Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen can feel the Capitals’ pain simply because he was living it a little more than a week ago.
In fact, the Panthers’ season started even worse than the Caps’ as they lost five of their first six games before going 3-0-1.
“We’re only eight days away from that muck,” said Dineen, whose 4-5-1 Panthers will face the 2-8-1 Caps tonight at Verizon Center. “That’s what it is. I can certainly understand how the heartbeat of a season has highs and lows and they’re not on the upside.”
The Caps enter their game against Florida having lost three in a row and five of their last six. The Panthers are on the final leg of a four-game, eight-day road trip that took them to Buffalo, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Washington.
As you might imagine, Dineen said he thinks the Caps will eventually turn things around, but not until they complete their two-game series that continues Tuesday night in Sunrse, Fla.
“I think Adam is a really sharp hockey mind and they have some real quality players,” Dineen said, “and we’re very respectful of the fact they are a dangerous team.”
Although they were players with different styles – Dineen a gritty, scoring winger and Oates a crafty, set-up center – their careers spanned the same two decades. Dineen, 49, played from 1984 through 2003, while Oates, 50, played from 1985 through 2004. Combined, they played in 2,525 NHL games.
“Very skilled,” Dineen said of Oates. “I used to be a stick collector and you’d see different players with different sticks. He had a straight blade with just a slight turn on the end.
“Now, everybody’s got a lot of warp to the stick. His tools were made for what he did and his ability to make plays. Whether it was on his backhand or on his forehand it was a pretty big deal to be a left winger or right winger on his line. I say the same about [former Hartford Whalers linemate] Ronny Francis, a lot of tap-ins.”