Tonight at 7:08, the Boston Bruins will play the Florida Panthers at TD Garden in Boston. This is a division game and the first meeting this season between the two teams. Though the Cats are in last place, they have only played 9 games so far this season and are 4-2-3 for 11 points. The Bruins are 7-6 in 13 games and have 14 points. All division games are potentially 4 point games, which means if you win you get 2 points and the losing team can not make up the difference, so it's a 4 point swing. If you go to overtime, it becomes a one point game, so all is not lost. This makes winning out right very important within your division.
The Panthers (Cats), are much improved over recent teams in past years. They have an new Coach in Gerard Gallant and a new net minder in old foe Roberto Luongo, giving them a chance to stay in games. They have a seasoned and good sized defense head lined by Brian Campbell (no relation to Greg), a new rookie in Aaron Ekblad and some fast shifty forwards in Jussi Jokinen, Brad Boyes, Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau. They also signed Shawn Thornton in the off season as a free agent to add leadership and toughness to the roster. I think a very nice tribute will be prepared by the Garden crew to review Shawn's time spent in Boston as he was a fan favorite and many found it hard to see him move on.
The danger of the Cats is they are a hard team to take seriously based on past records. The Bruins would be well advised to bring their A game and best efforts tonight. Having said that, we know the Bruins have a weakened defense because of injuries and probably will be without David Krejci tonight as he missed practice again yesterday for undisclosed reasons. We must assume that he has an injury rather than illness at this point as he hasn't really skated since last Thursday's game against the Sabres. No word on recoveries on other injured players, but Kevan Miller did skate in practice for the first time yesterday, but was a no contact participant. I expect the Bruins will, in Krejci's absence, skate the same roster as Saturday when they played the Senators. The exception could be that Matt Bartkowski may return to the lineup. I think the three rookies of Joe Morrow, David Warsofski and Zach Trotman gave a very good accounting of themselves and should have earned another game wearing the spiked B.
Keys to the Game: Special teams will be key and the Bruins need to take as much advantage of power plays as they can with their injuries. This is a game where the third and fourth lines can contribute goals and they should see more ice time. The coach needs to play all the defensemen tonight against a lesser talented team to keep Hamilton and Seidenberg fresh for big minutes in more important games. This may be an ideal game to play Svedberg as the Bruins tend to bear down a little harder defensively when he's in net and this game may require the Bruins to have something extra to focus on for good effort.
Concerns: The Cats are fast and can bang boards with the best of them. Thornton if he plays, ( he's been scratched in two games), might be able to get under the skin of a few of his former teammates and nobody will want to fight him. Loungo can steal victories and he's been very good to start the season. The Cats can score goals if you under estimate them and let them get into their speed game and take stupid penalties.
Sidebar: Wouldn't it be interesting if Marchand got on a streak and Fraser could add some more pop to the third line again. Warsofski could be a difference maker on the power play tonight.
Until Next Time!