Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/23/14
While much of the blame for the Panthers current 15th-place status in the bunched-up Eastern Conference can be traced to their 30th-ranked power play that has been missing in action, the other half of their special teams has provided a feng shui-like balance. The Panthers' penalty-killing units may be ranked a misleading 28th, but until Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Sabres, that number was only exceeded by killing off 29 straight power plays over a franchise-high 10-game stretch (5-3-2). The franchise record is 36 straight kills in 2004, according to STATS. And other than goalie Tim Thomas, no one has stood taller on the PK than 5-foot-9 veteran defenseman Mike Weaver, whose long arms and stick make up for him usually being the shortest player on the ice. "It's about structure,'' said Weaver, 35, who notched a career-high plus-5 with a team-leading three blocks in Monday's stunning 5-1 rout of the mighty Penguins and another four blocks Tuesday. "Before the PK guys were unsure of what the other person was doing on a daily basis. We talked about it in practice, we work on it in practice. Obviously, the best PK individually on the ice is your goalie. "When it comes down to it you're shorthanded by one guy so every guy must realize he's responsible for [guarding] two guys and then after the goalie makes the initial stop, clear the rebound.'' While they did give up two power-play goals in seven opportunities to the 29th-ranked Sabres' power-play units, the same PK squad came through in the frantic finish in which they had to protect a one-goal lead while being shorthanded for much of the final five minutes. "He's just a battler and never gives up on a play,'' said Panthers forward Jesse Winchester, an integral part of the PK unit along with Shawn Matthias, Dmitry Kulikov, Drew Shore and Marcel Goc. "He sends a great message to the rest of the guys, not only on the PK, but on the team. Someone who's willing to sacrifice their body every night and doesn't get a lot of recognition for it.'' Weaver has built a successful 12-year career out of being one of the best Pkers in the NHL, and Panthers coach Peter Horachek was there at the beginning when he coached him on the IHL's Orlando Solar Bears in 2001.
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