All Claude Julien wants for an early Christmas present is a full and healthy lineup.
Heading into tonight’s game with the Panthers in sunny South Florida, the Bruins were going to be without David Pastrnak (serving the second of his two-game suspension) and David Backes (recovering from an elbow procedure). That list might grow by one as Patrice Bergeron was given a maintenance day by Julien after a post-practice injury and is a game-time decision. Sean Kuraly was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis and skated on the third line with Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes at the morning skate.
Like the Bruins, the Panthers are also shorthanded with Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Jussi Jokinen on injured reserve. Both teams are coming off victories over the Red Wings in their last matchup. In their absence(s), Jonathan Marchessault stepped up offensively tallying a league-tying six goals and earning third star of the month honors for October.
For the second time this season, Tuukka Rask will be starting his second game in a row for the Black and Gold. Rask is fresh off a 24-save shutout in Detroit to improve to 4-0-0 on the young season. Roberto Luongo, who is 3-1-0 on home ice this season, gets the nod between the pipes for the Panthers.
The Bruins won three of four from the Panthers last season. Two of those wins came at the BB&T Center.
Tonight marks the first of five meetings between the Atlantic Division foes.
Gametime: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 4-4-0 (8 points), Panthers 4-4-1 (9 points)
Location: BB&T Center
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-David Krejci-Danton Heinen
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Austin Czarnik
Sean Kuraly-Riley Nash-Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller-Dominic Moore-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles-Colin Miller
Panthers projected lines
Jonathan Marchessault-Aleksander Barkov-Jaromir Jagr
Colton Sceviour-Vincent Trocheck-Reilly Smith
Jared McCann-Dennis Malgin-Kyle Rau
Derek McKenzie-Greg McKegg-Shane Harper
Keith Yandle-Jason Demers
Michael Matheson-Aaron Ekblad
Mark Pysyk-Alex Petrovic
– With another key injury, the Bruins will look again to Rask tonight to help calm things down. His calming presence spread throughout the lineup in Detroit as the team generated chances offensively and, though looking shaky at times, looked pretty solid defensively allowing just 24 shots on goal. A similar performance even if it is low scoring would be welcoming especially if Bergeron doesn’t suit up tonight.
– Regardless of whether Bergeron suits up tonight, Julien is really going to need more out of his third line. More often than not, the third line has been on the wrong end of every statistical puck posession category. The two mainstays — Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey — are a combined minus-14 with a grand total of zero points. If Bergeron is indeed out, Beleskey will likely move up to the second line. Regardless, the Bruins need to see more from line No. 3 tonight, otherwise we may see one of those players watching from the press box when Pastrnak returns from suspension and whenever Backes returns from his procedure.
– One of the noteworthy stories of the off-season was the Panthers upgrading their D. During the summer, GM Dale Tallon and company added Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to an already talented core that includes 2015 Calder winner Aaron Ekbland and former Boston College blue-liner Michael Mattheson. The Bruins offense, which has scored just five goals in their last four games, will have their hands full going up against the Panthers’ top-four blue-liners tonight.