Marcel Goc skated in a white jersey with regular lines during Wednesday’s Panthers practice at Saveology Iceplex. Center Stephen Weiss skated, period.
But defenseman Ed Jovanovski missed practice after taking a knee from Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen on Tuesday night. And winger Scottie Upshall missed practice with the catch-all-below-the-waist description of “lower-body injury.”
Two steps forward, two steps back. That’s how glaciers used to move. The Panthers’ progress could be described as “glacial” going into Thursday night’s game with Winnipeg off of their fifth consecutive loss, Tuesday’s 5-2 slapping by Tampa Bay.
“There’s bright spots, there’s snap shots here and areas in individual play we’re encouraged by,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “But you always revert back to the end of the night and the scoreboard and the continued search for consistency as a team.”
They have performed as inconsistently as the lineups they’ve dressed. Goc skated with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, Weiss’ usual linemates, while Weiss wore the orange no-hit jersey that Goc wore Tuesday. Dineen called Goc, Weiss and defenseman Erik Gudbranson all “game-time decisions.”
Gudbranson’s next game time will be with San Antonio in the American Hockey League. The Panthers sent Gudbranson and center Mike Santorelli, a healthy scratch Tuesday, down to their minor-league affiliate.
That’s an indication that Goc, who said, “I’ve had a few good days on the ice,” is about to be medically cleared and thus taken off suspension. Goc, Gudbranson and Sean Bergenheim are on suspension after getting injured during the lockout.
Sending down Gudbranson also could be an indication he’s close to ready and needs ice time. The Panthers have another defenseman, Tuesday night scratch Tyson Strachan, available if Jovanovski has to miss Thursday’s game.
“We’ll see where Jovo’s at,” Dineen said. “He needed to take a day off. He took a pretty hard hit and was feeling the effects of that.”
With Santorelli being sent down, if Wednesday’s practice lines are any indication, look for Shawn Matthias to be between Alex Kovalev and Tomas Kopecky. Rookie center Drew Shore worked with fellow rookie Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller.
“Those guys are obviously in a tough situation,” Dineen said. “You don’t’ want to start your career not having team success. Certainly, they’re showing flashes of the potential we expect out of them.”
Don’t confuse the calm in Dineen’s voice or the lack of snarliness around the Panthers locker room for a cool approach to the current situation. Though there’s still time to turn things around, around the corner is the edge of a cliff in a 48-game season.
“We’ve lost five games in a row,” Dineen said. “You’re not patient. It’s not the kind of year where patience plays into it.”
But thrown the option of using the word “panic,” Dineen didn’t like the negative connotations of that word. Right now.