Florida Panthers’ Scottie Upshall battles scoring slump

01/14/2014 12:01 AM

03/14/2014 2:45 PM

Scottie Upshall hasn’t had the best of luck lately.

The Panthers winger has been one of his team’s better players, getting scoring chances on just about every other shift he plays.

There has been little reward for Upshall’s efforts, however. In Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils, Upshall was credited for four shots on goal, but his secondary assist on Nick Bjugstad’s goal was his first point in eight games.

For Upshall, 30, scoring chances just haven’t translated to goals.

“As I’ve gotten older, throughout your career you realize sometimes the game gets tough,’’ said Upshall, who scored all six of his goals this season during a 13-game span from Nov. 5-30.

“It’s a challenge. We just have to keep creating plays, working hard and maybe work harder and do things better. The chances are there. The effort is there. The bounces will eventually come.’’

Upshall’s play has definitely picked up since Peter Horachek took over for Kevin Dineen in early November.

Under Horachek, Upshall has four of his goals this season and 10 of his 13 assists.

“His energy is there,’’ said Horachek, who was Upshall’s first coach at AHL Milwaukee and was an assistant in Nashville when he became a full-time player there in 2005.

“He’s still working hard, busting to the net trying to get that rebound goal. He’s working. There are a lot of chances that could go in for a lot of people. We need to score them.’’

The combination of Upshall, Bjugstad and Tomas Fleischmann has been pretty solid for the Panthers, although all three have gone through scoring droughts.

Bjugstad’s goal Saturday was his first in six games; Fleischmann has led the Panthers in scoring in each of the past two seasons but has just five goals this season.

Upshall said that as long as the chances keep coming, the goals will as well.

“It’s the way the game works,’’ Upshall said. “The only thing a player controls is the effort. I think we’re close.’’

Sunrise draft

The Panthers will announce on Tuesday morning that the 2015 NHL Draft is coming to Sunrise, a source within the organization said.

This will be the second draft held at the BB&T Center. The Panthers previously hosted the draft in 2001 and selected Stephen Weiss with the fourth overall pick.

Last summer, the NHL promised the Panthers a draft and future All-Star Game as a return to Broward County for paying for the arena’s new scoreboard.

The 2014 NHL Draft will be held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia in June.

• The Panthers will play host to one of the hottest teams in the league when the Islanders visit on Tuesday.

New York has won four in a row and seven of its past eight. John Tavares’ 56 points is tied for second in the league, and he has eight goals in his past nine games.

•  Jesse Winchester is about to return to practice after being out since injuring his hand blocking a shot in Montreal on Dec. 15. Horachek thinks Winchester will rejoin the lineup during next week’s road trip.

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