The Future of the Florida Panthers Blue Line is Bright

With one game remaining in the 2013-2014 regular season, the Florida Panthers find themselves in all too familiar territory. Last season, the Panthers finished dead last in both Goals Against per Game (GA/G) and the Penalty Kill (PK%), and this year has been no different. Currently ranked 27th in GA/G, allowing 3.20 goals per game, and 30th in PK%, Dale Tallon and the Hockey Operations staff may have their work cut out for them this summer, whether it be via Free Agency or trades.

Fast-forward to the very near future, and the Panthers may have something they’ve longed for since Tallon was hired as the General Manager of the Panthers; flexibility to spend and depth on defense.

Though the Panthers have struggled offensively in recent years, drafting centers Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad will finally give the Cats the stability up the middle for the first time since the Jokinen era. While drafting these mammoth centermen was the correct choice for any GM in Tallon’s position to make, the current blue line still leaves something to be desired.

Luckily for Panthers’ fans, Tallon has done a superb job of drafting Grade A defensemen during his tenure as the Panthers General Manager. While Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen remain the face of the Panthers young defensive core, there are a handful of reliable defensemen in the Cats prospect pool just waiting for their chance at the big show.

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Panthers Recall F Bobby Butler and D Jonathan Racine

The wave of call-ups continues for the Florida Panthers as Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that F Bobby Butler and D Jonathan Racine have been recalled from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL).

Butler, 26, has played in 128 career National Hockey League games with Ottawa (2009-12), New Jersey (2013) and Nashville (2013), recording 48 points (20-28-48) while trying to find a foothold in the NHL. Though he didn’t make the Panthers’ roster out of training camp, Butler has shined as one of the Rampage’s best and most reliable players this season, recording 45 points (21-24-45) and 12 penalty minutes.

Racine, 20, has appeared in 48 games for San Antonio this season, collecting six points (0-6-6) and 85 penalty minutes as one of the team’s top enforcers.

A former third-round pick (87th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Racine will hope to make his NHL debut tonight against the New York Islanders at 7:00 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida.

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Panther Parkway Radio: Luongo, Free Agency, Young Guns & More!

Tune in to tonight’s show where we discuss the biggest Florida Panthers news of the week!

Host: Paige Lewis

Guests:  Jameson Cooper and Mike Lewis (no relations to Paige)

Topics

  • How is Roberto Luongo doing?
  • Panthers injuries
  • The young guys are making an impact
  • Free Agency. Should we break the bank?
  • Johnny Mac, Ian McCoshen, Wade Megan are the coolest
  • Boring Sean Monahan is the best

 Click the link below for today’s podcast!

New Episode Here

We welcome your comments and feedback!

Follow Paige on Twitter @PaigeLewisFL

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Garrett Wilson Set to Make NHL Debut Tonight

What’s the best present you can give a young hockey player on his birthday? A shot at the NHL. That’s exactly what Florida Panthers prospect Garrett Wilson received on his 23rd birthday. Officially called up the day after his birthday on Mar. 17, Wilson will make his NHL debut tonight as the Panthers face the San Jose Sharks in the “Shark Tank”. Many prospects within the Panthers system have their names thrown around as future stars in the big league like Rocco Grimaldi, Kyle Rau, and Michael Matheson, but few times has Wilson’s name come up. While Wilson isn’t a flashy or dazzling player, he is certainly a heart and soul character player that is a valuable piece to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Wilson holds the distinction of being one of few players in Panthers history to be drafted by short-lived GM Randy Sexton. Selected in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Wilson was looked at as a solid power forward that possessed a bit of a mean streak as well as the means to put up points as well. Posting 86 points (40-46-86) in 66 games in his final junior season with the Owen Sound Attack, Wilson served as team captain during the Attack’s 2011 OHL Championship berth.

Following that season, Wilson went pro. Signing a three-year entry level contract with the Panthers and finding himself splitting time between the  Rampage and Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Wilson spent the bulk of his first pro season in Cincinnati posting 35 points (17-18-35) in 63 games with the Cyclones and proved to be one of the team’s top players. Wilson posted one goal in 11 games with the Rampage that season.

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Panthers Recall F Joey Crabb and D Mike Mottau From San Antonio

With recent injuries to F Jesse Winchester and D Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the team has recalled F Joey Crabb and D Mike Mottau from their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.

Crabb, 30, has proven to be a quality AHL talent this season for the Rampage, recording 26 points (12-14-26) in 53 games played while serving as a mentor to some of the team’s younger players.

Making his NHL debut during the 2008-09 season with the Atlanta Thrashers, Crabb has tallied 52 total points (20-32-52) in 171 career NHL games.

Mottau, 35, has played in seven games for the Panthers this season, while also appearing in 15 games with San Antonio registering three points (1-2-3) in the AHL.

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Aleksander Barkov Ready to Return to Struggling Panthers; Drew Shore Loaned to San Antonio

The Florida Panthers announced that rookie phenom Aleksander Barkov has been removed from IR, which likely indicates his return tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets after being sidelined with a knee injury, which he battered against the Buffalo Sabres on January 21st.

Yesterday, the Panthers held an optional skate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, where Barkov joined his team for the first time since sustaining his injury. Barkov told the Sun-Sentinel that he was ready to play, but the decision ultimately comes down to the interim head coach, Peter Horachek.

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Drew Shore Continues to Shine As Panthers Fourth-Line Shuffle Continues

Drew Shore admittedly “took it very hard” when the Panthers sent him back to the AHL after a two-game stint in the NHL at the start of this season. Now, several months later, the 22-year-old forward has returned to the big club with a chip on his shoulder and begun to make life harder for opponents and their powerplay units.

A former 2nd round draft pick (44th overall) of the Panthers in 2009 out of the University of Denver, Shore tallied 13 points (3G-10A-13P) in 43 games with the Panthers last season as a rookie while anchoring the team’s lovable “kid line” alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller. No longer needed as the team’s top-line center thanks to the arrival of both Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, Shore has had to reinvent himself as one of the team’s best penalty killers.

Playing with a lack of job security that comes with a two-way contract, Shore still stands on shaky ground and is in a constant competition with forwards Jimmy Hayes, Shawn Matthias and Krys Barch for the team’s three spots on a crowded fourth-line. Luckily for Shore, his increased presence on the team’s penalty killing unit has begun to separate himself from his fourth-line brethren as the Panthers look to get back into the playoff race with the season already halfway over.

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Panthers Recall F Drew Shore and D Alex Petrovic

The Florida Panthers announced Friday morning that F Drew Shore and D Alex Petrovic have been recalled from the San Antonio Rampage, and will participate in this afternoon’s practice at the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs.

Petrovic, who was recalled for Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, was sent back to San Antonio following a tough 6-1 loss to the Bolts. However, after a gritty showing in which he led all Panthers’ skaters with eight total hits, the rugged blue-liner will get another shot to impress the coaching staff as the Panthers attempt to replace defenseman Erik Gudbranson who was recently placed on IR after undergoing successful orbital bone surgery this past week.

Just as he did against Tampa Bay, Petrovic is expected to slide right back into Gudbranson’s defensive position alongside Dylan Olsen as the Cats welcome the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Shore, who played in two games with the Panthers earlier this season, will likely start on Saturday night in place of injured forward, Scottie Upshall. Although Shore hasn’t been able to notch a goal this season with the Rampage, he has compiled 15  points in just 28 games while serving as a constant bright spot both offensively and defensively for the Panthers’ minor league affiliate.

Though they may only currently be filling in for injured teammates, both Petrovic and Shore will look to make a lasting impression on General Manager Dale Tallon and the Panthers organization as they  hope to be the next crop of Cats’ prospects to succeed at the NHL level.

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Tim Thomas Activated, Jacob Markstrom & Alex Petrovic Returned to San Antonio

Florida Panthers Executive VP/General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has reassigned G Jacob Markstrom and D Alex Petrovic to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Though he mostly played a backup role during this most recent stint with the Panthers, Markstrom, 23, got the start in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on December 20th.  In that loss, Markstrom stopped just 27 of 32 shots – good enough for a .844 save percentage. In 12 games with Florida this season, Markstrom has now accumulated a 1-6-3 record.

Petrovic, 21, logged 15:35 of ice time with a team-high eight hits on Monday night in the Panthers’ 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Prior to being called up, Petrovic competed in 30 games for San Antonio this season recording 11 points (2G-9A-11P) and 46 PIM.

Thomas Returns

After missing the Panthers’ last six game, starting goaltender Tim Thomas was activated off of the injured reserve list this morning. In his first season with the club, Thomas has compiled a 9-10-1 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Prior to being injured, Thomas had won three consecutive starts.

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Panthers Recall D Alex Petrovic

The Florida Panthers announced this afternoon that the club has recalled defenseman Alex Petrovic from the San Antonio Rampage.

Petrovic, 21, has appeared in 30 games this year for the Rampage, compiling 11 points (2g-9a), a +6 rating, and 46 PIMs for the club. Petrovic will meet the Panthers in Florida for the first game of their 5-game home stand against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Petrovic’s last NHL game was the final game of the 2012-2013 lock out season, also against the Lightning. You may remember him from this…

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