The Panthers, improved under rookie coach Peter DeBoer, may face a tough decision on Jay Bouwmeester (right) who leads the NHL in average ice time. A world-class skater and a shut-down defenseman, Bouwmeester can become a free agent next off-season. If Florida can't sign him long term, it may trade him. . . . Bruins third-year winger Phil Kessel (six goals in eight games) is skating with explosive speed and is shooting so well that he's scoring from 15 to 20¬†feet. After potting just 19 goals last season, Kessel, the No.¬†5 pick in the 2006 draft, was scratched three times during Boston's seven-game playoff series with Montreal. Afterward Bruins coach Claude Julien told a miffed Kessel that he was trying to push him to another level. It seems to be working.
JOEL AUERBACH/US PRESSWIRE (BOUWMEESTER)