Trio strong out of the gate

By e.m.-brown

The Florida Panthers hoped their young players would make strides in
the NHL this season. It didn’t take long for some of the franchise’s
top prospects to blossom.

Former first-round picks Nathan Horton, Rostislav Olesz and Lukas
have all found a place in the Panthers lineup and have
equally contributed to the Florida’s early success.

With Panthers coach Jacques Martin keeping balanced lines, the trio
has seen a fair share of ice time, averaging about 14 minutes apiece.
And all three have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Horton shares the team lead in goals, Olesz has found his way onto
Florida’s penalty-killing unit and Krajicek has secured a place among
the Panthers’ top six defensemen.

Horton opened his season with an eventual game-winner in a 2-0 win
over Atlanta on Oct. 5. The third overall pick in 2003 made a smart
play along the boards to trap a clearing pass by goaltender Mike
Dunham, then fired it past the out-of-position netminder for his first
goal of the season. He added another goal in Florida’s 5-2 loss to
Boston on Oct. 13 and scored the team’s first goal in a 3-2 win over
Buffalo on Oct. 15.

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Olesz displayed his niche as a solid penalty killer during the
preseason and continues to show his talent when games count. Florida’s
top pick in 2004, Olesz ranks third among Panthers forwards in
shorthanded ice time, registering just under three and a half minutes
per game. The Czech celebrated his 20th birthday with his first goal,
an empty netter which capped the Panthers’ 3-1 win over New York on
Oct. 10.

Due to injuries to veteran defensemen Eric Cairns and Alexander
Karpovtsev, Krajicek snagged a spot the team’s opening night roster.
Paired with journeyman Joel Kwiatkowski, Krajicek logged just over 13
minutes of ice time and tallied an insurance goal in the
team’s win over Atlanta.

Krajicek remained in the Panthers’ lineup after Cairns returned.

AMERICANS’ BEAUTIES: Florida’s future stars have meshed well with the
Buffalo Sabres’ top prospects thus far with Rochester of the American
Hockey League.

The Americans, who are affiliated with both the Panthers and Sabres
this season, are off to a 2-0 start thanks to an 8-5 victory over the
Toronto Marlies and a 4-1 triumph over the Cleveland Barons.

Among Panthers prospects, Anthony Stewart is off to the best start,
notching four points in two games. In Rochester’s season opener
against Toronto, the former first-round draft pick registered a goal
and two assists.

Center Kamil Kreps posted a goal and two assists, while winger Gregory
has a goal, an assist and 15 penalty minutes in the two

CLOSE FOR COMFORT: With Florida being limited to sending just 10
players to Rochester, a handful of the team’s top prospects will spend
time with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

Among those sent to begin the season in Estero: forwards Drew Larman
and Stefan Meyer; defensemen Martin Tuma, Jeremy Swanson, Martin
Lojek, Grant McNeil
; and goaltender Phil Osaer.

By most accounts, these prospects have been further demoted, but the Panthers view the situation as far from the case. Being just 90 minutes away from the BankAtlantic Center, Panthers officials expect to keep a close eye on prospects as well as call up
players if a last-minute roster addition is needed.

ODDS & ENDS: On Monday, the Panthers announced they have loaned
forward Petr Taticek to the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s
American Hockey League affiliate. Prior to the move, Taticek had been
assigned to the Florida Everblades. … Kenndal McArdle continues to
post solid numbers with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League.
Florida’s top pick in 2005, McArdle has tallied three goals, four
assists and 15 penalty minutes in six games with the Warriors. The
winger’s +7 rating leads his team. … Defenseman James
scored in Providence College’s season-opening 2-1 victory
over St. Thomas University. … With veteran Gary Roberts on injured reserve, the Panthers recalled
winger Gregory Campbell from Rochester of the AHL on Monday.

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