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CLOUDY FORECAST IN SUNRISE, FLORIDA?

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With all the controversy surrounding power forward, Todd Bertuzzi, all the back problems haunting former #1 goalie, Eddie Belfour, and the pressure on mediocre starter, Alex Auld, can the Panthers, written off before the season has even begun, make the playoffs?

It seems they will be relying on their captain, Olli Jokinen, after leading the team in goals, assists, points, and power-play goals, to lead the team of youngsters, such as Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Anthony Stewart, as well as veterans Martin Gelinas, Jozef Stumpel and Joe Nieuwendyk, to do this impossible task.

The only other bright spot on this team is Jay Bouwmeester, with his skating ability. The young defenseman led his team's defense with 46 points in 82 games, tallying 5 goals and 41 assists. At 6-4, 218 pounds, he should be able to use his size as an advantage, even though he has yet to do so. This kid will be someone to keep your eye on this year; with his potential, he could be the real deal in the future.

Like many others, I have also already counted the Panthers out of the playoffs and have even betted against them a couple of times. I think the Luongo trade may come back to bite them in the behind, as the Canucks were clear winners settling their goaltending issues and clearing the air of the Bertuzzi baggage (somewhat). I guess only time will tell......

-Courtesy to SportingNews.com in helping with my first post.