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.
If there’s a coach in the NHL you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable getting on the wrong side of, New Jersey’s Jacques Lemaire has to be near the top of the list. After all, Lemaire is set in his ways and has guys that he’s more confident in than others when it comes to making the lineup. For rookie winger Mattias Tedenby, the methods he has for his own madness in how to prepare for a game might be the sort of thing Lemaire would question.
Tedenby skipped out on the Devils optional skate today marking the second time he’s done that this season. Why might Lemaire not worry about this so much? Tedenby has a bit of a different technique for snapping out of a funk that he’s giving a shot at trying as he tells Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice.
The first time he did it on Feb. 8 before the Devils took on the Carolina Hurricanes, Tedenby scored two goals including the winner in a 3-2 overtime victory. So, he figured he’d try it again today when head coach Jacques Lemaire gave the team an optional morning skate before its game against Ottawa tonight.
“Exactly,” Tedenby said. “I have the same feeling tonight.”
Tedenby, 21, said he didn’t know if he is definitely in the lineup tonight. He hopes he’ll get a chance to see if the morning off pays off for him again. He hasn’t registered a point since that Feb. 8 game.
“That’s the way for me.” he said. “I feel like, yeah, today go out in the sun instead for a walk and I feel prepared for the game, so.”
Lemaire is certainly a stickler and he’s shuffled the talented Tedenby in and out of the lineup this year but if it takes a walk in the park to get a player to clear their head and prepared for a game, hey why not? After all, it worked out pretty well once before it’s probably worth a shot at trying it again to see if there’s something to it. Things are going so well with the Devils lately that this sort of thing gives them more of a “Major League” kind of feel (sans the Charlie Sheen “Wild Thing” whimsy) as they try to storm their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Of course, this story loses a bit of its luster if Tedenby is once again a healthy scratch tonight. It might also provide the lesson that skipping out on an optional practice when the season is getting down to the end and a playoff spot is within the realm of possibility is a bad idea. That wouldn’t be too fun though and if there’s something Jacques Lemaire is all about in the NHL it’s fun.