Tampa Bay and the trade deadline sit just ahead for the Panthers, the former both chronologically and in the NHL standings. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen tried to downplay the latter.
“We haven’t even brought it up,” Dineen said. “I have had a few conversations with [general manager] Dale [ Tallon] and he’s getting feedback on our team. We talked about a few things. But for us as a group, it’s really a moot point. They had a good day off [Sunday], and we’ve got an important game [Tuesday] against our in-state rivals. We haven’t talked about it, and I don’t foresee us doing that.”
Certainly, Monday’s practice — 50 minutes of drills and a shootout contest (defenseman Tyson Strachan won) — showed no characteristics of players worried about their near future. Nor did the Seinfeldian locker room conversation over Seinfeldian mundane topics display any such concern.
Then again, who’s there to worry? Injuries have stripped down the Panthers to a young core they would like to keep together and the kinds of role players used to being the NHL’s version of migrant workers.
The young core might do well to glean a few things from the two biggest individual reasons that only Pittsburgh scores goals at a higher rate than the Lightning’s 3.24 per game rate (a fact that says the post-2004-05 lockout rules didn’t definitively end The Dead Puck Era).
Steven Stamkos leads the NHL in goals, which he’s done twice already in his first four seasons, and is second in scoring, and former scoring champion Martin St. Louis sits fourth.
Though Stamkos arrived in 2008 as a No. 1 overall pick anticipated to produce as he has and the 37-year-old St. Louis came to Tampa Bay in 2000 as a Calgary castoff trying to save his career, analysis of each sounds similar. Each is a reminder that bringing an abundance of skill doesn’t make franchise players.
“He competes,” Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said of Stamkos. “He’s one of the most skilled players in the league, but he battles for every single inch he gets on the ice. It goes back to real basics, just outworking them is the way to beat them.”
Dineen said of St. Louis, “Every time we play them, he’s just involved in everything. He’s just a quality player. From everything I’ve heard, he’s a quality individual, as well.
“I don’t think that guy’s been given anything in his life,” he continued. “I honestly believe that. I talked to his coach at the University of Vermont. He just worked harder than anybody else. When you work that hard, opportunity is going to present itself somewhere along the line. And he was prepared when that came knocking.”
Center Drew Shore had what Dineen termed as a “maintenance day” on Monday. “We’ll see where he’s at,” Dineen said. But none of those on the injured list Saturday will return for Tuesday’s game.
• Winger Jack Skille skated alone Monday before practice.