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Holzinger looks for rebound

In Steve Ludzik's mind, there are two ways to motivate a player.

"You can talk to them or you can sit them out," he said. "You hope you've got guys that will respond properly to either."

That's what he expects from Brian Holzinger, who returned to the lineup against Philadelphia on Thursday at the Ice Palace, one game after being benched for the first time this season.

"I should hope it would motivate me," said Holzinger, who had one goal and one assist in his previous seven games. "Let's face it, nobody likes to sit out. When you are put back in the lineup you want to make sure you stay there."

Holzinger was the second veteran Ludzik benched this month.

Left wing Todd Warriner sat out against Los Angeles on Dec. 16 and was taken off the first line for three games. Ludzik put him back on the No. 1 line against Carolina on Tuesday. He was minus-1 in 26 shifts.

NO SURPRISE: When general manager Rick Dudley talked with Panthers vice president and general manager Bryan Murray on Wednesday in Sunrise, he got an indication all wasn't right.

Murray and his brother, Florida coach Terry Murray, were fired Thursday morning after a 6-18-7-5 start.

"It's just unfortunate," Dudley said. "These are the same two that had a very good record a year ago and for whatever reason it wasn't working."

The Panthers finished second in the Southeast and lost to New Jersey in the Eastern quarterfinals last season.

"I think Bryan followed his heart and cost himself by doing what he felt was the right thing in sticking by his brother," Dudley said. "He may have been able to make a move earlier and sacrifice his brother and protect himself. It's kind of an honorable way."

LEMIEUX'S IMPACT: Philadelphia coach Bill Barber knows Mario Lemieux's return to the Penguins after a 3{-year retirement could make things interesting in the Atlantic.

The Flyers were two points ahead of the Penguins in second place before Thursday's games.

"You always have your concerns," he said. "You look at our division and it's tough. It's going to be a tough year on all the teams now. It's going to go right down to the wire probably as to who gets in (the playoffs) and who doesn't. We're well aware of that."

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Petr Svoboda (concussion) is scheduled to have another MRI on Wednesday. Right wing Stan Drulia (back strain) was sent to St. Louis on Thursday for treatment with medical director Richard Lehman. Defensemen Sergey Gusev and Kaspars Astashenko were healthy scratches for the Lightning.

_ KEVIN KELLY

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