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.
Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette announced today that Ilya Bryzgalov will get his fifth straight start tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. There were some questions whether Sergei Bobrovsky would get the opportunity to start since Bryzgalov played in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, but it looks like the back-up will have to wait his time.
Laviolette was making a concerted effort to split up the ice-time between the two Russian netminders early in the season. Yet lately, the Flyers have been winning with Bryzgalov—and the head coach has no plans on messing with a good thing.
“He’s rested, he’s ready — he’s playing,” Laviolette told NHL.com. “It’s a chance to get Bryz back in the nets. We brought him here for that reason. He’s been winning games and we’re going to put him back in there. Doesn’t have anything to do with Tampa. I think it’s different than what I said that last time, because we were playing the Penguins, they were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference and we wanted to put Bryz in there…”
It’s pretty clear that Bryzgalov is going to get the benefit of the doubt when the guy is making $51 million over the next nine seasons. He may have been “lost in the woods” earlier this season, but he’s turned his game around and helped the Flyers win four straight games. If the team keeps up this kind of play in front of Bryzgalov, it might be a while until Bobrovsky gets another extended look between the pipes.
The team isn’t calling it a concussion (it’s an upper-body injury), but Mike Richards is still recovering from the hit on the chin he took from Sean Bergenheim that seemed to daze him a week ago. He continues to ride the exercise bike and has been increasing his workouts, but his return is still not imminent.
Richards was seen this afternoon after the Kings pregame skate in preparation for LA’s game against the Stars tonight at Staples Center. Richards spoke with the media and was asked if he’d be joining the team on their upcoming four-game road trip to the Eastern time zone. “I’m not going to start with them,” Richards told LA Kings Insider. “I hope to join them at some point during the trip. I’d like to elaborate on it, but there’s not much to really say.’’
So the update is really a non-update.
The sooner Richards returns to the lineup, the better things will be for the Kings. The team has a 0-3 record without their new centerman and has had a plenty of trouble scoring goals lately. The goal scoring woes actually extend further than just the last three games, so the last thing they need is for their leading goal-scorer to be out for an extended period of time. The Kings are currently dead last in the NHL in scoring and without Richards; they’ve had a hard time finding a line that can consistently bring pressure like the Kopitar line.
It’s not like things are going to get easier for the Kings either. After tonight’s game against the Stars, their road trip includes dates with both the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Los Angeles has been careful not to rush Richards—but they could certainly use him sooner rather than later.