Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
It’s good to be Aaron Ekblad. It’s good to be around Aaron Ekblad and his combination of maturity and youth, poise and skill. He has five goals and 18 points in his first 28 games in the NHL – third among rookies, first among rookie defensemen – while averaging 21:56 of ice time and playing a top-four role. He’s a reason the Panthers are competing for a playoff spot.
“He doesn’t play like an 18-year-old,” said goaltender Roberto Luongo. “He plays like he’s been in the league 18 years.”
Nothing fazes him. His welcome-to-the-NHL moment came Dec. 2 when the Panthers played for the first time in Detroit. He grew up across the river in Windsor, Ont., going to games at Joe Louis Arena, rooting for the Red Wings, idolizing Nicklas Lidstrom. He had family and friends in the stands. When he lined up for the opening faceoff, he found himself across from Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg – the guys he used to watch. But listen to how he described it. No awe. No sense of accomplishment.
“Just a really special, surreal feeling,” Ekblad said. “Not an ‘I made it’ feeling or anything like that, but just more of a cool challenge. Just the realization that this is where I am and this is the kind of challenge that I’m going to face and I want to rise to the challenge.”
from Bob Duff of the Windsor Star,
“He’s real impressive,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “How many D-men have seven points in their last five games?
“He’s just a kid, but obviously with size and skill and skating – but his smarts, and his ability to get the puck through from the point – I don’t know, you don’t want to say too much too early.”
Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman and Florida TV analyst Denis Potvin jumped right from the Ottawa 67’s to the New York Islanders in 1973 and can understand better than most the significance of what Ekblad is currently achieving.
“I’ve seen a lot of young defencemen come up, really good kids who are out there in the league right now,” Potvin said. “They’ve got skill, the shot, the size and can skate – but they don’t think the game like this kid.
“That’s what is so impressive about him to me.”
from Matthew DeFrank of the Sun Sentinel,
Just two months into Aaron Ekblad's NHL career, it seems like nothing the 18-year-old does is surprising anymore.
Leading the Panthers in assists? Ho-hum. Third among NHL rookies in scoring? Okay. Even his three-assist performance on Saturday night against Buffalo drew a tempered response from Panthers coach Gerard Gallant.
"He played a good game [Saturday] night but he's been good all season long," Gallant said. "I don't think last night was an outstanding game for him. It was a good game, but he's had a lot of those."
While good games have become the norm for the No. 1 overall pick, the Panthers have also become accustomed to Ekblad firing shots from the point to create offensive opportunities. He is tied for the team lead with 17 points.
from George Richards of On Frozen Pond,
Florida general manager Dale Tallon apologized to Buffalo owner Terry Pagula and general manager Tim Murray for the team's pregame video on Saturday night.
The video interspersed scenes from Buffalo's recent major snowstorm with those of the Panthers' mascot fishing and doing other activities outside in the South Florida sun.
Pagula, who lives in Palm Beach County and recently purchased the Bills, was incensed as he spoke with Tallon about the video.
from George Richards of the Miami Herald,
With road victories over teams such as Anaheim, San Jose and Detroit, people around the NHL have taken notice of the Panthers this season.
Florida came into Wednesday three points in back of Boston and Toronto for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers were ranked eighth overall in the conference with 26 points in a league-low 23 games.
If the Panthers want to continue their ascent in the standings, they need to take care of the teams below them.
Yes, a team that finished at or near the bottom of the NHL standings the past two seasons now believes it had better get all four points from its current two-game homestand against Columbus and Buffalo.
from Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette,
At a time when the average value of an NHL franchise increased by 18.6 per cent, the value of the Panthers declined by 21 per cent and the team lost an estimated $15.6 million.
A good spin doctor would point out that the Panthers have room for growth, but there’s nothing to suggest the team has a future in the swamp. Last season, the Panthers announced average attendance of 14,525. This season, the team has set franchise attendance records, but they have been records for the smallest crowds in team history, bottoming out at 7,311. The Panthers’ average crowd is 8,895, but there’s hope of topping 9,000 by the end of the month because Québécois tourists ensure a sellout for the Canadiens-Panthers game on Dec. 30.
The decline in attendance in southern Florida isn’t a result of an eroding fan base. It is a reflection of the true fan base there. Attendance is down because new owners came up with a novel idea — they asked fans to pay for their tickets after years of freebies and deeply discounted seats.
Whether the NHL wants to admit it or not, the Florida franchise is on life support.
via Harvey Fialkov tweets.
A team source confirmed the Panthers r trying to trade some unnamed vets to make room for players like Trocheck and Grimaldi.
One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure Fleischmann is at top of list. Perhaps Bergenheim and Kopyecky as well.
Bergy has been too injury prone.All are in final years of dealsTeam may have to wait til deadline but they want Rocco ASAP.
Best part of the video is when the camera zooms on the face of Roberto Luongo near the end. Great job!
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
Fantasy owners, take note: Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad's stock is steadily rising.
The 22-year-old appears primed for a breakout season this year and has been brimming with confidence during a stretch of stellar play recently. Thursday night, the former University of Minnesota standout tallied twice in the Panthers 3-2 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks and got the difference-maker on his first shootout try of the season. Just two games prior, Bjugstad recorded a career-high four points.
With seven points in the last three games, he appears to have put the lengthy scoring drought he went through to open the season in the rearview mirror. Look for big things from him in his third year as a pro.
read on for more topics from the ESPN hockey writers...
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
The swing through California has become an opportunity for assessment of teams playing games in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Win there and you can win anywhere, the thinking goes.
The Florida Panthers have quietly started off the season pretty well -- not great, but hanging around at 6-4-5 -- and on Sunday began a four-game road trip that included three in California. It started with an impressive win in Anaheim. The Panthers struggled to score goals earlier in the season, but that hasn't been a problem lately.
The Panthers beat the Ducks 6-2, with the six goals a season-high. Brad Boyes and Nick Bjugstad each scored twice. The six goals eclipsed the total number of goals Florida scored in its first five games this season. In November, the Panthers are averaging three goals a game, improved production that will get a test as the California trip continues in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
read on for Burnside on the Coyotes, and LeBrun on the Canadiens among other topics....
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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