The New Jersey Devils showed just how valuable a fourth line can be as the trio of Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta combined for 10 goals and 21 assists to help Pete DeBoers squad reach the Stanley Cup Finals last summer.
The Panthers can only hope to have such success with an all-new fourth unit this season as newcomer George Parros joins center Jarred Smithson and left winger Jack Skille.
Coincidentally, Carter played for the Panthers before being waived last season; Bernier was let go by the Panthers after the 2010-11 season.
Although Skille and Smithson were with the Panthers last year, they never played together as Skille was out with a shoulder injury when Smithson came over in a trade with Nashville.
Despite the newness of the group, the trio looks like theyve been playing together for a long time.
They are big bodies and they all can skate, coach Kevin Dineen said. They give us some heftiness, which you like to have. You can have a lot of big guys, but if they cant skate, youre going to be in trouble. I like that each of them can play a specific role, and theyve developed a little chemistry.
Said Skille: We all play north-south hockey and dont take too many risks. We want to be an energy line and keep things simple. Were going to use our body, amp the team up.
Last season was a frustrating one for Skille as he was shelved three different times because of a shoulder injury and was limited to 46 games. The final injury, which came March 9, knocked him out for the rest of the season and cost him a trip to the playoffs.
Skille said Thursday that the shoulder felt good as he played a little during the lockout in Norway to test it out. Skille also worked out at the University of Wisconsin and came into camp in excellent shape.
I was ready to go, but I used the [lockout] time to my advantage, Skille said. I really gave my shoulder a good test in Norway. Then I worked on things I need to be better at.
The Panthers are on the verge of signing restricted free agent Dmitry Kulikov to a two-year deal as reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Assistant general manager Mike Santos said Thursday evening that a deal was not done as of yet.
There are a lot of hoops to jump through, he said.
Kulikov, 22, is expected to take his physical Friday and could be added to the active roster and play Saturday against Carolina.
Without Kulikov, Florida could be looking at starting the season short-handed.
Although Ed Jovanovski was back at practice Wednesday after missing two days, Mike Weaver was out after being injured during Wednesdays scrimmage.
Hes a question mark on the very short-term, Dineen said.
The Panthers are also looking at starting the season without Erik Gudbranson as he recovers from shoulder surgery performed in September.
Rookie Alex Petrovic could stick around as the seventh defenseman in case Kulikov or Weaver arent ready to go.
• The Panthers trimmed the roster by sending five players (Quinton Howden, Jacob Markstrom, Jon Rheault, Colby Robak and Drew Shore) back to AHL San Antonio.
Florida also released veteran Marek Svatos from his tryout and placed Mike Santorelli on waivers.
The Panthers have to be at 23 players by 3 p.m. Friday but could have Gudbranson, Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim start the season on injured reserve.
Florida will sign Alex Kovalev, 39, to a one-year deal Friday.
• Florida will hold its final workout of the abbreviated training camp Friday and will do so at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The public is invited to attend the practice for free at the arena.
The Panthers havent been in their locker room since losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Devils in April. Dineen still has the Devils lineup written on the dry erase board inside his arena office.
Its been a long time. I went to a boxing match [at the arena], saw Neil Diamond, Dineen said. But it will be good to see our guys on that ice.
• The Panthers said less than 1,000 tickets remain for Saturdays season opener against Carolina.