With victories in just three of the opening 11 games, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen is desperate to find a combination that works.
On Saturday, Dineen said Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias, two of Florida’s leading scorers last season, would be put in better position to score their first goal of the season.
Brad Boyes, however, might not play Sunday against visiting Tampa Bay after being benched for all but two shifts in the third period of Friday’s loss to Buffalo. Boyes leads the Panthers with four goals, but Dineen hasn’t been too keen with Boyes’ play on the defensive side of the ice.
“Brad Boyes was brought in here to score goals, and we know he can score goals,” Dineen said about Boyes, who worked on a fifth line with Krys Barch and an injured Steve Pinizzotto on Saturday.
“When he gets into the scoring areas, he needs to take advantage. That’s when we’re excited about his play. He also has to understand we have to be a complete hockey team, to be good in both ends. That’s part of our makeup.
“I can go through every player and pick things I’m not happy about. Look at our record; I’m not happy with my coaching. I’m not happy with a lot of different players’ overall game. Again, we need a complete game from everyone to have success. That’s doubly important for our veterans.”
Boyes came into the locker room Saturday afternoon with Barch, dripping in sweat after putting in extra time on the ice.
Boyes scored 10 goals with the Islanders last season, and his four goals with the Panthers is one better than Marcel Goc, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. Boyes is third on the Panthers with six points.
Scottie Upshall has seemingly taken Boyes’ spot in the lineup after he was scratched Friday. Upshall was working with Nick Bjugstad and Kris Versteeg on Saturday.
“I want to be in the lineup,” said Boyes, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers after coming to training camp on a tryout. “It sucks, but I’m going to work to get back in there. … I want to keep going out there and have the opportunity to score. It hasn’t happened lately. Everyone had shots [Friday]; I just need to keep firing at the net.”
While Boyes has four goals, Matthias and Kopecky are looking for their first of the season. Both players have created a bunch of chances, as Kopecky is third on the team with 26 shots on goal and Matthias has 15 shots.
Dineen said both will be given additional time on the power play, and he isn’t worried about them breaking through and scoring soon. Of course, the longer the drought, the more doubt creeps into their collective games.
“I’ve been there before, and it’s no fun,” Dineen said. “It gets in your head a little bit, and you start driving a different path to the arena because you think taking the expressway instead of the Sawgrass will make a difference in how you play. At the end, hey, whatever works. As a coach, I have to put them in situations to succeed. I do have confidence and belief in those players.”
Matthias, who scored a career-high 14 goals in last season’s lockout-shortened season, said he hasn’t changed his off-ice habits during the slump but might Sunday.
Matthias, who plays on a line with Kopecky and Goc, is back on the wing after spending much of the past few seasons at center.
“The worst thing you can do is think too much about it, and I’ve been doing that,” Matthias said. “I need to get one to get this off my mind and start rolling. It’s hard not to think about it. If the chances weren’t coming, I would be really worried. But they are there. It’s just a matter of time. I’ll get one and the stress will go with it.”
• Sean Bergenheim had a big impact in his first game back since Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Bergenheim, who had been out with various lower-body injuries, assisted on Florida’s lone goal and had numerous chances against the Sabres.
“There were some high-end scoring chances that he helped create,” Dineen said. “It was a good start for him. It was a baby step. The first one is out of the way, and we can stop talking about anything but his performance.”
• Although Pinizzotto is working out with the team after sustaining a hip injury during training camp, Dineen said the former Vancouver forward isn’t close to being game-ready.