David Booth and the Florida Panthers find goals difficult to come by

When you think of the Florida Panthers, “explosive goal scorers” aren’t exactly the first thing that come to mind. My guess you either think of Tomas Vokoun, plastic rats/John Vanbiesbrouck or nothing at all.

But if the Panthers employed one player who seemed to be on the verge of becoming a genuine goal scoring threat, it would be David Booth. (At least now that Nathan Horton wears a Boston Bruins sweater.)

Some may argue that Booth cannot ask for much more than decent health after suffering from two concussions during a disastrous 2009-10 season, but the bottom line is that he is struggling to score goals. Booth only has five goals in 22 games with a pitiful 5.6 shooting percentage this season and hasn’t lit the lamp in 11 appearances.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the Panthers are similarly snake-bitten. Aside from a nice 4-3 shootout win, Florida has been particularly punch-less in the last four games, only scoring six goals (not counting that fake shootout tally) in that span.

Harvey Fialkov discussed the team’s struggles and how much Booth is pressing to improve, in particular.

Assistant coach Jim Hulton has joked that if and when they score their next power play goal (0 for 37) that they’ll stop play and present a plaque at center ice. David Booth might do the same for his next goal after going the last 11 games without lighting the lamp. That matches his longest slump since his 2008-09 season when he scored a career-high 31 goals. He stayed late after practice just taking wrist shot after shot into the empty net, aiming for different spots. He told me after that he needs to shoot more on the goalie’s stick side just above the pads. Coach Pete DeBoer dropped him to the second line with speedy youngsters Michal Repik and Mike Santorelli (who’s been with Booth alot over the last month). Stephen Weiss, who only has one goal in his last seven, but had the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay, is now with Shawn Matthias and Michael Frolik – who is also in an 0-for-9 drought. DeBoer is grateful that his secondary scorers like Santorelli, Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner have helped compensate for his expected top guns.

Perhaps the most disturbing number of all is the fact that Booth hasn’t scored a goal on the power play since what seemed like a breakthrough 31-goal season in 2008-09. His last PP goal came on April 5, 2009 according to Hockey Reference’s game logs.

Let’s not glaze this in too much doom and gloom, though. After all, those injury concerns limited him to only 53 games since then. It’s still a troubling number, but Booth is only 26 years old. The truth about Booth’s game is somewhere between his 31 goal season (with by far a career high shooting percentage at 12.6) and this tough start with that aforementioned 5.6 rate.

Booth just needs to keep plugging away while the Panthers need to keep adding promising young talent and hope that the future ends up sunnier than the present in Sunrise.

Goalie nods: Prized Jets prospect Hellebuyck makes NHL debut

Joshua Morrissey, Jason Pominville, Connor Hellebuyck
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The future of Winnipeg’s goaltending will be on display tonight in Minnesota.

Connor Hellebuyck, the highly-touted prospect that starred for Team USA at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, will make his NHL debut today when the Jets take on the Wild at Xcel.

Hellebuyck is up with the Jets following an injury to No. 1 (or, “No. 1”) netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who’s out until January with a lower-body injury. An AHL All-Star a year ago, Hellebuyck arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the hype and pressure that come along with his first-ever big league start.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.


Corey Crawford goes for Chicago in Anaheim. No word yet on who the Ducks will have in goal.

Braden Holtby starts again for Washington, as the Caps host the Bolts. Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter, much like the Ducks.

Marc-Andre Fleury takes on Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus tonight, as the Blue Jackets host the Penguins.

Mike Condon is back in the starter’s role for Montreal with Carey Price sidelined, and his first order of business is a road date against Cory Schneider and the Devils in New Jersey.

Cam Ward faces Chad Johnson as Buffalo welcomes the ‘Canes.

— The Isles will start Jaroslav Halak in Florida. The Panthers will counter with Roberto Luongo.

Cam Talbot finally gets back into the starter’s role tonight in Detroit. Jimmy Howard will go for the Wings.

— It’s Ryan Miller versus Antti Niemi as the Canucks take on the Stars in Dallas.

— Even though Jonas Hiller is healthy and Joni Ortio‘s in the minors, Calgary will stick with Karri Ramo in Arizona. The Coyotes are going with their No. 1, Mike Smith.

‘We’re still right in the hunt for everything’ — Parise will play tonight versus Jets

Zach Parise
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For the first time since Nov. 5, Zach Parise will suit up for the Minnesota Wild.

The team confirmed today that Parise will be in the lineup tonight at home versus Winnipeg. The 31-year-old forward has missed the last eight contests with a sprained MCL.

The Wild were 7-2-2 before Parise got hurt. They lost the game against Nashville in which he suffered the injury, then went 4-3-1 without him.

“I’m just hoping to get back to form as quick as possible and go from there,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “I’m not thinking I need to score right out of the gate, I just want to play. … We’re still right in the hunt for everything. We’ll be fine.”

After ’embarrassing’ loss to Sens, Stars motivated for Canucks

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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The Vancouver Canucks will face a pretty motivated Dallas Stars team tonight at American Airlines Center.

Blame the Ottawa Senators. They were the ones who smoked the Stars, 7-4, on Tuesday.

“It brings you back down to earth,” captain Jamie Benn told the Stars’ website. “You learn that any team can come in here and whip your butt. It was embarrassing for us, especially in our home rink and in front of our home fans. We don’t want that to happen again.”

The Stars have had their way with the Canucks in recent years. The last time Vancouver won in Dallas was Feb. 21, 2013. Since then, victories have included scorelines like 5-1, 4-1, 6-1, and 6-3.

The Stars have already hosted the Canucks once in Dallas this season. On Oct. 29, they fought back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to win, 4-3, in overtime.

Dallas (17-5-0) has yet to lose consecutive games this season.

Video: Beleskey rocks Stepan, fights McIlrath (Update: Stepan won’t return)


Well, Matt Beleskey sure made his presence felt in the Thanksgiving Showdown.

With the Rangers leading the Bruins 2-1 midway through the second period, Beleskey delivered a huge hit on Rangers forward Derek Stepan, then had to answer the bell as he was immediately confronted by towering Blueshirts d-man Dylan McIlrath.

Needless to say, it had a pretty profound effect on the game.

McIlrath got the instigator penalty for the fight, which sent the B’s to the power play. Not long after, Brett Connolly scored his fifth of the year to even the score at 2-2.

Then, later in the period, Stepan was spotted going down the Rangers’ tunnel.

We’ll keep tabs on Stepan’s condition moving forward, and if the comes out for the third period.

There’s a pretty good chance New York bench boss Alain Vigneault will be asked for his thoughts on the hit, too, so stay tuned.

Update: The Rangers have ruled out Stepan for the remainder of the contest.