On the day Peter Horachek took over as coach of the Panthers, he said everyone on the team was getting a clean slate.
No one has benefited from the fresh start more than Scottie Upshall.
A player who spent most of the past 2 1/2 seasons in Kevin Dineens doghouse, Upshall seems not only energized but happy to be playing under Horachek.
Things didnt go great for me, and I didnt enjoy playing the first few seasons, said Upshall, who got the Panthers going in Wednesdays nights eventual 5-2 loss to the Rangers by scoring with 7:32 left.
For some reasons, injuries were used against me. I felt like my passion was questioned, my effort was questioned. If anyone in the room was asked, the way I approached the game wasnt questioned. I wanted to play and be good. Sometimes things just dont work out. This game is tough both mentally and physically.
In his first two injury-plagued seasons in Florida, Upshall scored six goals in 53 games. In the 10 games under Horachek, Upshall has three goals and eight points.
Dineen often said he wanted to see what a healthy Upshall would do, with Upshall missing so many games to injuries during his first two seasons.
Now everyone is. Early in Wednesdays game, Upshall had a scoring chance snuffed out by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, then drew a penalty on Justin Falk. When Upshall scored Wednesday, Florida trailed 3-1.
It was tough to get out of that hole, but right now, Im in a good place, said Upshall, who signed a four-year deal worth $14 million in 2011.
I think my teammates look up to me, and Ive been acknowledged by the coaches as a leader. I think theres a great opportunity for a lot of players. We have some great young players. Its just a better atmosphere here.
Upshall came into training camp healthy and looked good, yet he had just one assist through his first six games. In the seventh game, at Nashville, Upshall was benched. Dineen would make Upshall a healthy scratch two more times.
Coincidentally, Upshall got his first goals of the season in Floridas shootout loss to Edmonton. The decision to fire Dineen and his coaching staff was made following that game.
Horachek is a coach Upshall knows well, with the two hitting it off when Upshall was first breaking in with Nashville a decade ago. Horachek was an assistant for the Predators when Upshall played there from 2003 to 07.
In Wednesdays game, as has been the case the past few games, Upshall came out wearing an A on his jersey to signify his new leadership role on the team as an alternate captain.
Suffice to say, Upshall was unlikely to ever wear a letter on his jersey under the old regime.
I dont know what the situation was with Scott and Kevin, so I cant speak to that, Horachek said.
Since Ive been here, Scotts shown a work ethic, has been a leader. Hes been outspoken in the room, hes in our leadership group. I take from what hes doing. Hes deserved the playing time.
• Forward Jesse Winchester is trying to come back after sustaining an undisclosed lower-body injury believed to be a bruised hip during Floridas previous road trip.
Winchester, who has tied a career high with four goals, said he was injured when he made a hit on Edmontons Corey Potter in the first period of that 4-1 loss on Nov. 21. Winchester tried to come back in the second period but the pain was too much.
I feel pretty good right now and dont think Ill be out too much longer, he said.
• The Panthers will hold an open practice Friday at the Coral Springs Iceplex starting at 10:30 a.m.