Panthers notebook

Florida Panthers take in NFL game, try to regroup after blowout

 
 
St. Louis Blues' Chris Stewart, left, and Florida Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
St. Louis Blues' Chris Stewart, left, and Florida Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
Bill Boyce / AP

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

The Panthers took an NFL field trip to the St. Louis Rams-Jacksonville Jaguars game on Sunday afternoon. At first glance it would appear to be a punishment for Saturday’s lopsided loss.

No, coach Kevin Dineen planned the outing soon after the schedule came out — long before Saturday’s 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues and before he probably realized how bad Jacksonville would be.

“They’re a Florida team, so we’re going to cheer for them,” Dineen said on Saturday morning. “It didn’t set up well for us to see the Cardinals on Friday because of [practice].”

Sunday’s off day in St. Louis was planned as a way for the Panthers to hang out with each other in more of a social setting, a team-building effort for a group that opens its season with four games away from home.

Dineen said the team could have flown home after Saturday’s game and then traveled to Philadelphia on Monday, but he decided to keep the road trip on the road.

“I felt going to a football game would be a nice way to just spend some time together,” Dineen said. “We talked about spending some time away before the season started, but with nine days to start the season, we thought we should find something on the road trip.”

For Dineen and his Panthers, Sunday also served as a day to kind of forget about Saturday’s ugliness.

The Panthers probably won’t be able to put the loss to the Blues behind them so quickly — and might look back at last year as a warning not to let things get away so early in the season. Florida was feeling good about itself after winning its opener, as it did last season.

Like last year, that opening-night win was followed up by a road rout. What the Panthers do now is up to them. Last year’s team lost five in a row after beating Carolina in the opener. Florida tries to end its losing ways Tuesday against the host Flyers. The team will practice Monday afternoon in Philadelphia.

“We can’t let this happen again,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We have to recharge our batteries. We’re only two games in, so we can forget this and be ready when the puck drops on the next one.”

Dineen also said he wouldn’t dispose of the video from Saturday’s loss, one in which the Panthers went 0 for 7 on the power play and were outshot 34-19 and throughly outplayed.

“We all have to take ownership in this one,” Dineen said. “It was a butt kicking. We have to move on, get ready for the next one. We have a lot of games left on this trip. We have to be better. I’m not fooling myself or these guys. They are smart guys. They know what the difference in the game was.”

For some players, Sunday’s trip to the Edward Jones Dome was their first live NFL experience. Huberdeau and others took in their first game last month at the Dolphins’ season opener.

“I know the rules because I’ve played football on video games,” said rookie Aleksander Barkov, who grew up in Finland before moving to Florida. “It’s a little different than European football. We don’t see this kind of football much. I think it will be fun.”

Memories

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Panthers’ first game, one that ended with a 4-4 tie at Chicago Stadium against the Blackhawks.

Scott Mellanby, who scored the first goal in franchise history on Oct. 6, 1993, watched Saturday’s game from the press box, as did former Panthers coach Duane Sutter. Others with ties to that first game who were in St. Louis included TV analyst Billy Lindsay and assistant coach Craig Ramsay.

The Panthers will honor some of their top players with commemorative bobble heads. Mellanby, Florida’s captain from 1997 to 2001, will be among them. Mellanby killed the rat in the Miami Arena locker room that started the rubber rat craze in Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.

“It’s nice to be honored, but it sure makes you feel old. I can’t believe it has been 20 years,” Mellanby, now the director of player personnel with the Montreal Canadiens, said last month. “This was a big part of my career, a big part of my life. I got married just before I came here, I had children born here.

“I would like to see the team be back in the playoffs on a regular basis. We were proud of what we did here. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Panthers. I think I was a big part of the franchise at one time.”

•  Scott Clemmensen played in his first game since last April on Saturday and made 24 saves in leading San Antonio of the AHL to a 3-1 victory over the Rockford (Ill.) Icehogs.

Clemmensen had knee surgery last month and is technically in San Antonio on a rehab assignment. Because he passed through waivers without being claimed, the Panthers could keep him there longer if they so wished.

“I’m here to play some games and get my game in order,” Clemmensen told the San Antonio Express-News. “For me, this is my training camp. My goal is to prepare myself and get my body healthy. After that, who knows?”

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