The preliminary round of the IIHF World Championships wrapped up yesterday, and a handful of Panther players have advanced to the qualifying round, avoiding relegation.
Keith Ballard and Team USA were able to win group C, posting a 2-0-1 record. The Americans looked like they were on their way to a flawless first round before the Swedes mounted an impressive 3-goal comeback en route to an overtime win. Ballard has been relatively quiet, posting just 1 assist and 4 shots on goal in the first 3 games.
Meanwhile, aslo in group C, the Latvians finished 3rd. Karlis Skrastins, who captains Latvia, has been a solid presence on the blue line. Also with just a lone assist, he is a +2 while leading his team in ice time. He was also "player of the game" in the Latvian win over Austria. "Latvia did an unbelievable job tonight," said Brückler (Austrian head coach). "Their captain (Skrastins) blocked a shot that would have gone into the net, and that shows the heart they had." Skrastins blocking shots? Who woulda thought... Panthers prospect Janis Sprukts has also been kept in check, registering just 1 assist.
The only other Panther representative plays for the 2nd place finisher in group D, the Czech Republic. Rostislav Olesz has been given limited ice time, and... surprise... has just 1 assist.
Not much other offseason news has surfaced. Anderson and Vokoun are still Panthers, although it seems one or the other could be headed elsewhere this summer. Anderson is an unrestricted free agent sure to get a substantial raise. Vokoun already has an immense salary. It seems unlikely the Cats can hold onto both. Andy appears ready and willing, and maybe most importantly, wants to be a starting goaltender somewhere. The Philadelphia Flyers have already expressed interest. Stay tuned...