After having the last two days off since their 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, the Boston Bruins head 200-plus miles south to face the Florida Panthers and start their busiest slate of the season. This will mark a stretch of four games in each of the next four weeks for the Black and Gold.
Boston comes in with an 10-2-2 record, good for second in the Northeast Division. The Bruins trail the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens by four points with four games in hand.
Florida, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Penguins. Despite their 5-8-4 record, the Panthers are only five points behind the Lightning for first place in the awfully weak Southeast Division.
For the second straight game, it looks like the Bruins will have a healthy lineup. Milan Lucic returned to the ice in Thursday’s win after missing the Winnipeg game due to personal reasons, while several players, including Nathan Horton – who had two goals in Tampa – suited up after battling the flu earlier in the week.
The Panthers are already without the likes of veterans Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall – both on injured reserve – and Kris Versteeg is questionable due to a chest injury.
After the jump, lineups, storylines, linkage and tweets of interest
Gametime: 3 p.m.
Location: BB&T Center
T.V./Radio: NESN, NHL Network/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins (10-2-2, 22 points), Panthers (5-8-4, 14 points)
Bruins’ projected lineup
Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Chris Bourque-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Dougie Hamilton
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Panthers’ projected lineup
Tomas Kopecky-Steven Weiss-Tomas Fleischmann
Jonathan Huberdeau-Drew Shore-Peter Mueller
Mike Santorelli-Jerred Smithson-Alex Kovalev
Jack Skillie-Marcel Goc-Shawn Matthias
Brian Campbell-Mike Weaver
Dmitry Kulikov-Erik Gudbranson
Tyson Strachan-Filip Kuba
Bruins to watch
Much has been discussed about Brad Marchand and his ridiculous shooting percentage of 45% and with good reason. The Bruin of many monikers is one goal away from 10 on the season and is on pace to break his career high of 28 set last season. His fellow linemates, Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron, have helped the cause tallying a goal against the Jets and Lightning respectively. With this line starting to gel, opposing defenses will have a tough time trying to key on the top two lines.
After recording a pair against Tampa, Nathan Horton will look to keep the ball rolling against his former team. It’s no secret that he brings a certain dynamic to the top line that both David Krejci and Milan Lucic benefit from. Assuming he stays healthy, and the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line continues to do its thing, the Bruins should get more contributions offensively and still be able to roll all four lines.
Panthers to watch
Although it’s still early, Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau is making a solid case for being this year’s recipient of the Calder Trophy. Huberdeau leads his team with 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists), good for second place among rookies. With Florida getting very little production offensively (41 goals in 17 games), the former third overall pick has been one of the lone bright spots in South Florida.
Jose Theodore is expected to get the start again this afternoon. Many Bruins fans remember him from his days in Montreal, but the ex-Habs goaltender has been a B’s killer throughout his career. Even with a sluggish start to the season, expect Theodore to bring his A-game once again against the Black and Gold.
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The Bruins could be facing the Panthers more often as part of the proposed NHL realignment plan. (Joe Haggerty, CSNNE)
Stanley Cup of Chowder’s Joe Meloni talks about the Bruins’ busiest slate of the season in his latest installment of Clamor on Causeway.
Litter Box Cats has their open forum up for Sunday’s game.
The Sun-Sentinel Panthers blog discusses potential names on the team’s trading block, including Theodore and Stephen Weiss.
Tweets of interest
Apparently, Seguin thought it was necessary to enjoy the warm weather, snap a pic of Marchand catching a fish, and rub it in to New Englander’s (@tylerseguin92)
I hear there’s a blizzard in boston … twitter.com/tylerseguin92/…
— Tyler Seguin (@tylerseguin92) February 23, 2013
And Justin Aucoin (@JustinDOY) of Days of Y’Orr reveals the site’s banner for today’s game.
I like how today’s Preview Banner came out today. twitter.com/JustinDOY/stat…
— Justin Aucoin (@JustinDOY) February 24, 2013