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With a rebuild in full swing, it was difficult to tell how the new hodgepodge team would work together, but five games into the Panthers' season, the team is 3-2-0, largely thanks to the heroics of Jose Theodore. Theodore is standing tall with a .920 save percentage, 2.47 goals against average, and one shutout in four games played.
It hasn't been an easy road for Theodore. During two seasons in Washington, beginning in 2008, he was pushed aside in the playoffs in favor of Semyon Varlamov. Theodore called the situation "a stinger," as he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He was officially relegated to backup status in 2010-2011 with the Wild, playing 32 games with a record of 15-11-3.
Theodore is turning over a new leaf in Florida, signing a two-year deal with the Panthers over the summer. "You look at where the team's going, especially I'm not 20 anymore, I want some changes now," Theodore told the Miami Herald in July. "I think this was the best fit."
He's been designated as the starter after goaltender Scott Clemmensen underwent minor knee surgery near the end of training camp. He's ready to rise up to that starting role. "Last year was a little step back, but I've got to show my teammates that I still play well at 35," Theodore told the Sun-Sentinel.
He made that impact early, flying out of the gate to begin the season and making 27 saves on the New York Islanders for a 2-0 shutout in the Panthers' season opener. It was the 31st shutout of Theodore's career. "(Theodore is) a competitor,'' C Stephen Weiss told the Sun-Sentinel after the game. "We knew he was going to be there for us."
Even though he's the starting goaltender now, Theodore isn't resting on his laurels - he knows that once Clemmensen returns, the fight for the starting goaltender position continues. After a lackluster training camp and preseason, during which he allowed 12 goals in two exhibition games, Theodore is working hard to show that he should remain the go-to guy in net.
"Let's not forget, Jose Theodore is a good player," Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen told reporters after last week's shootout win over Tampa Bay. "He's proven that over the length of a career. We felt that he was a No. 1 goalie, but for me he really had to earn it. He had a pretty stinky training camp, but since then he’s been pretty solid."
Thus far in the regular season, the team has been working well together, particularly with Theodore providing the support in net. In Theodore's eyes, the future looks bright for the Panthers. "I think we're working well together right now," Theodore told reporters Saturday. "We've been working hard in practices and we're starting to figure out what we got to do to win some games."
NotesAfter a stellar preseason, Jets C Mark Scheifele scored his first NHL regular season goal Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Winnipeg Jets have four more games to decide whether or not to keep Scheifele in Winnipeg or return him to his junior team. ... Jets C Alexander Burmistrov, in his second year in the NHL, has shown a vast improvement from his rookie year. The 19-year-old is turning the heads of his linemates, including C Nik Antropov. "Definitely he's improved from last year," Antropov told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I can see that in reading the game and the patience he has shown on the ice, especially in the last couple of games." ... Florida Panthers G Jacob Markstrom made his first NHL start in a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. Despite the score, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen blamed the defense for the loss. "(Markstrom) had a good solid game for us and gave us a chance to win,'' Dineen told reporters. "He can play in this league and it showed early on when he had that pressure on him. I'm proud of him under tough circumstances." Markstrom made 29 saves. ... The Washington Capitals are 5-0, their strongest start in franchise history. However, coach Bruce Boudreau knows that's no reason to get too excited. "When it comes to April and May I'm not going to be able to sit here and say: 'Hey, we were 5-0 and we got that record. Isn't that great?'" Boudreau told reporters. "It's not really going to hold a lot of weight. It's just the process of getting to where we want to get." ... The Carolina Hurricanes sent D Justin Faulk to AHL Charlotte on Wednesday. Faulk saw action in three regular season games after an impressive preseason. ... Six games into the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 1-3-2 record. General manager Steve Yzerman says the team has to be better. But he's not panicking quite yet. "The urgency in the guys' play is there," Yzerman said to media. "I like the effort of our team in every game. All teams go through stretches in a season where they struggle. Ours is just right off the bat."