LBC Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
With the over-saturated storyline of Tim Thomas' return to the ice of TD Garden broadcasting through every major media outlet, Thomas and the Florida Panthers will attempt to tune out the noise and steal two points from the Boston Bruins tonight.
The Cats confidence should be high after a 5-4 comeback shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night. Florida managed to survive several deficits to tie the game up late in the third and bank two points in the standings thanks to Thomas and Nick Bjugstad, whose three saves and shootout goal respectively powered the Cats to the victory. The Panthers didn't play a complete 60 minutes again, but this time they dug deep and found a way to win, as we've seen them do several times before this season.
Can you imagine if this team played hard for 60 minutes every game, never taking any shifts off? The sky is truly the limit as the young talent continues to mature and the cycle of veterans either return or are replaced with younger versions of themselves. Regardless of how bright that future may be, the Panthers are currently the fourth-worst team in the NHL and have to maintain a 60-minute effort throughout every game the rest of this season if they even have a shot at sniffing a playoff berth. The Eastern Conference is incredibly tight, but the Cats still have a shot if they can play hard in all three periods every game. If not, expect another early pick in the 2014 NHL Draft for Dale and Company.
It once again starts with a complete effort, something we'll hopefully be able to talk about tonight in the LBC GameThread. Also, go tell Cornelius his beard has crumbs in it by posting over at Stanley Cup of Chowder. Game on!
Players to Watch
Loui Eriksson - After missing nearly five weeks of action due to a concussion, Eriksson returned to the Boston lineup in their last game against San Jose. Eriksson is one of the more underrated players in the NHL and had he stayed healthy for the Bruins, he likely would be in the top five or six in scoring for the club. He's a very dangerous player on both ends of the ice and the Bruins are very glad to have him back and healthy again. On a team with a ton of depth, Eriksson can and will thrive.
Drew Shore - It's just a bit weird that Shore, he of four goals in his last seven games, hasn't posted a single goal in his time down in San Antonio this season. Despite the snakebitten play in his time with the Rampage, Shore has made it count during his latest callup, and despite a bad turnover against the Wings, his play has been very consistent and there's a great chance he's going to stick with the big club the rest of the season. Florida's going to have some decisions to make when Tomas Kopecky comes off injured reserve (update: he'll play tonight) and Aleksander Barkov is back in the lineup, as Shore's playing well enough to scratch both Krys Barch and Jimmy Hayes, leaving Shore to center the fourth line with Shawn Matthias and possibly Kopecky.
Reilly Smith - Almost an afterthought in the Tyler Seguin - Loui Eriksson trade, Smith is a former third round pick by Dallas that was packaged along with Eriksson. At best, he'd make the lineup for the Bruins, and at worst he'd skate on the top line for Boston's AHL affiliate, Providence Bruins. Smith had other ideas, as he's now tied with Brad Marchand for the team lead in goals at 17. Smith's got a great release and great vision and has meshed well with his linemates. You have to credit Peter Chiarelli for picking up Smith as a part of that trade, as its paying massive dividends for the Bruins right away.
Brian Campbell - Have you ever noticed that when Campbell is moving his legs and putting forth an elevated effort that the rest of the team seems to follow suit? Ed Jovanovski might be the captain but Soupy commands a lot of respect in the locker room, and the rest of the team seems to follow his lead at times in regards to effort. It'd be wise for head coach Peter Horacek to play Campbell less minutes per game in an attempt to keep him fresher and skating harder, as he's both better offensively and defensively when he isn't overused.