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  • Bruins hit the road as Panthers – and South Florida – rebound

    Game Day Previews

    Bruins hit the road as Panthers – and South Florida – rebound

    Bob Snow January 7, 2017

    SUNRISE, Fla. – Against the backdrop of Friday’s tragic events at nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Black and Gold will play their first game of a back-to-back on the road – as part of their four-game trip – Saturday night at the BB&T Center.

    Just eight hours after Friday’s lockdown at FLL that included diverting the Bruins’ flight to Miami, a motivated Panthers roster minus its three best players in forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, along with goaltender Robero Luongo, played an inspired 60 minutes in their 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.

    “We’ve all been affected by it,” Claude Julien said after morning skate about Friday’s loss of life. “It’s unbelievable in this world, you’re not safe anywhere. It’s important that we all stand together in this type of thing. We were in the air when we heard the news. We’ve had the Boston Marathon. It’s nice to see the pro athletes with their support. It goes a long way and we’re all affected by it.”

    On the ice, throw a net over the Panthers, Bruins, Senators, Lightning, Leafs and Red Wings these next months for the two available playoff spots in the Atlantic Division, given the likelihood of both wildcards coming from the Metropolitan, and the Canadiens running the table atop the Atlantic. That means a plethora of 4-points affairs, not to mention the fact that all of the aforementioned currently have games in hand on Boston.

    One fact in the Bruins’ favor? A three-game sweep thus far in the season series against Florida.

    “One of those teams we’ve played well enough to find ways to win games,” Julien said about the Panthers’ contests thus far. “It’s always a big game – a four-point game. We’re barely ahead of them.”

    Another fact? Management appears to have made the move to a longer-term backup to Tuukka Rask after placing Anton Khudobin on waivers earlier this week and calling up Zane McIntyre. The 24-year-old was undefeated with AHL’s Providence Bruins with a 10-0-0 record and a 1.41 GAA and save percentage of .951, all good for being named AHL Goalie of the Month for December.

    The 2010 sixth-round draft pick played in three games with Boston this season, posting a 0-2-0 record with a 4.04 goals against average and .859 save percentage. His best game on November 8, a 3-2 last-minute loss at Montreal.

    Will McIntyre start Saturday night? Not likely with Rask leaving the practice ice first.  “We don’t announce our goaltenders for the most part,” Julien said.

    Count on Rask in net (18-3-1, 1.53 GAA, .949 SV% lifetime vs. Florida).

    Ditto for John-Michael Liles and David Backes returning, both coming off concussion protocol.

    “Been out a couple of weeks but feeling good,” Liles said after practice. “We’ll see when I get in I guess.”

    “He’s probably ready to go from what I’m told,” Julien said about his defenseman.

    Said Backes: “I’m feeling better today so it will be a game-time decision for the coaches. [Been cleared.] I’m very hopeful for tonight.”

    “It’s a decision we’ll make there shortly – about Backes,” Julien offered. “We don’t push anybody to come back from head injury unless it’s 100 percent.”

    After Thursday’s loss at home to Edmonton, Julien hopes that the lineup is 100 percent ready for what now become must wins on a nightly basis.

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