Florida Panthers making practice time pay off

Kevin Dineen is trying to maximize the effectiveness of the Panthers’ workouts in between games.

03/14/2013 12:01 AM

09/12/2014 7:56 PM

There are 30 teams in the NHL that are dealing with the challenges of a shortened season. That’s why there aren’t any excuses being made by coach Kevin Dineen about the results of his Panthers.

Right now, it’s all about what kind of work is going to make the team better during a rough four-game losing stretch. He’s drawing similarities between another South Florida team that made enough of a lockout to win a championship.

“It gets back to what [Heat] coach [Erik] Spoelstra said about his lockout last year,” Dineen said at the Panthers’ practice Wednesday. “When he looked at his schedule, he really had eight days to work out during the course of the season with full practices.”

The Panthers made good use of their Monday session to focus on the basics. They turned out 39 shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a disheartening loss the following night.

Before taking off to Boston to face the Bruins (fourth in the Eastern Conference), Florida squeezed in a Wednesday lunch-date practice at Saveology.com Iceplex (one of few that Dineen calls “precious time’’).

“I’ve got a lot of guys that are playing a heck of a lot of hockey,” the coach said. “So you’re really managing what we’re doing out there, and you’re trying to make that 23 minutes we had on the ice [Wednesday] real quality minutes.”

Jacob Markstrom liked what he saw from the other end of the ice in Tuesday’s game because the Monday practice paid off. He allowed three shots to get by him, enough to have the efforts end in a loss.

“Obviously I felt bad because the team worked really hard and created so many scoring opportunities,” he said.

Coming from a game where Markstrom was pounded by the Canadiens for 38 shots, he had a lot of breathing room when the Panthers allowed a season-low 13 shots at him in the loss to the Lightning.

“It’s hard. You want to feel the puck as much as possible,” the netminder said of his two experiences. The growing pains can be expected as Markstrom continues his transition from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

“It’s a big thing for us as a defensive team, only allowing 13 shots,’’ he said. “It’s unbelievable. ... Those are the kind of games that we should win.”

Markstrom will make his sixth consecutive start in Boston, and he’s trying to channel the belief in himself that made him successful with the Rampage.

Dineen is confident that the Swedish-born rookie will have the resources to translate his good run in San Antonio to a successful role with the Panthers.

“He’s got a lot of staff around him to support him and help him in every way that we can, whether it’s through video, through practice, or a kick in the tail,” Dineen said.

“Whatever we feel is going to be most effective for him; it gets back to the incredible opportunity that we get to grab the net in the NHL and take advantage of it.”

Florida’s magic number has been three. Two tough 3-2 losses in the past week, and the loss to the Canadiens was by three goals. Does Markstrom carry the number three around with him?

“Absolutely not,” he said. “And hopefully we can get rid of that number as soon as possible.”

Injury updates

Right wing Kris Versteeg wasn’t at practice. He received an MRI on his knee after a hit by Radko Gudas in the loss to Tampa Bay.

Defenseman Brian Campbell had a “maintenance day” off the ice.

Dmitry Kulikov returned to the team Wednesday, an encouraging piece of news for the Panthers. He will not be available for the game in Boston or Saturday’s game against the Islanders at BB&T Center.

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