Florida Panthers’ new coach still settling in

11/25/2013 12:01 AM

03/14/2014 2:45 PM

When Peter Horachek was named the Panthers’ interim coach earlier this month, he didn’t have to go house hunting.

He and his wife already owned a condo in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Not that he has seen much of it.

Since taking over for Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8, Horachek has only been “home” in South Florida for a few days. Of the eight games Horachek has been behind the bench, seven have been away from Sunrise.

The Panthers kick off their annual Thanksgiving homestand Monday, with Philadelphia the first of five opponents to come to town through Dec. 5.

“It will obviously be good to get back. I haven’t been able to spend much time there,” said Horachek, who is 3-4-1 with the Panthers so far. “No games are easy, and that’s how it is in this league. We have some tough home games. But we have to worry about ourselves, get the mistakes out of our game.”

General manager Dale Tallon said he is happy with the work Horachek has done noting the difficult circumstances.

Horachek replaced Dineen in the midst of a road trip, meeting the team in Ottawa for a short workout before a pair of back-to-back games against the Senators and Rangers. The Panthers lost both before breaking a nine-game losing streak Nov. 12 at home against Anaheim.

Dineen’s assistant coaches, Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay, were also let go, meaning Horachek and his new staff had to go to work immediately.

Former Panthers Brian Skrudland and John Madden were brought in from other roles within the organization to join Horachek behind the bench.

“I’m happy with what Peter has done,” Tallon said. “Everyone is playing hard, playing the same system. Everyone has reacted positively to a tough situation. I didn’t expect this to happen nor did I want it to happen. But here we are. We have to make the best of it.”

As for the Panthers, Horachek hopes they have turned a corner. On the recent five-game road trip, Florida played well in four of them. The Panthers went 2-2-1 on their longest geographical trip of the year with stops in Minnesota, Denver, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

Florida picked up wins against Colorado and the Canucks with a shootout loss in Calgary.

“It’s progress, a work in progress,” Horachek said after Sunday’s practice in Coral Springs.

“We’re working on things. We had some really good games. We had some wins in some tough buildings. We had good moments in Minnesota. … Edmonton was really the one I didn’t like. We can get better.”

• The Panthers recalled defenseman Dylan Olsen from San Antonio and put Mike Weaver on the injured list. Weaver said he had been hit with the flu before Florida’s win in Colorado and missed the final four games of the trip. Olsen was one of two players — Jimmy Hayes is the other — Florida got from Chicago in the Kris Versteeg deal.
• Center Nick Bjugstad found himself in a strange spot Friday as he was put in as Florida’s fourth shooter for the shootout. Bjugstad was stopped on his first NHL shootout try.

“The goalies are so good in this league, I probably have to sell it more,’’ Bjugstad said of his shootout move. “Maybe next time.”

• The Panthers will officially honor former coach Roger Neilson on Monday by naming the press box at BB&T Center after the first coach in franchise history. Neilson, who died of cancer in 2003, coached Florida for its first two seasons.

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