Panthers notebook

Florida Panthers’ Tomas Kopecky, Jonathan Huberdeau end skids

 

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Tomas Kopecky and Jonathan Huberdeau hope Friday brought the start of something good. So far, it has.

Huberdeau and Kopecky had both been in a prolonged scoring slump.

Kopecky, who scored 15 goals last season, hadn’t scored in Florida’s first 19 games before getting one Friday against the Wild.

Huberdeau, the reigning Rookie of the Year, hadn’t scored in 12 games before getting Florida’s second goal in Minnesota.

“We’re both happy to score, we haven’t done that in a while,” Huberdeau said. “Maybe at some point you lose a little confidence when you’re getting chances and the puck isn’t going in.

“I think the biggest thing is we were still working, still getting those chances. When the chances aren’t there, that’s when you start to worry.”

Huberdeau and Kopecky stayed hot the following night, both scoring their second goals in as many nights as the Panthers upended the host Avalanche 4-1. Kopecky’s goal gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead; Huberdeau’s clinched it in the third.

Kopecky’s 15 goals last season tied a career-high despite the lockout-shortened season. He also scored 15 in his final season in Chicago during 2010-11 over 81 games.

“It’s been a tough month, six weeks for me,” Kopecky said. “I’ve just tried to keep doing the little things. But I don’t look back. It is what it is. I’m starting fresh. I’m going to move on from here, and hopefully the pucks start going in.”

Before Friday, coach Peter Horachek hadn’t seen either player score a goal since he took over for the fired Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8.

For the Panthers to get things going, Horachek needs to see a few more from those guys.

“It’s good to see that from those guys,” Horachek said. “Now they can feel like some are going to go in.”

Let’s make a deal

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has been a wheeler-and-dealer since joining the team. Most of his deals have come with people he knows best.

According to research from Stats, Florida and Chicago have been the NHL’s most active trading partners since July 1, 2010 — not long after Tallon joined the Panthers. Stan Bowman, Chicago’s GM, replaced Tallon in 2009.

A total of 14 players have gone between the two teams in that span.

Coincidentally, the 12 players traded between Vancouver and Florida is the third-largest number during that timeframe. Tallon was the Canucks’ first draft choice (second overall) in 1970 and played in Vancouver from 1970 to ’73.

Bjugstad’s debut

Center Nick Bjugstad had plenty of friends and family members attend his first pro game near his hometown.

Bjugstad was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey as a prep standout in 2010 and spent three years at the University of Minnesota before leaving to sign with the Panthers. He got a loud ovation when announced for his assist on Huberdeau’s goal.

After showering and getting dressed, Bjugstad waded back into the stands to greet his cheering section.

Bjugstad’s mother, Janeen, bought about 70 tickets through Wild group sales for the game. Another 30 bought tickets and came on their own.

“It was exciting seeing so many family and friends supporting me,” Bjugstad said Saturday. “It was chaos after the game. I had so many people to say hello to and only had a few minutes. It was a fun time.”

• Defenseman Tom Gilbert was the recipient of the Panthers new goofy award handed out by teammates after wins.

Gilbert was “honored” by being chosen to wear a red cowboy hat covered in glitter, fashioned after one worn by the late wrestling star Randy “Macho Man” Savage, after tying a career high with three assists.

“Hopefully, a lot of guys get to wear it throughout the year,” Gilbert said.

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