Bruins-Panthers preview: It's a trap

Bruins-Panthers preview: It's a trap
February 24, 2013, 2:45 pm
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SUNRISE, FL – The Florida Panthers are a struggling bunch that is allowing 3.6 goals per game, lost four games in a row at home on the BB&T Center ice, and has gone 0-for-13 on the power play during those four losses.

The Panthers are third from the bottom in the Eastern Conference ahead of only the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, and they’re a far cry from the surprising Florida group that won the Southeast Division last season. So now the Bruins enter sunny southern Florida to face the Panthers after possibly the B's best win of the season on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they are ripe for a Sunshine State letdown.

Bruins players don’t want to allow that to happen with a chance to really make a statement on the three-game road swing through Florida and New York that winds up with the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

“We haven’t really been giving up much [lately]. We’ve been doing the simple things and we haven’t been turning many pucks over, getting pucks deep and getting timely goals,” said Johnny Boychuk. “[The Panthers] might not be playing well, but they’ve got a great team. You’ve got to respect their players as a group because they’ve got some good goal-scorers. They played us hard [last year] and weren’t too light on their sticks last season when we played them.”

Most of the damage done by the Panthers last season came with departed defenseman Joe Corvo on the ice as he was a minus-5 in four games against Florida, so perhaps a little addition by subtraction will help them against the Panthers as well.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Kelly still has zero goals after 14 games and is a minus-3 while also snapping off only 18 shots over that time period. So the third-line center is barely getting off more than one shot per game, and hasn’t really been in the mix offensively at all for the Black and Gold this season. For a guy that finished last year with 20 goals and a plus-33 last season, Kelly is having a very difficult time picking up where he left off. Some of it is because his line as a whole hasn’t gelled, but Kelly needs to be better individually as well.  

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’ve had a couple of lengthy breaks, so starting to play some games is going to allow us to get into a little groove and start getting into a playoff mentality.” –Johnny Boychuk on the Bruins entering a stretch where they’ll play 34 games in 63 days.

KEY MATCHUP: The Florida Panthers are last in goals against allowed while letting opponents rack up 3.6 goals per game against them, and they’ve been getting poor goaltending from Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. While Jacob Markstrom jumped in and did a good job in Florida’s last game against the Penguins it could be the kind of game where Boston’s top six forwards and middling power play get to rack up some offensive numbers. It should be a good night for the David Krejci line and Patrice Bergeron line as they attack a goalie-challenged Florida bunch that’s also missing a few key players. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin combined for six goals in four games against Florida last year.

STAT TO WATCH: 0-for-13. The Panthers’ struggling power play is 0-for-13 in four straight losses on home ice at the BB&T Center as they prepare to face the NHL’s best penalty kill unit.

INJURIES: Panthers forward Kris Versteeg (chest) is skating but will be out Sunday against the Bruins as will defensman Ed Jovanovski (knee), who is out at least another week. Forward Scottie Upshall (ankle) is expected to be out at least for close to the remainder of the month.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: With a heavy dose of games coming up it could have been expected that Anton Khudobin would get the Sunday afternoon call against the Florida Panthers. But instead Tuukka Rask gets the call to build on an 8-1-2 record along with his 2.05 goals against average and .919 save percentage.

Jacob Markstrom lost his debut appearance this season, but played well while making 37 saves in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Given the struggles of both Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore, Markstrom should be getting the call once again for the Florida Panthers.