Lightning 5, Panthers 4 (SO)

Florida Panthers begin task of roster trims


Before their shootout loss to the Lightning, the Panthers made several cuts, including defenseman Alex Petrovic.

The Panthers played their fifth exhibition game of the preseason on Saturday night after doing a little housecleaning earlier in the day.

Before leaving Texas, the Panthers cut 26 to bring their training camp roster down to a more manageable number. Florida now has 33 players in camp with 10 more players set to leave — or be put on injured reserve — by next week.

Florida would later lose its third consecutive preseason game, this one 5-4 in a shootout to the host Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Panthers will play Tampa Bay two more times this week before the season opens Oct. 3 in Dallas.

“We got some things cleared out,’’ coach Kevin Dineen said. “We made some hard decisions and still have more in front of us. But after [Saturday] we can start moving forward with a direct thought on our opening night lineup.’’

The biggest surprise on Florida’s initial cut-down list was defenseman Alex Petrovic. A second-round pick in 2010, Petrovic ended last season with the Panthers and was expected to fight for one of seven defensive spots in Florida.

Instead, the 21-year-old was among Florida’s first cuts and sent to San Antonio of the AHL. The Rampage should have 25 of the 26 players cut by the Panthers when its camp opens Sunday.

“There are some guys in San Antonio who are obviously upset about that,’’ Dineen said. “This is a snapshot of today, what’s best for our organization. ... You want to do what is best for the player but also what’s best for the team.

“Alex’s play did not dictate him staying with the club for opening night. We could have kept him around and worked with our staff, but he’s in good hands in San Antonio. He’ll keep progressing.’’

The Panthers have high hopes for Petrovic, a 6-4 defenseman who plays with a bit of a nasty streak. But Petrovic didn’t show much in camp and general manager Dale Tallon said he had much to learn about playing in a fast and physical NHL.

With Petrovic gone and Ed Jovanovski likely to start the season on the injured list, Florida has four players jockeying for what appears to be three spots. Rookie Colby Robak looks like a player who will grab one of Florida’s seven defensemen positions. Veterans Mike Mottau, Tom Gilbert and Matt Gilroy are battling for the other spots.

Defensemen Brett Clark (released from tryout), Jonathan Racine and Josh McFadden were among those left behind in Texas.

In Saturday’s game, the Panthers forced overtime when Bobby Butler scored his second goal of the night with less than a minute remaining. Florida survived a Scottie Upshall penalty in overtime but never took the lead and lost when rookie Jonathan Drouin scored in the shootout.

Florida is 2-1-2 in the preseason, with two of the past three losses coming in a shootout.

“That’s something we have to work on this week,’’ Dineen said. Dineen and Tallon both had problems with a late penalty from Tampa Bay’s Radko Gudas after he wrapped up Scott Gomez by the neck and flung him to the ice. Both players were assessed roughing penalties.

“I’m really disappointed; that was a dangerous play by a dangerous player,’’ Dineen said. “We’re going to send it to the league. I saw him grab [Gomez] by the head and throw him down. That’s an uncalled-for play. The officials get a chance to look at things afterward. I think they’ll regret that being an even call.’’

• Dineen said he expects to get Jonathan Huberdeau (hip surgery) and Kris Versteeg (knee surgery) into their first preseason game in one of the final two this week against Tampa Bay.

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