Off-season prognostications can be a tricky thing sometimes.
On paper, the Florida Panthers appeared to be taking another step forward after winning the Atlantic Division with additions like Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. Instead, they are struggling to find an identity from management and coaching to the players through the first 25 games of the 2016-17 season. With Gerard Gallant being relieved of his duties and “taxigate” becoming a thing, Florida is caught in neutral and fighting to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.
Meanwhile, the Bruins come in having taken points in each of their last four games and have a bit of good news on their hands. Captain Zdeno Chara, who missed the last six games with a lower body injury, is probable to return against the B’s Atlantic Division foes.
The Bruins won the first meeting of the season with the Panthers back in early November. A win or a shootout or overtime appearance would put the Black and Gold back in third place in the Atlantic Division standings. The B’s currently trail the third place Lightning by one point in the Atlantic with two games in hand entering tonight.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Tim Schaller-David Krejci-David Backes
Ryan Spooner-Riley Nash-Austin Czarnik
Anton Blidh-Dominic Moore-Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Joe Morrow
Panthers projected lines
Denis Malgin-Aleksander Barkov-Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen-Vincent Trocheck-Reilly Smith
Colton Sceviour-Nick Bjugstad-Paul Thompson
Kyle Rau-Derek McKenzie-Shawn Thornton
Keith Yandle-Jason Demers
Jakub Kindl-Aaron Ekblad
Mark Pysyk-Michael Matheson
– While Chara is likely in and Torey Krug will join the team after missing the morning skate due to illness, Noel Acciari is going to have to wait for his return. The Providence College alum missed the last 13 games with a lower-body injury but returned to practice on Friday before the team departed for Buffalo. Whenever he returns, Acciari should return to fourth line duty and possibly reunite with Anton Blidh. The two proved to be a solid tandem with the Providence Bruins a year ago.
– Unlike Chara, Krug and Acciari, Matt Beleskey’s status going forward is unknown. The former Anaheim Duck left after the first period of Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Sabres with an apparent knee injury and is being evaluated today by team doctors.
– With four games in six days and a set of back-to-backs coming up starting Wednesday in Washington, managing Tuukka Rask’s workload will be a priority for Julien. Not tonight, though, as Rask was the first goalie off this morning and will get the start against a Panthers team he pretty much owns. In 20 career starts against Florida, the 2014 Vezina Winner is 16-3-1 with a 1.48 goals against average, .951 save percentage and three shutouts.
– The Bruins will honor five local Olympic medalist winners from this summer’s games in Rio De Janeiro. Aly Raisman (Needham, women’s gymnastics), Kayla Harrison (Danvers, women’s judo), Tesso Gobbo (Chesterfield, NH, women’s rowing), Gevvie Stone (Newton, women’s rowing) and Paralympian Hugh Freund (South Freeport, ME, men’s keelboat) will partake in tonight’s pregame festivities and ceremonial puck drop.
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