After ending a nine-game losing streak with Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Anaheim, it’s way too early to say the Panthers will soon be headed up the NHL standings.
But if you listen to left wing Scottie Upshall, there’s a definite direction to the offense brought in by new coach Peter Horachek.
“It’s a north style of game,” said Upshall, who had one goal and one assist Tuesday in the third game since Horachek replaced the fired Kevin Dineen as Panthers coach.
“If you study our game the past year or so, it was east-west. We tried to do things a lot by ourselves. … [Horachek] demands we play at a high pace. When your name is called, you have short shifts and you do the right things or you are not going to play.”
Upshall is a bit of an authority on the Horachek style because his first game as a pro — in Milwaukee in the AHL — was under his current boss as the head coach.
Later, Upshall, 30, played five years for the Nashville Predators while Horachek was an assistant coach there.
“Scottie is a talented young man,” Horachek said of Upshall, who was the Predators’ first-round pick, sixth overall, in 2002. “We spent a lot of time [together] in development camps, and I knew him for a lot of years.
“He has not been a problem. I use him in most situations. He’s killing penalties, he’s on the power play, he’s working regular shifts. He’s working hard, enthusiastic and acting like a leader.”
Upshall said the extra leadership he has shown since Horachek arrived is by design.
“Since myself and [center Marcel Goc] have played for Peter before, there is a responsibility for us to help our group understand where he’s coming from,” Upshall said.
Without that one, singular talent, the Panthers will have to get solid contributions from the entire group, Upshall said.
“One game isn’t going to change our year — we have a long way to go,” Upshall said. “But there’s a new light, a new opportunity for all of us to be better professionals. I expect more of myself. I’m demanding more.
“The past week has been tough. Change is tough. As a group, there are areas we need to focus on, and it starts by looking in the mirror and being better. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to prove myself.”
This and that
The Panthers start a five-game road trip Friday in Minnesota, one of only four teams Florida has beaten this season.
The Panthers also visit Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary before returning home to play Philadelphia on Nov. 25.
• After his first win as an NHL head coach, Horachek said he got 20 to 30 congratulatory text messages when he turned his phone back on late Tuesday night. That was about 19 to 29 more texts than usual, he said.
Horachek also revealed that he and his wife are living in the Fort Lauderdale condo they have had for the past three years. Previously, they spent their summers in Broward County.
• Horachek, 53, who never played in the NHL, reflected on his long road to become a head coach in the league: “When you don’t play 10 years in the NHL, you don’t usually get doors opened up for you right away. You have to ride the bus in the minor leagues and earn it.”
• Upshall said the current staff is listening to the players.
“They are open to us saying something to them, even if we disagree with them, Upshall said. “They are going to take what you have to say, and they are going to talk to you about it. It’s something that we haven’t really had here.”