Apr 8, 2012, 10:07 PM EST
Following Florida’s 4-1 defeat of Carolina on Saturday — clinching the first-ever Southeast Division title in franchise history — Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen had some interesting things to say about his goaltending.
Most interesting? He doesn’t know who his Game 1 playoff starter will be.
After backup Scott Clemmensen stopped 34 of 35 shots against the ‘Canes, Dineen said it’s going to be tough to decide who will start Florida’s first-round playoff matchup against New Jersey — Clemmensen or Jose Theodore.
“Clem made a real statement with his game tonight, as well as in the last month,” Dineen told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Those two have made it a very tough decision to see who’s going to get the start in Game 1.”
At 34, Clemmensen played a huge role in the Panthers’ success this season, going 14-6-6, or earning points in 20 of 26 decisions, with a 2.57 GAA. When Theodore was in and out of the lineup with a knee injury from Jan. 5 to Feb. 11, Clemmensen stepped in and went 7-3-3.
“It’s always special when you play your ex-team and not in a negative fashion. I don’t care [who starts],” said Clemmensen, who is 3-0-1 with a .962 save percentage in his last four starts.
“It’s always special “Whether it’s Jose in there I’m rooting for him because I want everyone on this team to win, so regardless if it’s him or me I’m going to be ready to play and be on my best game.”you play your ex-team and not in a negative fashion.
The narrative of Clemmensen facing his former Devils mates has not been lost on the Panthers. Clemmensen had been the backup in New Jersey until 2008-09, when Martin Brodeur went down with an injury. That opened the door for a temporary starting gig and Clemmensen didn’t look back, posting a 25-13-1 record with a 2.39 goals-against-average, which was good enough to earn a $3.6 million, three-year free-agent deal with the Panthers.
“Most people might be surprised, but I’m not, to be quite honest with you,” said Panthers center John Madden, who played with Clemmensen in New Jersey. “I remember when Marty [Brodeur] went down [in 2008-09] and he came in for three-quarters of the season and he won 30-something games for us.
“He was unbelievable back then.”
Which begs the question: Can Clemmensen be unbelievable now?
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