SUNRISE, Fla. -- After scoring his first goal since being signed by the Panthers in January, for which his teammates awarded him the club's ceremonial heavyweight title belt after Thursday's 6-2 victory over Boston, John Madden was in a joking mood Friday.
"They felt bad for me actually," said Madden after practice at the BankAtlantic Center. "It's been a long time since I scored a goal."
It took Madden 20 games with Florida to score. His previous goal had been March 17 last season when he played for the Minnesota Wild, who did not re-sign him.
Until the Panthers signed him as a free agent on Jan. 4, the 38-year-old had been working out on his own.
His coaches and teammates appreciate Madden's hard work in practice as well as his experience.
"I was happy to see Madden get one there," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "He's put a lot of effort into getting back into playing condition.
"To see a guy like that come in and practice hard the way he's been practicing, a guy who's done what he's done in this league, it's great to see," fellow center Stephen Weiss said.
A skilled faceoff man and having won three Stanley Cups -- two with New Jersey and one with Chicago, where he was acquired by general manager Dale Tallon, who is now the Panthers' GM -- Madden said not having scored was not a concern.
"Hockey's more of a game about the intangibles," he said.
"I'm not just saying that because I hadn't scored in 20 games but I've played with a lot of players who don't always show up on the score sheet, but I tell you what, they play a huge role on the hockey team."
Looking ahead as the Panthers try to make the playoffs, Madden is more focused on achieving goals rather than scoring goals.
"I just want to continue playing some good hockey and help my team win hockey games," he said.
"The ultimate goal is winning and helping out. Obviously you feel more of a sense of helping when you contribute offensively, so it's definitely a good feeling."
Dineen said right wing Kris Versteeg, who's been out nine games with a hip injury, and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who had knee surgery in January, might play Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres at the BankAtlantic Center.
"They're still day to day," Dineen said. "We have to a get a report on how they responded to (Friday's) practice and see where they're at physically and go from there. But they're possible for (Buffalo)."
Dineen said that the acquisition of left wing Wojtek Wolski from the New York Rangers has helped shore up Florida's offense with Versteeg, who had been the team's leading scorer, out of the lineup.
"Dale made a wise decision there," Dineen said.
"He felt that we needed some offensive output and I think it was very timely with Steeger's injury. (Wolski) had found himself as a healthy scratch for a large portion of the year in New York and now he's playing to the right of Weiss, so that's a pretty good change in fortune."
Winning streak struggles
The Panthers come into Saturday's game having won three consecutive games at home. A victory against Buffalo would give them their first four-game winning streak since the 2007-08 season.
Florida has won three in a row four times this season, but the streaks were ended by an overtime loss to Tampa Bay in November, an overtime loss to Buffalo in December and losses to Ottawa in February and Winnipeg earlier this month.