Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers shaky on special teams

 

The Panthers, currently ranked sixth in power-play percentage, are also making strides to better its last-place ranking in penalty kills.

Thursday: Panthers at Jets

When, where: 8 p.m.; MTS Center, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

TV/radio: FSN; WQAM 560.

The series: Winnipeg leads 41-32-5

The game: This will be the final game between the two as divisional rivals with the Jets — formerly the Atlanta Thrashers — moving to the Western Conference next season. Florida is 5-1-4 against the Jets since the franchise moved north. The Panthers are 2-0 against the Jets at home this year and lost in overtime in both Winnipeg meetings thus far.


grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Special teams has been a hit-or-miss proposition for the Panthers this season.

Even though their power play percentage is ranked sixth in the league coming into Wednesday, the Panthers went long stretches without having much success with the advantage.

Lately, however, the Panthers have been doing better and have six power-play goals in their past four games and are scoring at a 22 percent clip throughout the course of the season.

“We’ve had some consistency in our personnel and haven’t tweaked it too much,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “We have had different guys playing with each other. But when you have a guy like Brian Campbell out on the power play, I believe good things follow.”

Killing off penalties has not seen much success this season, however.

The Panthers are ranked last in the league in penalty kill proficiency, allowing goals almost 26 percent of the time.

Things have looked up lately, however, as Florida has shut down its opponents in two of the past three games. In the game the Panthers did give up goals, Washington got three of them — two to NHL power-play leader Alex Ovechkin.

“We’re not into making excuses around here,” said assistant coach Gord Murphy, the former Panthers defenseman who is in charge of the penalty kill.

“We’re not happy with where it is at. We had high expectations for it; it has been good for us in the past and is such a critical component of the game these days. Special teams, that’s something everyone talks about. It’s a concern. We’ve been frustrated with it at times.”

With all the injuries the Panthers have suffered this season, all phases of their game have been affected. The penalty kill is no different. Losing Mike Weaver, whom Dineen called Florida’s best penalty killer, for the past month has been especially problematic.

Murphy, forever an optimist, says the upside is Florida is getting to look at a number of young players in those roles killing penalties. It’s a job that’s not for everyone, although its success rate usually mirrors that of the standings.

Of the bottom seven penalty kill teams in the league, only Washington — ranked just above the Panthers — held a playoff spot as of Wednesday.

THIS AND THAT

Center Drew Shore has missed the past three games with a wrist injury, but practiced Wednesday morning and is expected to play Thursday against the Jets.

Weaver practiced again Wednesday but did not make the trip. He could play Saturday against the Penguins.

• Dineen said the Panthers are well-rested after playing just four games over an 11-day span. Florida’s game Thursday will be its first since beating Ottawa on Sunday.

“It’s been nice to have a few days off,” Dineen said, “but this wouldn’t have chosen to pack all your days off in a row like this.”

• Thursday will be a nice homecoming for rookie forward Quinton Howden as he plays his first game against the Jets. Howden, playing in his 11th NHL game, is from the Winnipeg area.

“Winnipeg bound!!” Howden sent out on his Twitter account Wednesday.

The Panthers will also face center Mike Santorelli for the first time since Winnipeg claimed him off waivers last week.

Read more Florida Panthers stories from the Miami Herald

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