After benching, motivated Weiss returns to Florida lineup


Panthers forward Stephen Weiss will be back in the lineup tonight against the Sabres after missing Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over Pittsburgh following the death of his grandmother.

In truth, it’s been longer than one game since Weiss last played a regular shift — it’s been one game and one period, as the 29-year-old was benched by head coach Kevin Dineen for all but two short shifts in the third period of Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins.

“It’s never fun to be sat and the easy answer is to play better. That’s the bottom line,” Weiss said today, per the Miami Herald. “That stuff doesn’t bother me. It’s not the first time I’ve been benched and it’s probably not the last time I’ll be benched. It’s just a matter of how you deal with it. You put it behind you and just keep pushing forward, try to play better.”

Weiss — Florida’s fourth overall draft pick in 2001 — has just one goal and three assists in 14 games. His struggles are doubly noteworthy as he’s in the final year of a six-year, $18.6 million contract, with unrestricted free agency a possibility come July 1.

In November, Weiss said, “I want to end my career with the Panthers.” And not every pending free agent that’s left Florida (see: Jay Bouwmeester) has felt that way.

But whether the budget-conscious club is willing to shell out the money to re-sign Weiss, especially given his current form, remains to be seen.