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Sports Scans Daily Brief 11 29 2011

Sports Scans Daily Brief 11 29 2011

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Published by: Ozmän Fiftyone on Nov 29, 2011
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11/29/2011

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Panthers know competition has returned now that NBA lockout has ended

Mike Berardino

At long last the NBA lockout has ended, and the Superfriends are already
hogging the airwaves.

The Marlins are waiting to hear back on roughly $350 million in outstanding
free agent bids.

The Dolphins are about to reach December with no hope of a winning
season, which means speculation on Tony Sparano's successor is about to
enter overdrive.

Which leaves the first-place Panthers where exactly?

Heading back out on the road, in the short term, making a quick stop in
Carolina before flying out to California.

Shaking their heads as well after suffering back-to-back losses over the
weekend to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"A pretty sorry effort," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said Monday, even
with two days to digest that second loss, a 5-1 embarrassment. "That's
really disappointing for our guys, that they didn't have the energy they
usually have."

Going 0-for-10 on the power play in a two-game span was no way to
combat the Bolts' dreaded 1-3-1 zone. It certainly was no way to build on

the many gains of the season's first quarter, one that has many NHL
observers pegging the Panthers as the league's surprise team.

That's why Dineen was making a hands-on point to Kris Versteeg during
Monday's practice about finishing backhanders at the crease.

That's also why Dineen met individually and as a group with his team, just
to make sure those last two games get purged from their systems as
quickly as possible.

"We played their game instead of our game," Dineen said. "I think our guys
are very aware of that."

Such meetings are nothing new with Dineen. He calls them as much as five
times a week, after wins just as much as after losses.

"It's not reading them the riot act," the first-year NHL coach said. "It's not,
'We're going to rip some tails.' I think blunt honesty is really important. It's a
typical balancing act in this profession. Get a little feel and go from there."

As for the NBA settlement, it came just a few hours after the in-game
entertainment crew at BankAtlantic Center blasted Kurtis Blow's early-rap
classic "Basketball" during a break in last Friday's action.

That had to be a not-so-subtle tweak at the NBA and its labor problems.

"I didn't hear it," Panthers forward Jack Skille said with a big smile, "but
that's karma right there."

The bad news is the Panthers won't have an unobstructed path to the
South Florida sports fan's wallet for much longer.

The good news is at least they took advantage of these past two months to
grab as much attention as they could from a skeptical fan base.

"For the time being, people have seen a lot of energy at our games and I
think they're excited about it," Skille said. "You can see the crowds getting
bigger. That's what you like to see as a player. It causes a lot more energy
for us. It makes us want to play even harder."

This, Skille said, is a "new team," one that can be trusted to keep churning
toward ending that 10-season playoff drought.

"There's a lot of winning going on," he said. "A winning atmosphere. A lot of
character."

Of course, the Heat already has that, along with two of the biggest sports
personalities in the world.

Dineen's teenage son hasn't picked out a Heat jersey yet, but there's still
time with the holidays — and the Christmas Day opener at Dallas —
approaching.

Is it possible, as Stephen Weiss recently suggested, the Panthers could
actually benefit from ducking back under the radar? If so, Dineen isn't
buying it.

"No, we're not hiding from anyone," Dineen said. "I want as many people
talking about the Florida Panthers as possible in the area. I want us to be
on the radar. We want people to know we're an exciting night out."

A theme song might help.

You think Kurtis Blow ever rapped about hockey?

Sun Sentinel LOADED: 11.29.2011

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