Florida: 18-10-7 (43PTS)
Boston: 22-9-1 (45PTS)
Season Series: 1-0-0
Game Time: 7:00 PM EST
Television: Fox Sports Florida, NESN
Radio: 560 WQAM
The Panthers' two game road trip this week is turning into a serious test of their mettle. The trip features back-to-back games against two teams that will be in the Panthers' new conference next season, and the Panthers are playing with seven forwards out. Stephen Weiss suffered a mild injury last night, missing most of the game. He's been given today off to rest, so the Panthers will call up a fifth player from the AHL. The Bruins are sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, between the Flyers and Panthers. They're 8-2-0 in their last ten games. The two losses are both to Southeast Division teams: a 2-1 loss to the Jets and a 2-0 loss to the Panthers. That loss to the Panthers was their only home loss in in regulation since Oct 27 and they're not happy about it. They've been sitting home since Tuesday and will be ready for the banged up Cats. The best the Panthers can hope for tonight is to not be embarrassed like the Flyers were last weekend when the Bruins whipped them 6-0 at home.
On the other hand, this is a great test for the guys to prove they have what it takes to make it with the Panthers. This could be Michal Repik's and Evgeni Dadonov's last chance with the organization, as, Repik's power play goal last night aside, they have been unimpressive this season. Tim Kennedy is still trying to stick with an NHL team since being let go by the Sabres. And Bill Thomas, recently signed to a two-way deal after starting the season on an AHL contract, would like to stick in the NHL as long as possible. Given all of the injuries, Dale Tallon has to be thinking trades, and some of these guys could be playing their way on to the team or into a trade. Kennedy, in particular, has the potential to make Mike Santorelli expendable with a good run of games. Thomas could play his way on to the fourth line, at least until all of the forwards are back. And the ever enigmatic Dadonov and Repik could seal their fates as Panthers players, trade bait or perennial AHL players. The scouts will probably be watching this game, since teams know Tallon may have to make some moves, so this one may be worth watching even though the Bruins will be heavily favored to win.
Keys to the game
- Get the jump early. If the Panthers can get an early goal rather than playing the game from behind, they'll have an easier time over the remaining periods. They played a tough game in Ottawa yesterday and are likely to be tired late. They're not going to have the energy to play catch up in the third period.
- The goalies. Tim Thomas is one of, if not the best in the business right now but Jose Theodore has been largely consistent this season and has shown a lot of his early career form.
- Stay out of the box. The Panthers haven't had a lot of penalty trouble this season, but have played undisciplined for several games. Thursday's game in Ottawa looks like the start of a trend back to disciplined play.
News and Notes
The Cats shut out the B's 2-0 on December 8. That game was Tim Thomas' sole loss since the start of November.
The beat-up Panthers came back from a one goal deficit three times to force overtime against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. The Sens won in overtime when Brian Campbell accidentally deflected a Senators pass past Scott Clemmensen.
The Panthers lost yet another forward to injury as Stephen Weiss was injured early in Thursday's game against the Senators. He will miss today's game, but is expected back for Tuesday's home game against the Maple Leafs. Mikael Samuelsson is also expected to return in that game. Mark Cullen may be recalled from San Antonio replace Weiss. Erik Gudbranson sat and Keaton Ellerby played last night. Based on Kevin Dineen's previous patterns, it is expected that Ellerby will play again today and Gudbranson will likely come back in for next week's home stand.
Other injury updates: Marco Sturm should be back in about another week. Scottie Upshall is skating again and will likely be back in a couple of weeks. Marcel Goc is expected to start skating again next week.
- F Scottie Upshall (hip), 11/10, 6 to 8 weeks
- F Marcel Goc (concussion), 11/16, unknown
- F Jack Skille (shoulder), 12/16, at least a week
- F Sean Bergenheim (groin), 12/18, unknown
- F Marco Sturm (upper body), 12/20, day to day
- F Mikael Samuelsson (tailbone), 12/20, one week
- F Stephen Weiss (chest), 12/22, one game
- D Keaton Ellerby OR
- D Erik Gudbranson
Jose Theodore will start for the Panthers. Theodore is 15-12-2-1 with a 2.29 GAA, .927 save percentage and three shutouts, including one two weeks ago.