Panthers coach Kevin Dineen waited nearly nine months before slowly erasing the New Jersey Devils lineup from the dry-erase board in his office at the BB&T Center Friday morning.

With it, Dineen erased some of the pain of holding a 3-2 lead in games before losing in overtime and then double-overtime in Games 6 and 7 of the Panthers' first playoff appearance in an NHL-record 10 seasons.

But for a player with 1,247 NHL games on his resume, and now a second-year coach who has never gotten past the conference finals, some of the sting still remains.

"There's a few times I came in here this summer, stared at it and thought about Game 7 quite a bit, thought about Game 6, looked at the different matchups, came to my reasoning on how things played out and why they did. There's a lot of shoulda-couldas,'' Dineen said after practice.

"For me, you suck on it for a little while and move on. It was a step in the right direction, but we're still a long way from where we want to be. You want to keep moving forward from there, you erase the slate and start over again.

"That's part of our identity now. You've got a certain level of respect, but it's something you've got to earn every day.''

The question remains, after a 119-day bitter lockout can the Panthers recapture the momentum of last year's last-to-first run in which their long-suffering fan base came to life and even brought back the plastic rat-throwing glory days of the 1996 Stanley Cup-finalist team?

"We hurt the game and we hurt the fans so that's understandable,'' backup goalie Scott Clemmensen said. "We have to earn that back. … We understand the economics of the situation and some of the damage that's been done.

"We don't make any excuse for it. Having said that, coming off the season we did have, I thought we created some new excitement that hasn't been felt around here. It was something we wanted to ride into this season and so to put that off was disappointing, but at the same time, there's no reason we can't start it up right now.''