Panthers won't sneak up on B's this time around

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Panthers won't sneak up on B's this time around

WILMINGTON, Mass. It was truly one of the few down moments over the last two months for the Bruins, and its something theyll be looking to avenge Friday night in their final home game before a post-Christmas West Coast swing.

The Panthers frustrated the Bruins with their lane-clogging defensive system and goaltender Jose Theodore stepped in for a performance that had old-time Bs fans flashing back to his days with the Habs. While the Bruins also dropped a game in Winnipeg, that game was the second half of back-to-back games after an emotional victory in Pittsburgh, so that gave the team a built-in excuse for defeat.

Florida just plain outplayed the Bruins as they have many teams en route to their high seeding within the Eastern Conference, so the motivation should be there for the Bruins where it might have otherwise wouldnt.

It was one of those games where we felt like we played great and didnt get the result that we wanted, said Milan Lucic. Weve got to do a lot of the same things we did last time against them, but we need to find a way to beat their goaltender. Theyre obviously a team thats played great in the first 35 games of the season, and theyve found some new life with the additions that they made this summer with players and the coaching staff."

After all, anybody looking at the schedule prior to the season would have circled a home game against the Florida Panthers on the Friday before Christmas as the kind of game that wouldnt raise anybodys heart beat. But the Panthers are much improved and the Bruins will have a challenge getting motivated with a few days off after defeating their arch-rival Habs Monday night.

Its a game that we should be able to use as a measuring stick because they've proven to be one of the big teams in the East this year, said Lucic. Its a bigger game than its been in the past against the Panthers because theyve elevated their game and theyve beaten us once already this year.

So they should be a properly motivated Bs bunch whether Rich Peverley plays or sits it out with a nagging undisclosed ailment. The matchup could also see a Florida team thats regressing to the mean after a nice run. The Panthers have dropped a pair of games (to the Senators and Coyotes) as they wing their way into Boston, and have one of the weakest goal differentials among playoff teams with a plus-4.

Florida is average in every category aside from goals against average (8th in the NHL at 2.4 goals allowed per game) and that is partially due to the hard work and disciplined system of head coach Kevin Dineen and top assistant coach Craig Ramsay. In many ways this years Panthers are reminiscent of that first Bs team under Claude Julien, which was long on effort and discipline, while coming up a little short in the offensive firepower category.

The bottom line on all of this: the Panthers still sit only two points behind the Bruins in the standings, and it will be exactly the kind of challenge that Pittsburgh or Philadelphia provides without any of the usual fanfare.

Its tough to sell the game down there. When you have the choice between the beach or a hockey game its a tough sell, said Gregory Campbell, who was dealt from the Panthers to Boston prior to last season. But if they win which theyre doing now theyll always attract fans. I know that organization works really hard to put fans in the stands, and the easiest way to do that is to win.

Theyve made the right moves and to be honest there arent a lot of guys that are still there from when Nathan Horton and I played there. A lot of teams might not be taking them seriously, so theyve gotten a win here or there because of that. But they are for real and theyre a good team. Their system is good.

Not bad for a Florida hockey club that hasnt made the playoffs in the last 10 years.

It will most likely be a chess match like the last game was at TD Garden with the two teams locked in a scoreless tie until Florida finally scored a few minutes into the third period. That broke the deadlock and became the difference in a contest of defensive wills and conservative execution.

Theyre a young thats coached well and they work hard, so we have to be prepared to compete, said Campbell. Theyll be playing their third game in four days with some travel in Ottawa, so thats something weve got to take advantage of.

One harrowing thought for the Bruins: they would have to hope they dont see this Florida team in the playoffs given their style of play and ability to frustrated opponents with hustle and strict, fundamental defense.

The Panthers may not be able to score much, but theyve been playing hard hockey games nearly every time out.

The Bruins will get another firsthand look in a rare Friday night hockey game in Boston, but nothing should surprise them this time around.

Price asks Red Sox fans for support: 'We will get through this'

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Price asks Red Sox fans for support: 'We will get through this'

If you're upset with the way the Red Sox have played recently, well, David Price understands.

But things, he vows, will get better. And he adds that it's only when you've been in the deepest valley that you can appreciate the highest mountain.

Or something like that . . .

Rodriguez shipped back to PawSox as Sox seek rotation answers

Rodriguez shipped back to PawSox as Sox seek rotation answers

After Eduardo Rodriguez's horrific performance Monday night against the Rays -- 11 hits and 9 earned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings, leading to a 13-7 Red Sox loss to a team that entered the game riding an 11-game losing streak -- the Sox succumbed to the obvious and shipped him back to Pawtucket.  

And they got no argument from Sean McAdam.

"I think this is the right move," CSN's Red Sox Insider told Dalen Cuff on Monday night's SportsNet Central. "Because, clearly, the step forward that [Rodriguez] took, however small, last week was more than wiped out and (he) regressed this evening the way he pitched. And things have to be worked out, both in terms of execution and his approach . . . "

In six starts this season covering 29 1/3 innings -- less than five innings a start -- Rodriguez has been, in a word, awful. His 1-3 record is bad enough, but couple that with an 8.59 ERA, an opponents' batting average of .315, a WHIP of 1.74 and nine home runs allowed (a rate that projects out to about 45 homers allowed in a 150-inning season), and you can see why a change had to be made.

“The bottom line is, [Rodriguez] is capable of more," said manager John Farrell.

But now comes the next question: Who replaces him? And that, noted McAdam, has no easy answer.

"What it means for the rotation going forward is completely uncertain," McAdam told Cuff. "In fact, (Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski) told us that there was no corresponding move. Of course, because this turn doesn't come up in the rotation for another five days with the off-day Thursday, it's not anything they need to address (immediately). And in all likelihood, they'll probably get somebody to pitch out of the bullpen here until that turn comes up."

So the Sox get five days to ponder a problem that seems, in many ways unsolvable.

"[There] aren't a lot of good candidates internally," McAdam noted, "and it's unlikely there's going to be any sort of trade . . . in the next four days to fill that spot