The Bruins host the Florida Panthers tonight at TD Garden after a four-day layoff from game action.
The Panthers defeated the Bruins, 2-0, here in Boston in the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. Since then the Bruins have reeled off five straight victories and taken eight of their last 10. The Bruins have not lost the stride and scoring touch that carried them through a torrid November, outscoring opponents 22-7 in those five games.
Florida has dropped its last two games, including a 4-3 overtime loss in Ottawa last night, and tonight’s meeting with the Bruins marks the end of three games in the last four days for the Panthers.
Stephen Weiss, who is second in points for the Panthers, went down with an upper-body injury the first period last night and did not return. But despite the Panthers’ travel schedule and mounting injury concerns (they have lost five players over their last four games), coach Claude Julien and the Bruins are not expecting to have a win handed to them.
“I don’t expect an easier game because of that, I don’t think our players expect an easier game,” Julien said. “I think it’s more important for us to look at ourselves and know that we’re the fresher of the two teams and we’ve got to come out hard tonight and make sure that we take control of that game nice and early.”
Rich Peverley has been ruled out with an undisclosed ailment that has kept him out of practice the last few days.
“We’re going to keep him out tonight, and go with what we thought was the best plan here, give him a whole week to hopefully recover and be in better shape when he gets back,” Julien said.
Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the Bruins morning skate; expect to see him between the pipes tonight. Like the rest of the team, last season’s Vezina Trophy winner has been red-hot, posting a 13-1 record in his last 14 decisions.
Puck drop: 7:05 p.m. EST
Record: Bruins, 22-9-1; Panthers, 18-10-7.
TV/radio info: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Naoko Funayama), 98.5 The Sports Hub (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers)
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Zach Hamill-Chris Kelly
Daniel Paille-Greg Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Referees – Frederick L’Ecuyer (#17) and Chris Rooney (#5)
Linesmen – Brian Murphy (#93) and Tony Sericolo (#84)
Storylines: Milan Lucic returns from a one-game suspension for his hit on the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo last Saturday…Zach Hamill will play in his seventh NHL game this season (fifth in a row) with Peverley out of the lineup…Zdeno Chara is just four assists away from 300 for his NHL career…The Bruins are 2-4-0 against the Southeast Division this season, it is the only division against which they have a losing record…Chris Kelly (12 goals) is three goals shy of his career high of 15, which he has hit twice…the Bruins penalty kill has been on fire as of late, allowing only one goal in 37 attempts over their last nine games…the power play has improved slightly from last season (22 goals on 119 PP opportunites, good for 12th in the league) and they are the only team left in the league yet to allow a shorthanded goal