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.

The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

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Players of the Night:

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

Highlights of the Night:

Filthy pass:

First-goal celebrations are always the best:

Voracek with a slick move in front:

Save of the year candidate:

Factoids of the Night:

Home is where the wins are:

A legend passes a legend:

Believe in McJesus:

Scary Scenes of the Night:


Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

Oilers 4, Panthers 2

Devils 3, Kings 0

Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

Bruins 3, Lightning 0

Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

Wild 3, Coyotes 1

Sharks 5, Canucks 3

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

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We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

He did not return to the game.

If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

Backes did not return to the game.

The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

“Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck