SUNRISE, Fla. — Greetings from the sunny southern end of Florida, where the Bruins continue their spring training for the fast-advancing playoffs Thursday night here against Panthers.
The Bruins, with Tim Thomas expected in net, hope to snap a season-worst three-game losing streak (equal to a similar skid at the end of October). They were knocked around Tuesday night, 6-1, by the Bolts, and awoke Thursday morning to find the Senators within a single point of tying them for the Northeast Division lead. The Bruins after the game here will have only one game in hand over the Senators.
Update: In a rare break from tradition, coach Claude Julien this morning said that Thomas will be the starter.
Patrice Bergeron missed Wednesday’s workout here, the consequence of being hit on the back of a leg with a puck late in the game in Tampa. If Bergeron can’t go, look for Trent Whitfield to slot between Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. During the off-day workout here, Jordan Caron moved up to Seguin’s right wing spot on the Milan Lucic-David Krejci line.
Update: Bergeron said he was nailed by a Johnny Boychuk slapper at Tampa. After skating in the morning’s optional workout, he remained hopeful that he will be able to suit up against the Panthers. Bergeron: ”I tried to get out of the way, but Johnny’s got a pretty hard shot.”
Critical for the Bruins: to get a lead, especially early in the contest. They have allowed the first goal in six straight games and 9 of the last 11. They’ve also been outscored, 25-15, in the opening two periods of the last 9 games (3-6-0).
”We have to be more efficient,” said coach Claude Julien. ”Not careful, but more aware…not give up so many outnumbered situations. We’ve had reckless pinches, our forwards not covering up….and those are errors that are costing us right now.”
”Our sharpness and sense of urgency have to go up a bit,” added power winger Milan Lucic.
The Bruins also desperately need to sharpen their moribund power play, all too reminiscent of last year’s playoffs. Entering the game vs. the Panthers, they have gone 1-for-25 on the man-advantage over the last 9 games.
Puck drop: 7:35 p.m. EST
Record: Bruins, 40-26-3; Panthers, 33-23-13.
TV/radio info: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Naoko Funayama), 98.5 The Sports Hub (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers).
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Caron
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Greg Zanon-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Healthy scratches: Trent Whitfield, Mike Mottau.
Injured: Adam McQuaid
Story lines: The Panthers, like the Bruins, have been nursing a bunch of injuries. Two regulars not expected to suit up for the Floridians: ex-Boston prospect Kris Versteeg and former Flyer Scottie Upshall, now with his fifth NHL team. Nashville selected Upshall as the No. 6 pick overall in the ’02 draft and he moved on to the Flyers in their ’07 swap for Peter Forsberg…Former Bruin Marco Sturm (37 games: 2-1–3) is with the Panthers, but only as a spare forward. This is his third NHL stop since wearing the Spoked-B….Ex-Devil John Madden, acquired as a mid-season pickup to help anchor a checking line, is expected to suit up for the Panthers….Former BC Eagle Scott Clemmensen (11-6-5 after beginning the season with a twisted knee) has been sharing net duties with ex-Canadien Jose Theodore…The Bruins will wait until Friday morning to jet back to Boston and might be given the day off, depending on the outcome here. They face the Flyers in a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday in Boston.