Before we get to the questions, Joni Pitkanen has been reactivated and will play tonight. He'll be taking Bobby Sanguinetti's spot and will be paired with Jamie McBain. Justin Faulk is with Jay Harrison and Joe Corvo will be reunited with Tim Gleason.
Cam Ward will be starting tonight. The forwards should be the same as Thursday with Kevin Westgarth the healthy extra.. (Although, Tim Brent is now a game time decision). In case you missed it, Zac Dalpe was reassigned to the Checkers yesterday.
Many thanks to Todd over at Litter Box Cats for taking the time with the questions for this matchup.
1 - Before the season started, when we talked there was an expectation
of a playoff spot for the Panthers. Now, that seems like a pipe dream
at best. Who is in the most danger of paying the price for not living
up to expectations: Kevin Dineen, Dale Tallon, or the players on the
roster? (Or no one?)
If there was an expectation for a playoff spot this season, I don't think the expectation was a strong one. More than few thought the club might have to take a step back this season as they started to work the first few of their deep pool of prospects into the lineup or that the Cats weren't really that good and simply benefited from a down year in the Eastern Conference last season. So, being out of the top eight right now is not that surprising to either the optimists or the pessimists. As for the playoffs being a pipe dream, are the playoffs ever a pipe dream when you play in the Southeast Division? A big week (with two games each against Carolina and the Jets) for the Panthers could totally turn the season around but that might be wishful thinking. The club continues to be consistently inconsistent and the goaltending is a huge problem. Who would pay the price for a playoff miss? Probably a few of the team's useful veterans (like a Marcel Goc for instance) that still have trade value. It's also likely the team would be more than willing to part with long-time center and pending UFA Stephen Weiss based on his poor performance so far. Dale Tallon isn't going anywhere and I think it's too soon to pull the plug on Kevin Dineen especially based on a season thrown off kilter by the lockout.
2 - If you follow Allan Walsh on Twitter you probably know that
Jonathan Huberdeau is the second coming of Wayne Gretzky, Maurice
Richard and Mario Lemieux rolled into one, but hyperbole aside, what
has made him so successful this season?
When he's at his best, like in his four-point tour de force against Philadelphia last week, Huberdeau does remind me a tiny bit of Gretzky but simply because he's a real skinny kid with a lot talent. I wouldn't outright compare any of today's players to those three so that is a lot of hyperbole. Huberdeau has been successful because not only is he blessed with great hands and wheels, he's driven to score. You can see he's got that hunger that the great ones need to have and despite his slight frame goes down low to put himself in prime position to get goals. He's got the work ethic, creativity and edge to go along with all that raw talent and oh yeah, he's an elite level passer too. Once he adds more size and experience he should go from being a special rookie to being a special player.
3 - A realignment question, if you don't mind: is the proposed
alignment that puts the Florida teams in a division with the Northeast
and Detroit a popular one? Are fans OK with the idea of not having
division rivals close by since it will likely lead to more crowds and,
presumably, more revenue to spend on the roster?
The reaction down here seems to mainly be mixed between loving it (I am firmly in that camp) and not minding it. There are some that don't like it but I think that is more a case of people being against any change and/or getting hung up on the geography of it all. I think that once it happens, those people will come around. Honestly, the rivalries in the Southeast never got that heated despite the closeness of the teams so what would we be really losing? I for one, will be quite happy when this division get broken up and to see it's members blended in with some of the league's more popular clubs. I believe this realignment will really help some of the teams in the league that need a boost in attendance and exposure which will benefit the NHL as a whole.