Panthers notebook

Former coach likes job Florida Panthers’ Peter Horachek has done

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Taking charge</span>: Panthers coach Peter Horachek gives instructions during a break in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils.
Taking charge: Panthers coach Peter Horachek gives instructions during a break in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils.
RICH SCHULTZ / AP

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

The Panthers have gone 14-12-3 under interim coach Peter Horachek, but there has been no determination whether he will return next season.

Horachek says he can only do the best he can moving forward as general manager Dale Tallon says the Panthers will “wait and see what happens” as the season progresses.

Pete DeBoer once held Horachek’s job, and, like Horachek, the Florida gig was his first NHL head coaching job.

DeBoer, Florida’s coach for three seasons before being fired by Tallon following the 2010-11 season, says he thinks Horachek has done a pretty good job since taking over.

“They are playing well, you can see some structure and they have a good game plan,’’ said DeBoer, hired by New Jersey a few months after being let go in Florida. “You can see a little Nashville [in playing style] there, which isn’t surprising considering Peter coached there so long.’’

DeBoer said he was disappointed Kevin Dineen, who replaced him in Florida, was fired in November. After all, the NHL is about winning right now.

“I have a lot of respect for Kevin, the job he did there,’’ DeBoer said.

Although Dineen led the Panthers to the playoffs in his first season, the team struggled through injuries in his second and had lost 13 of the first 16 games to start this season.

Under DeBoer, New Jersey beat the Panthers in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs before advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils lost to the Kings.

On Saturday, the DeBoer improved to 9-6 against the Panthers — including the postseason — as the Devils won 2-1 in overtime.

“This is a what have you done for me lately league,’’ said DeBoer, himself under some heat from Devils fans.

“We went to the Finals 24 months ago and, you know, people don’t talk much about that. Kevin brought them to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but that’s the league. Things get forgotten in a hurry. He’s still an excellent coach. He’ll land on his feet somewhere.’’

Coach Madden

John Madden was a center for the Devils for more than a decade and was part of two Stanley Cup teams. Saturday, he was on the bench facing his old team — one in which he battled as a member of the Panthers during the 2012 playoffs — as an assistant coach.

Madden, who retired after playing his last game against the Devils on April 26, 2012, was a pro scout for the Panthers when the season started but was promoted to assistant coach when Dineen and his staff were fired.

“[Coaching] was something I always wanted to do, but this came along a lot sooner than I thought,’’ Madden said.

“The opportunity came up, and it’s been fun. I’m learning a lot, trying to move forward and help our team get better.’’

Said Horachek: “He has a good awareness and is really in touch with what’s going on with the game today.

“He’s got good insight and has given me good information on the bench. He’s been a real good resource for me.’’

• Devils fans booed when it was announced Scott Gomez was scratched before Saturday’s game.

Gomez, who hasn’t played in 16 of the past 18 games, scored 116 goals over seven seasons with the Devils and was part of the 2003 Cup championship team.

• Former Heat center Shaquille O’Neal wore a very snug Devils jersey and dropped the ceremonial first puck before Saturday’s game.

O’Neal is a Newark native and showed up early Saturday night to drive the Zamboni around the ice with the Devils mascot riding shotgun.

• The Panthers took Sunday off and return to practice Monday at the Coral Springs Iceplex. The 11 a.m. workout is free and open to the public.

Read more Florida Panthers stories from the Miami Herald

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