By Bill Whitehead
Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen can take grief for a number of decisions when it comes to line juggling and such, but the third-year coach made a choice Saturday that worked wonders in the nation’s capital – inserting Krys Barch and Scottie Upshall back into the lineup after scratching them the night before against St. Louis. In that shutout loss, Dineen said only a handful of players gave quality effort.
Surely Dineen, whose seat must be getting a bit warmer, felt something needed to be done. Friday’s showing against the Blues was another anemic effort in a 6-game homestand (1-3-2) that was impotent, devoid of much energy and lacking production. He scratched Kris Versteeg, who has struggled mightily; Sean Bergenheim, recently in Dineen’s doghouse though scratched Saturday for rest; and Matt Gilroy, who was replaced by Ryan Whitney.
Barch and Upshall were both energetic and mixed it up in the third period. Barch made his presence known early in the period with a hard hit on Alexander Urbom but received a charging minor in the process, a terrible call considering Urbom had puck possession and the contact was clean. The hit seemed to fire up the Cats (3-8-3), who trailed 2-1 at the time.
Barch subsequently made news because of this:
Upshall sparked Florida and put the Panthers in good position with his clean but hard hit on Washington defenseman Steve Oleksy, who retaliated and drew a penalty. Less than a minute later and on its sixth power play – this time a 4-on-3 man advantage — the Panthers tied the game with some crafty passing behind the Washington cage that led to Brian Campbell connecting with Tomas Fleischmann, who tied the game against his former team with his third goal this season.
Versteeg, Bergenheim and Gilroy, and all the other Panthers for that matter, should take note because Barch and Upshall showed how to get in Dineen’s lineup: bust your butt as if you’re trying to make the team and don’t take a shift off. Barch was looking for anyone in Caps’ red to hit after his penalty, which figuratively lit up the Panthers much like he literally lit up Urbom. Upshall getting under Oleksy’s skin and goading him into a penalty led to the tying goal and eventually one point, which is more than Florida usually comes away with in that house of horrors in DC known as the Verizon Center.
Pay attention, Panthers, because Barch and Upshall illustrated how Dineen’s blueprint, not GM Dale Tallon’s, scores you some playing time.