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Game Day: Panthers vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
6:41 p.m.

Join us on the in-game live blog. See you there!

6:39 p.m.
The Bruins lines...

6:31 p.m.
Tim Thomas led the Bruins onto the ice...

5:53 p.m.
Pregame Pressbox Notes
The Bruins will look to string three straight victories together for the first time this season when they host the Florida Panthers tonight. The big news this morning was that Milan Lucic joined his teammates on the ice for the first time since breaking his finger in Dallas on October 16. He is not expected to play tonight, but he is progressing on schedule, according to Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.

“He’s been skating for a couple of weeks now, so obviously this is the first day with the group and it’s a step in the right direction,” said Julien after the team’s morning skate today. “Again he’s probably a good week, week and a half from considering him returning. So we’ll see how everything develops and go from there.”

The Black & Gold’s D has been stout of late, as the team hasn’t surrendered more than two goals since October 24 (7 games). 

“That’s been one of the things our guys have understood too, that the least goals you allow, the more chances you have of winning a hockey game,” said Julien. “I think that’s pretty basic and they see that there has to be some pride in there and understanding and there has to be some consistency.”

The Panthers enter tonight’s game having followed up consecutive shutouts over the Canes and Blues with consecutive losses to the Caps. Tonight marks the beginning of a busy stretch for the Panthers where they will play 11 games in 19 days to close out the month of November and won’t have back-to-back days off until Christmas break.

Streaking: Panthers forward Cory Stillman is riding a four-game point streak (3-3-6 during that span) while Boston’s Patrice Bergeron has an active three-game point streak (2-2-4).

Military Appreciation Night: Tonight is Military Appreciation Night, where the Bruins will be hosting military members and their families and honoring them through a variety of in-game events and initiatives.

US Army SGT 1st Class Robert Hornbrook from Quincy, MA will drop the ceremonial puck. He will be joined by Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart and Panthers captain Bryan McCabe.

Stuart purchased $5,000 worth of tickets to tonight’s game (100 total tickets), which will be donated to military members and their families as part of the club’s “Seats for Soldiers” program. They will all be sitting in Section 145, in honor of Stuart’s number 45.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien purchased $1,000 worth of tickets (20 total tickets), in addition to $500 worth of Military Care Packages.

Bruins Season Ticket Holders donated 655 total tickets.

Bruins fans and the general public purchased 220 total tickets, making a total of 995 tickets that were either purchased or donated to the “Seats for Soldiers” Program (more than $35,000 worth).

Special Teams Watch: The Bruins rank 27th in the NHL on the power play overall (13.6%) and 26th at home (14.3%). They rank 13th on the PK overall (82.0%) and tied for 10th at home (83.3%).

The Panthers rank 28th on the PP overall (13.1%) and 30th on the road (6.9%). They rank 27th on the PK overall (74.6%) and 15th on the road (79.4%).

4:20 p.m.
I asked Derek Morris if there was any chance of a B's let down against the Florida Panthers.

"No, never," said Morris. "The league's so close, it’s like a one goal here, one goal there type thing, and no matter what team you’re playing they have the opportunity to win games and we don’t take anybody lightly."

I asked Derek what he expected out of the Panthers.

"Hard work," he said. "They’re aggressive.

"Their penalty kill is very tight, very disciplined. Forwards are always coming back hard in the slot and they got good goaltending.

"So, we’re going to have to do the same thing as we’ve done before, just get to that net, get some rebounds," he said.

Patrice Bergeron had similar sentiments.

"All 30 teams [in the NHL] are good teams and Florida is a great team too," he said. "They work extremely hard every time we play them so we got to make sure we’re ready to play them."

Boston simply hopes to bring the same intensity as they did against the Sabres and Penguins.

"Yeah, just the same effort we’ve been given these past few weeks -- the same effort," said Mark Stuart. "Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling.

"It was nice to get two wins in a row. [It was] the first time all season that we’ve done that and we’re starting to get rewarded for some of our play and that’s great.

"So we expect...the same effort out of us tonight and hopefully we get rewarded again," he said.

2:58 p.m.
Lucic Update
Lucic, postpractice.
Milan Lucic has never been far from anyone's mind here in the Hub of Hockey and today, when he made an appearance at the B's morning skate, the power forward became the center of attention.

"He’s been skating for a couple of weeks now, [and] obviously this is the first day with the group," said Coach Julien of his injured winger. "It’s a step in the right direction...[but] he’s probably a good week, week and a half from considering him returning.

"So we’ll see how everything develops and go from there."

Thus far, #17 has been doing well.

"Yeah, I haven’t been taking any slap shots yet so obviously I think the start taking slap shots," said Lucic. "Then, getting [into] battles and contact and all that type of stuff.

"Once it all comes together and feels comfortable then I can get into the game-time situation."

But the slap shot is probably the most pivotal issue.

"That’s when the most torque is going into your hands," explained Lucic.

So, the timetable is...?

"I said I was hoping to maybe come back for the Atlanta game in a week, but that’s not 100-percent," said Milan. "Like I was saying, you've got to make sure all those things are in check and all those things are feeling comfortable before you can get back.

"We're not going to try to rush in just because I set that date...if there’s still a high risk of re-injuring it.

"So, we’re going to be conservative and make sure everything is healed up."

I asked Lucic what it was like to sit in the pressbox for games: did it make him nervous?

"I think it’s more nervewracking to watch a game than it is to actually play in a game," he said. "There is less you can do about it when you’re just watching than when you’re out there playing.

"You can kind of relate it to how Cam [Neely] gets excited," Lucic, no doubt thinking of the clips of the B's vice president watching games from Peter Chiarelli's booth on Level 9. "I think it’s the same sort of thing."

So be sure to watch yourself if you happen to find yourself near Lucic (or #8) while watching the Bruins.

12:52 p.m.
Prior to last game, when the B's took on the Penguins, Brad Marchand (who was featured in yesterday's Rinkside Chat) and his 14-minutes of penalties versus the Sabres were a topic of conversation.

"I still felt one of the penalties called on him was probably from reputation," said Julien. "The referee who called it was one that had him in junior hockey.

"I really felt that sometimes there’s a reputation that follows you and the one of those penalties I felt was really based on that.  Again, as I told him, you can get under a player’s skin and be smart about it but the one thing you don’t want to go is get under the referees’ skins."

As such, when Marchand did not take the ice on Tuesday night, it was assumed that the forward was sitting as a punitive measure.

Not so, said Coach Julien after Thursday's morning skate -- in fact, Julien indicated it was an educational measure.

"It's probably the same as the other guys that have done that in the past," said Julien. "He is a young player that, when you first get up here you are all excited, you are playing with a lot of energy and intensity.

"And then as you move on here, that has a tendency to drop a little bit and that’s the biggest challenge for a young player is to try and keep your intensity and focus on the game every night."

So Marchand got the night off to think about it.

"I know that a lot of people seem to think that it was disciplinary action and it wasn’t," insisted Julien.

"That part we have talked about...that fine line as far as his edge in regards to getting under other players skins, and staying away from getting under referees skins," continued Julien. "That had nothing to do with my decision.

"It’s more of about [knowing that] here is a guy who not only can kill penalties well but he can play with more intensity and can create and score some goals as well," said Julien. "He’s got to bring his whole game – have the confidence to bring his whole game to this level here, and do it [consistently].

"Sometimes when you let a guy take a step backwards it really helps him progress, because he watches from up top and he comes back and probably has a better idea of what he needs to do the next game. 

"So you know we’ll see, and to me it’s part of development.  Certainly not part of a punishment and he knows that because I was clear in my chat with him about that part," said the B's coach.

My take: Coach Julien thinks a lot of Brad Marchand's talents, and wants to make sure the rookie sparkplug knows that he can bring more to the table on a night-to-night basis. I also remember a night in the pressbox doing wonders for several of the current Bruins. Right?

11:56 a.m.

Coach Julien finished his media availability just a few minutes ago. He confirmed that practice was optional and that everyone who did not show for the skate was available for tonight.

11:19 a.m.
Lucic held court at his locker stall and said that he was cautiously optimistic about returning to the lineup against Atlanta next week.

10:48 a.m.
The B's are leaving the ice after the optional skate -- Tuukka Rask is still on the the Garden ice, so that would lead me to guess that Tim Thomas will get a second straight start..

10:31 a.m.
Milan Lucic is on the ice for the morning skate.

Rask is the goalie. Chara, Hunwick, Morris, Boychuk and Stuart are the defensemen. Bergeron, Paille, Milan, Begin, Sobotka, Thornton, Krejci, Bitz, Wheeler, Whitfield and Marchand.

Coach Julien said that Morris' day off on Wednesday, was just that -- a day off.

"Yeah he missed [Tuesday] morning because had some symptoms of the flu or whatever," he said on Wednesday afternoon. "But he was cleared not having the H1N1 and he insisted on playing, so we just gave him the day off."

10:14 a.m.

Bruins forward Steve Begin was among the topics of conversation postpractice on Wednesday.

B's head coach Claude Julien was asked if he were someone that the Bruins had gotten more from than expected.

"Maybe," said Julien. "If you talk about production...[but] I don’t think we brought him in for that, but I think what he has given us on a daily basis, is what we expected of him.

"It’s what I remember of him when I had him in Montreal.  He’s a guy that came and gave it everything he had night in and night out.

"[Then] again he had a few years where he had some decent success on the score sheet and right now off to a real good start so let’s hope that continues," said Julien. 

According to Julien, the energy line, which sees Byron Bitz and Shawn Thornton on Steve's wings, has been a major weapon for the Boston Bruins in 2009-10.

"He’s made that fourth line so successful, and you have to give credit to the other guys are working so hard with him," said the Coach. "And it’s nice to see that line succeed because for most of the night they are spending it in the offensive zone.

"It’s where you’d like every other line to spend it as well."

Begin, Bitz and Thornton have earned their ice time.

"I think the one thing that they’ve earned trust in the coaching staff that when they go out there they are pretty competitive as a group," said Julien, who also pointed to the trio as emotional catalysts for the Black & Gold.

"They show their emotions even on the bench, you know that when you put them out there they are going to give you a real energy shift," said Julien. "You know when the other team scores a goal, the last thing you want them to do is take the momentum over.

A lot of times in those situations you are going to look at them if they are ready to go and ask them to give you a good shift."
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