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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 23 2010

Mark Cullen's NHL hopes get boost thanks to contract with Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers told Mark Cullen this week that he’ll have a chance to make the NHL team out of training camp. Those are words he said he hasn’t heard in awhile.

And that’s one reason why the Moorhead High graduate signed with the Panthers on Thursday. Another reason: Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was the GM with Chicago when Cullen played 29 games with the Blackhawks.

“He likes me and respects me as a player so that’s pretty exciting reuniting with him again,” Cullen said.

Cullen signed a one-year, two-way contract – meaning he could either be assigned to the NHL club or the minor league affiliate with different terms for each team. The Panthers’ depth at center is questionable, which could open a door for Cullen to get back to the NHL.

He led the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League in scoring last season with 21 goals and 32 assists in 62 games, which was close to his best year as a professional. He had 29 goals and 39 assists with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL in 2005-06.

Cullen has played in 32 NHL games with Chicago and Philadelphia and has career marks of seven goals and nine assists.

“He is a hard-working forward who has experience in both the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League levels,” Tallon said in a statement.

He will be the second Cullen to suit up for Florida. Older brother Matt Cullen played for the Panthers from 2002-04. Matt recently signed to play with the Minnesota Wild.

“I don’t think anybody is left there from the coaches to the management to the trainers,” Mark Cullen said. “That’s old news I guess.”

At 31 years old, he’s coming off his first AHL All-Star season. He missed 20 games at the end of the year because of a broken wrist.

“I’m getting up there in years, hopefully I’ll have five more but who knows,” he said. “I just wanted to have a chance to make a team out of camp. That’s all I’m looking for.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia