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Back to school? Panthers offer college hockey-like “home fans only” seating

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When you think of the Florida Panthers, you don’t generally think of a team that has a tremendous home ice advantage. Hell, when you think of the Panthers, you generally don’t think that they’ve got much of a presence at home in Sunrise at all.

After all, in 2010-2011, the Panthers were 22nd overall in the NHL in attendance. While they weren’t exactly bad off at home, they weren’t packing the place out either, especially with tarps covering up many seats in the upper deck and lowering the BankAtlantic Center’s capacity for many games.

With that kind of set up in Florida, things might seem desperate for the struggling Panthers but that’s not stopping team president Michael Yorkmark from doing things differently to try and attract fans to come out. With the Panthers making so many changes and additions this summer, it’s time for the team to capitalize on things. The way they’re trying to do it next season is to make things a bit more rowdy and give home games more of a college sports feel by having sections of seats that won’t be welcome to visiting fans.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment announced today the new Florida Panthers Red Zone seating section which targets some of the most passionate and committed Cats fans. Tickets start at $25 per game and include a red Panthers fan pack, the chance to win a red 2012 Ford Focus (full and half-season plans only) provided by South Florida Ford, and the promise that no visiting fans are allowed in the Red Zone.

“The Red Zone is a place for passionate and committed Florida Panthers fans – that may not already be season ticket holders – to be among their dedicated peers and set the tone for every Cats home game at the BankAtlantic Center,” said SSE president & COO Michael R. Yormark. “In addition, our great partners at South Florida Ford are giving fans an opportunity to ‘see red’ even more in a 2011 Ford Focus. The Red Zone is just the latest extension of our ‘We See Red’ campaign and the full-scale red conversion of our franchise including the new red home jerseys, red lower bowl seats, red paint and signage in the arena and the new blood that will be featured on the Panthers’ opening night roster.”

As with all things having to do with the Panthers at home, there’s a sponsorship tie-in, but their mode of attack here in playing things up for the home fans to feel more comfortable at home is a smart one. Let’s face it, if you’re a fan of a team that doesn’t draw tons of fans and has a lot of visiting fans coming in on a nightly basis and making themselves at home (sometimes even with the Panthers’ good graces) feeling cozy at home can be hard.

Doing things this way and having, potentially, one part of the building being overly rowdy with a home section gives off the air of being like a college hockey game. If you’ve never been to a college game, the student sections are the most raucous parts of the arena and help create an atmosphere that can change the feeling of the game. If the Panthers can harness that sort of crowd reaction and turn their arena into an advantage for the home team, that’ll be as startling of a change as all the roster overhaul that went down this summer.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: