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Florida Panthers' Clemmensen looking forward to facing former team in playoffs

Sunrise--Florida Panthers' goalie Scott Clemmensen was mobbed by his teammates moments after the final buzzer sounded Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

The celebration of the Southeast Division title lasted several minutes, and amidst the flood of emotions the thought shot through his mind like a lightning bolt.

He would be playing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, the team that drafted him in the eighth round in 1997 and the one he suited up for during five of his first six seasons in the National Hockey League.

"It's extra special to play your (former) team," said Clemmensen, adding that he doesn't want to dwell on that but rather focus on being sharp for the playoffs.

Clemmensen and his Florida mates host the opening game of the first round of the post-season tournament action on Friday at 7 p.m. Game two is set for Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Ironically, New Jersey was the match-up 12 years ago when the Panthers made their last appearance in the playoffs. The Devils swept the 'Cats in four games.

Clemmensen, who stopped 34 of 35 shots in the Panthers' division-clinching 4-1 win over Carolina on Saturday, is 4-0 against New Jersey and that could make for an interesting goaltending decision by Head Coach Kevin Dineen in the coming days.

But Clemmensen was more thrilled to be starting in Florida's final regular season yet its biggest game of the season -- with the difference between the No. 3 and No. 8 seeding hanging in the balance along with a division crown.

"It was an honor to get the (starting) nod (against the Hurricanes)," Clemmensen said. "The crowd was unbelievable and we really fed off that scoring those two quick goals. It was a fun atmosphere."

Florida led 2-0 after the first period, and 3-0 through two periods en route to the 4-1 outcome.

So does Dineen go with the hot hand in Clemmensen or put Jose Theodore between the pipes?

Theodore ended the regular season with a .917 save percentage, while Clemmensen checked in at .913. Jose went 22-16-11, while Scott posted a 14-6-6 record.

"Regardless of whether it's (Theodore) or me, I'm going to be ready to play. I want to be on my best game, whether I'm starting or not starting. I want to help this tteam win."

After the two home games, the Panthers travel to New Jersey for games three and four on Tuesday and Thursday, April 17 and 19.


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