The Florida Panthers and their management took full advantage of a free day in the Big Apple as they took to the great outdoors for a 90-minute practice. It might be a man-made outdoor rink, but Saturday afternoon’s practice in Central Park brought back plenty of childhood memories for the Florida Panthers.
Panthers’ head coach Kevin Dineen explained that days like this are a good opportunity for a team to share some special experiences together. “It’s a hard schedule and at the end of the year a day like this will stick out as special,” Dineen told the Sun Sentinal. “There are a lot of smiles out there, you get back to your youth and get to enjoy.”
It wasn’t just the coach that enjoyed the chance to shake things up. Stephen Weiss admitted that the six-month season can wear on players and things like Saturday’s practice help break up the grind. “An 82-game schedule can become monotonous at times doing the same things over and over again,” Weiss said. “This is nice to refocus and certainly breaks it up and brings you back to your roots when you were a kid, and puts a smile on your face.”
If there’s any team that deserves a fun practice these days, it’s the Panthers. The Panthers are tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference going into Saturday evening and have to be considered one of the most surprising stories of the year. Dineen said that this is one of those things that will stick out as something special when the season’s over; if they keep this up, they’re going to have plenty of things to remember from this extraordinary season.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.