There was plenty of leg room on the Panthers charter flight from San Antonio to Tampa Saturday afternoon as they left behind 26 players including 25 with their AHL affiliate to whittle the roster down to a manageable 33.

Perhaps the most surprising jettisoned Panther was promising defenseman Alexander Petrovic who was believed to be a frontrunner for one of the three vacant spots on the blue line. Petrovic 21 a second-round pick in 2010 played 55 games for the Rampage last season and notched four goals with 13 assists to go with 102 penalty minutes. He played six game for Florida.

In three preseason games Petrovic was a minus-1 with four penalty minutes but apparently a rash of turnovers prompted his early demotion.

"We want to do what's best for the player and more importantly what's best for the team'' Dineen said Friday before the Lightning game in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "His play didn't dictate that he was going to stay with the club on opening night.

"He'll continue his development and become an every-day pro. [We'd like him] to simplify his game and make sure his first pass is crisp. When you see a play you're not analyzing what your options are. When you see it you make it and move forward.''

With Ed Jovanovski's status uncertain as he attempts a comeback from hip surgery the only locks in the defensive corps belong to Erik Gudbranson Dmitry Kulikov Mike Weaver and Brian Campbell.