Tampa Bay Lightning

SIZING UP THE FLORIDA PANTHERS

Thursday, 09.21.2006 / 12:00 AM / Bolts Report
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SIZING UP THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
Florida

Who's the Story in Florida?

C Olli Jokinen's 2005-06 season, his eighth in the NHL and fifth with the Panthers, was one of the best in franchise history. He led the club in scoring for the third consecutive season with career bests in goals (38), assists (51), points (89), power-play goals (14), game-winning goals (nine), shots (351) and plus/minus (+14). The only Panther to score more goals in a season was Pavel Bure (58 in 1999-2000 and 59 in 2000-01); the only Panther to record more assists in a season was Viktor Kozlov (53 in 1999-2000).

Jokinen tallied four of Florida's five overtime goals, tying a League record for most overtime tallies in a season since the five-minute period was introduced for regular-season play in 1983-84.

*****

D Jay Bouwmeester, the third overall selection in the 2002 Entry Draft, continues to develop into an elite defenseman. In 2005-06, his third NHL season, Bouwmeester appeared in all 82 games and set career highs in goals (five), assists (41), points (46) and average ice time per game (25:29).

The 23-year-old Edmonton native also earned a selection to Team Canada for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

G Ed Belfour, entering his 19th season, leads all active goaltenders and ranks second on the all-time victories list with 457, trailing only Patrick Roy (551). He ranks ninth on the all-time shutout list with 75.

Most Career Regular-Season Victories

1. Patrick Roy 551
2. Ed Belfour, Florida 457
3. Terry Sawchuk 447
4. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey 446
5. Jacques Plante 437

''The best thing is, he has a lot to prove to some people...I've played with and against Eddie for years, and I know exactly what he brings to a game. He's as intense a competitor as there is, and he's one of the best at preparing for a game that a team could have." - Panthers C Joe Nieuwendyk, to the Miami Herald, July 26, 2006.

*****

G Alex Auld, 25, set career highs in games played (67) and wins (33) for Vancouver in 2005-06, becoming only the fourth goaltender in Canucks history to record 30 or more victories in a season. He was voted Vancouver's most valuable player by his teammates. For his career, Auld has played in 81 NHL contests from 2001-06, all with Vancouver, going 39-31-2 with a 2.75 goals-against average. He was originally drafted by the Panthers with their second choice, 40th overall, in the 1999 Entry Draft and traded to Vancouver in May, 2001.

*****

A blockbuster trade on the eve of the Entry Draft last June sent RW Todd Bertuzzi to Florida. Bertuzzi, 31, played in all 82 games with the Vancouver Canucks last season, placing third on the club with 71 points (25 goals, 46 assists). Bertuzzi has played in 710 games over a 12-year NHL career, scoring 529 points (223 goals, 306 assists). The two-time NHL All-Star posted the best numbers of his pro career in 2002-03 when he registered 97 points (46-51--97). The Sudbury, Ontario native has recorded at least 50 points in each of his past six NHL seasons and has scored at least 25 goals in five of the past six seasons.

*****

RW Nathan Horton, 21, posted career highs in games played (71), goals (28), assists (19) and points (47) in 2005-06, with his goals total ranking second on the club to Olli Jokinen. On Dec. 13, 2005 versus Nashville, Horton, at 20, became the youngest Panther ever to record a hat trick. On Jan. 8, 2004 at Philadelphia, at 18, he became the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot. Horton was selected by the Panthers with the third overall pick in the 2003 Entry Draft.

D Ruslan Salei, 31, joins the Panthers after spending the first nine years of his NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks, where he left as the team's tenured player (1996-97) and third on the club's all-time games list (594). Salei posted career highs in assists (18), points (19) and plus/minus (+17) in 2005-06 and ranked third on the club in ice time per game (22:31).

*****

C Joe Nieuwendyk, 40, topped the 20-goal mark for the 15th time in 18 full NHL seasons in 2005-06. His 26 goals were the most he had scored since a 29-goal campaign with Dallas in 2000-01. With 559 career goals, Nieuwendyk ranks 20th on the all-time list. He needs one to tie Guy Lafleur for 19th place and 14 to tie Mike Bossy for 18th.

With Stanley Cup wins in Calgary (1989), Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003), Nieuwendyk is one of just six players since NHL clubs exclusively began competing for the Stanley Cup in 1927 to win the Stanley Cup with three franchises.

*****

LW Martin Gelinas, 36, was a key free-agent signing for the Panthers in 2005-06. Gelinas appeared in all 82 games and posted a team-high +27 rating -- the best of his 16-year NHL career and a single-season franchise record, edging the mark of +25 set by Pavel Bure in 1999-2000.

*****

C Jozef Stumpel, 34, has been a consistent point-producer throughout his 12-year NHL career. The Nitra, Slovakia native reached the 50-point mark for the fifth time in the past six seasons and the eighth time overall in 2005-06, ranking third on the Panthers in scoring with 52 points (15 goals, 37 assists) in 74 games.

*****

Top Finnish international LW Ville Peltonen, 33, returns to the NHL after a six-year absence. Peltonen played in 39 games with HC Lugano in Switzerland last season, placing second on the club with 48 points (23-25--48). He also showed impressive form at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, tallying nine points (four goals, five assists) in eight games as Finland captured the silver medal.

A 3rd-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 1993 Entry Draft, Peltonen has played in 175 NHL contests with San Jose (1995-97) and Nashville (1998-2001), scoring 18 goals with 42 assists.