Florida Panthers’ pressure defense is improving

11/27/2013 12:00 AM

03/14/2014 2:45 PM

The Panthers defensive play has most definitely picked up over the past couple of weeks, with most of the credit going to goalie Tim Thomas being back between the pipes.

Although Thomas is carrying most of the load, he is getting some help.

In Monday's 3-1 win over Philadelphia, Florida was credited with 17 blocked shots — including a game-high three from Mike Weaver.

The addition of Weaver, who missed four games with a serious case of the flu, and newcomer Dylan Olsen helped frustrate the Flyers.

"They were solid defensively,'' coach Peter Horachek said. "Having Olsen and Weaver in the lineup allowed us to play a better team game down low in our zone.''

Philadelphia came strong at Thomas and the Panthers in the third period Monday, scoring its lone goal off a season-high 20 shots in the period. Thomas made 38 saves to stop Philadelphia's five-game winning streak at Sunrise.

"They're not a slouch team,'' Horachek said. "They were pushing hard. They have some top-end players. It wasn't about the number of shots, it was about the quality and the mistakes we made. Twenty shots is a lot, but overall, the second effort was there. We did a lot of good things. It's the end result.''

Olsen, who came to the Panthers in the Kris Versteeg deal earlier this month, was recalled from the minors Sunday and played in his first game with Florida. Olsen made quite an impression, using his big frame in the corners. Olsen was officially credited with three hits and two blocked shots.

“Playing rough, that’s what they want,'' Olsen said before the game. "They want guys to shut down other teams’ top lines, be physical with them. I’m just going to go out there and do what I can to help the team win.”

Coming here is a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door and start establishing myself in the NHL and making a career out of it.”

The Panthers would like to continue improving their blueline with the addition of captain Ed Jovanovski although that probably isn't forthcoming. Jovanovski continues to work out with the team, but his return from major hip surgery at 37 is a slow process.

Neither the Panthers nor Jovanovski are pushing things.

"I'm still in the frame of mind that I'm getting stronger, more comfortable in making that next step,'' Jovanovski said Tuesday.

"There's still no date. I think at this point, a lot of it comes down to you being your own doctor of sorts. I'm taking the information from doctors and I know I don't feel quite ready.''

Noteworthy

•  Tomas Kopecky, placed on the injured reserve list Monday, was spotted walking around the training complex Tuesday without a cast on what is thought to be an injured wrist or hand. Kopecky is eligible to come off the IR for Saturday's game against the Penguins. He said he hopes to be able to play.
•  The Panthers will celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah at Wednesday's game highlighted by the lighting of a giant menorah on the ice during the first intermission.

Cantor Yossi Lebovics is scheduled to sing the national anthem, and the Maccabeats will perform during the first intermission and during a postgame concert.

•  The Rangers are the first team that Horachek and his new coaching staff will see for the second time. The Panthers lost in New York 4-3 in Horachek's second game on Nov. 10.

"It helps to have a little familiarity, you know what to expect from certain lines,'' he said. "When you played those teams early on, I had no idea what kind of match-ups, what we were capable of in different situations. You start getting a better feel for your players, as well as theirs. It's good to be getting to that place.''

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