Florida Panthers coach likes team’s ‘tempo’

09/30/2013 12:01 AM

09/30/2013 12:28 AM

Training camp ended for the Panthers as soon as the team skated off the ice Saturday night in celebrating a 5-3 exhibition victory over visiting Tampa Bay.

When the team reports to practice Monday morning in Coral Springs, opening night becomes the lone focus.

Florida opens its 2013-14 season Thursday night against the host Dallas Stars.

“We felt like we accomplished things coaching-wise, but there are areas we need to tidy up and keep working on,” coach Kevin Dineen said.

With the introduction of new owners and the addition of a few new players in camp, Dineen said he “likes the vibe” around his team.

“I like the tempo, the tenor of our group,” Dineen said. “We’re all speaking the same language. We understand when things weren’t going well, it wasn’t one man, but it’s a team effort.”

The Panthers still have some work before heading to Texas.

On Sunday, they took another step in finalizing their roster by placing winger Joey Crabb and defenseman Colby Robak on waivers.

“We’ve had to make some tough decisions, and we’re going to continue to have to make them,” Dineen said. “I believe we have some quality options and some hungry players banging on the door when they aren’t in there.”

With plenty of money under the salary cap, general manager Dale Tallon could put in a claim or two and perhaps grab a couple players cut loose by other teams because of their particular cap concerns.

It won’t be known if Florida picked up any players off waivers until Monday afternoon.

On Sunday night, the Panthers added 30-year-old defenseman Ryan Witney, who had been in camp on a tryout with St. Louis. Witney has played in 474 games in eight NHL seasons.

The Panthers are expected to put five players on the injured list before the season begins.

Goalie Scott Clemmensen will be one of those players and will likely start the year in the minors on a rehab assignment.

Dineen wouldn’t say who his starting goalie is right now, although it’s expected that veteran Tim Thomas will get the call Thursday night in Dallas.

“Tim has really established himself with our team and our organization within a short period of time,” Dineen said. “[Thomas] is a good guy and a real solid player for us right now. He’s a great option for us on Thursday night.”

• Dineen said he liked what he saw in rookie Aleksander Barkov “in spurts” during training camp. The 18-year-old appears to be Florida’s second-line center, pivoting veterans Brad Boyes and Kris Versteeg.

“He’s a young guy who needs more consistency to his game,” Dineen said of the 2013 second overall pick in the NHL Draft.

• The Panthers will return to practice at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The workout, located at the Iceplex in Coral Springs, is free and open to the public.

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