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Florida Panthers right wing Scottie Upshall making strides to get more playing time

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen publicly admitted that he and winger Scottie Upshall have “been at odds” at different times during the past two seasons.

On Saturday, Dineen pulled the struggling Upshall to the side after morning skate had concluded. The two talked, sometimes emphatically, for what seemed like 10 minutes.

The conversation, at times, didn’t look like it was the most pleasant.

A few hours later, not too surprisingly, Upshall scored Florida’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Penguins. It was just the third goal for Upshall this season — and just his fifth since signing a four-year deal worth $14 million in 2011.

“I’m stubborn and have a real belief in how he needs to play to be an effective player,” Dineen said after the game. “He got on the scoresheet [Saturday], and I’m very happy for him.

“At the end of the day, I usually don’t judge a player on whether he made it to that side of the ledger. But I think his effort and sincerity was there in how he played. It was a good response by him.”

Upshall knows he isn’t getting the results he once was and isn’t scoring the way the Panthers thought he would when they signed him to a long-term deal as a free agent.

Injuries have played a part in Upshall’s struggles, as he missed a big chunk of last season with a sports hernia injury that required surgery. This season, he missed a month with an ankle injury and was injured in his first game back from that.

Of the 123 games the Panthers have played since Upshall joined the team, he has played in 46. In last season’s playoff series against the Devils, however, Upshall played well and had a goal with two assists in the seven games.

“Things haven’t gone well here, that’s for sure, but you can’t dwell on the past,” Upshall said Saturday morning. “You have to continue to get better each day, try to find some chemistry. I’m an opportunistic player who feeds off opportunity. It’s tough when you don’t get those chances. When things don’t go well, they don’t go well.”

Upshall, banished to the fourth line by Dineen for good chunks of the season, found himself back on the power play Saturday night after scoring in the second period.

Dineen always preaches that the NHL is a results-based business, and he showed that Saturday when he rewarded Upshall for getting some results.

“Being on the power play is a privilege,” said Upshall, who committed a slashing penalty on a second-period power-play chance. “It was nice to be able to chip in, doing little things. Hopefully, we can build on that.’”

This and that

The loss to the Penguins on Saturday, and the New York Rangers’ overtime win over the host Islanders, mathematically eliminated the Panthers from the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Florida could match New York’s 46 points if it won all seven of its final games and the Rangers lost their final seven in regulation. The Panthers would still lose a tiebreaker with the Rangers, however, under that improbable scenario.

The Panthers have now missed the postseason in11 of the past 12 seasons. Florida’s NHL record drought of missing the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons ended last year.

Colorado has also been eliminated from postseason consideration.

• Goalie Jacob Markstrom said he didn’t really see either of the two goals Pittsburgh scored against him in its victory over the Panthers on Saturday night.

Kris Letang’s long shot from 60 feet was shielded because of traffic; and Brenden Morrow’s goal came from behind the goal as Morrow threw the puck at Markstrom’s back and it went in.

“It’s a tough goal you don’t want to let in,” Markstrom said of Morrow’s marker.

• The Panthers took Sunday off but will practice Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Iceplex in Coral Springs before departing for New York.

Florida visits the Islanders on Tuesday night to kick off the team’s final big road trip of the season.

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