa Senators tonight. Besides the game, there is plenty of off the ice news involving Florida.

*- David Booth suffered a concussion in as a result of the hit made on in him by Michael Richards in last Saturday night’s game. Booth will be out at least a week.

*- Michael Richards was not suspended. The NHL’s disciplinary system continues to be a joke.

*- Radek Dvorak is also out with a knee injury. His return date is unknown.

*- Are the Panthers lacking in toughness? This legitimate question is being asked a lot after last Saturday’s game. No Panther put up their dukes after Booth was leveled. Should they have or would a fight or retaliatory hit been a case of two wrongs not equaling a right?

I’m more concerned by Florida’s inability to play well when faced by games on back to back nights. The Panthers have always had this problem. Hockey requires a great deal of energy but all NHL teams face back to backs. Why can’t Florida put it out for two games?

*- Bryan Allen was benched for Saturday’s game. The stated reason was that his rehabilitated knee that was severely hurt last year isn’t ready for two games in a row. This makes me question whether Allen can still play period. He hasn’t shown much to me for the first 9 games of the 2009-10 NHL season.

*- To replace Dvorak and Booth, the Panthers called up Kenndal McArdle and Michal Repik from their Rochester affiliate. Why not Shawn Matthias? McArdle, a 1st round pick in 2005 has shown nothing in either the minors or in a few short stints with the Panthers.

*- The Panthers have decided to keep Russian teenager Dmitry Kulikov on the roster. By playing 10 NHL games this year, Kulikov earns credit towards future free agency. Kulikov, a highly touted defenseman, was the Panthers 1st round draft pick this year.

If I had been the Panther management, I would have sent Kulikov to the junior leagues. I do understand why GM Randy Sexton and Peter DeBoer decided not to. Kulikov has shown he is a good NHL player already. He is too young for the AHL by their rules, what will he learn by going to a junior league in Quebec? Nothing, but the Panthers had to way the long term considerations for the team. No one wants Kulikov to be another Jay Bouwmeester. If not for a trade, Bouwmeester was going to jump Florida the moment he became a unrestricted free agent.

The play of Kulikov and Steven Reinprecht(who just scored his fifth goal of the season in tonight’s game) have been about the only Panther highlights for the 2009-10 season. At the moment the Panthers are 2-6-1 in addition to being badly banged up. The team is going to have to suck it up or this will the worst season for the team since the lockout. Can the cats get it turned around? Last year the team was struggling and banged up(Booth, Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman for sure and I believe one one more starter were all out injured) at the end of November. The team then went 6-1, including four straight road wins. I don’t think this year’s Panthers can do that type of turnaround but I’ll watch almost every game this year in hope they do.

At the end of one period tonight, Florida and Ottawa are tied 1-1.

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