SUNRISE, Fla. Theres a good feeling brewing in South Florida.
Kris Versteeg is living on a golf course and waking up to see palm trees outside his window every day. Brian Campbell likes his new surroundings, too, even though hell still call Chicago his summer home.
The Panthers are trying to turn their franchise around, and former Blackhawks Campbell, Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille are looking to help that cause.
Versteeg, who had an assist on Thursday night in the Blackhawks shootout victory, now has a team-leading 12 points. Campbell is just behind him with 11 points, all assists.
Said Campbell of the Panthers environment, were not walking on eggshells around here. Its, Go play hockey and work hard and have a lot of fun. Thats the best thing with Dale Tallon. You can say what you want to say, express your opinion and youre not walking around intimidated by anyone or scared to go out and do something. Its a great atmosphere.
Campbell said a good attitude has helped the Panthers thus far.
Its changed a lot, he said. We want to be a playoff team and we have the potential to do that. Theres a new attitude of whats expected of all of us. We have a lot of depth, lines that can go and work hard and we can roll them over. You need that in this league.
Versteeg said the Panthers have let a few points get away this season they are now 6-5-1 with 14 points but that the team is going in the right direction.
Weve given away a lot of points already, which is kind of scary. We couldve been at the top of our division but thats a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas, he said. Its about finding our game now, getting leads and not giving them away.
The Panthers have been sporting very young, inexperienced teams for a few seasons. And the former Blackhawks bring a confidence and Cup-proven swagger that could rub off on the newer players.
As for the bonds to that Cup-winning team, those never break.
Im always going to be a Blackhawk. Theyll always be in my heart, Versteeg said. You cant forget about what got you here and the route you took. But starting there and now, I look forward to being a Panther.