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Welcome to the Dwork On Sports blog.  This is a place where I’ll cover all things related to South Florida sports, with a steady combination of facts and opinions while ultimately keeping a close eye on anything and everything related to our local teams.

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After starting their current 5-game road trip with a pair of wins in Toronto and Montreal, the Florida Panthers have now dropped two straight games in very ugly fashion. They had drawn to within one point of the Boston Bruins, who hold the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but are currently three points back with the same amount of games played.  Florida must also keep an eye on the Philadelphia Flyers.  Despite losing their starting goalie to another injury, the Flyers have been playing some great hockey and have snuck up on the Panthers, now trailing them by just one point with one more game played.

Florida wraps up their road trip on Tuesday in Chicago before returning home for a 7-game homestand, which begins against those same Blackhawks.  Back-to-back games against the high-powered Blackhawks is a tough draw for the Cats, especially after losing two straight games by a combined score of 9-2.

In Panthers-related news, Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen has been suspended three games for his hit to the head of Florida’s Jussi Jokinen on Saturday. Jokinen briefly left the game but didn’t miss any extended time and seemed to be just fine during the Panthers loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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The Miami Marlins began Spring Training on Friday when pitchers and catchers reported to the team’s facility in Jupiter, with the full squad arriving on Tuesday.  Manager Mike Redmond was very pleased to report on Monday that the majority of the position players had already arrived, and there is clearly a growing excitement amongst the players that this season could be a special one.

The Marlins added several new players during the offseason and it’s very pleasing to hear that there is a collective feeling of genuine happiness and excitement by the players to be a part of Miami’s upswing. One of those players, third baseman Martin Prado, shared that excitement during his first public comments since being traded to the Marlins, telling the Miami Herald that he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”

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As it stands, the Marlins roster is very strong and is expected to be a contender in the National League.  It’s been well-publicized that Miami is still exploring options to add one more arm to their bullpen, and the name that keeps popping up is veteran closer Francisco ‘K-Rod’ Rodriguez. At this point it seems that the two sides are still a ways apart though, as Rodriguez is looking for a deal that will pay him around $10 million for one year while the Fish are thinking more along the lines of a two-year deal worth $10 million.  There is also the aspect that Miami already has a closer in Steve Cishek so should Rodriguez sign, he would likely be stepping into a set-up role.  Those obstacles make it hard to see a deal getting done, but things can change.  If Rodriguez values joining a winning team over being a closer, that would certainly make Miami more appealing.

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The Miami Heat will play their second game since acquiring Goran Dragic on Monday and it’s hard to think that they won’t look a heck of a lot better than they did in his first game.  Miami lost a stinker to New Orleans in Dragic’s Heat debut, a game in which the offense looked very unorganized while the new guard was on the floor (and not much better when he wasn’t).  Now, with a couple of practice sessions under their belt, I expect the offense to flow a bit more fluidly than on Saturday (which won’t take much).

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The football world’s focus is set squarely on Indianapolis right now as the NFL Combine has been going strong since last Tuesday.  The Miami Dolphins are keeping a close eye on things as they hold the 14th pick in April’s NFL Draft, though it’s anyone’s guess at this point who they may take due to the team having several positions in need of an upgrade.

A picture that has been making its rounds on social media over the weekend is one of Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.  While observing the players at the combine, Philbin was shown on NFL Network and must have closed his eyes for a moment because suddenly this screenshot was all over the place.

(Source: twitter.com/TheMattyI)

(Source: twitter.com/TheMattyI)

Naturally, many fans chose to ignore what the reality of the situation likely was and instead went the route of bitching and moaning that the man at the top of Miami’s coaching food chain decided to take a very public and ill-timed nap during the combine.  For a team and fan base so desperate for something positive, it’s funny to see how quickly people can jump on a negative bandwagon, especially one that so clearly falls under the “not what it seems” category.

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