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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Panthers

Boston looking to shore things up after sloppy win over Stars

by Chris Weyant @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BostonBruins.com - Tuukka Rask stood tall again for the Bruins, stymying the Dallas Stars on all 27 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout victory on Thursday night.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Kevan Miller said emphatically, when asked if the team thought Rask was the best player on the ice on Thursday. "He did a great job for us. He battened down the hatches when he needed to and made those big saves. Like I said, you've got to steal some sometimes and I think we did tonight."

Rask will be a crucial factor down the stretch as the Bruins attempt to push through their last five games of the season and punch their ticket to the postseason.

The Bruins, with Rask in net once again, will take on the Florida Panthers in a Saturday afternoon matinee at TD Garden in the last meeting between the two teams this season. Boston has won the first four matchups by a combined score of 13-5.

Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Here is what you need to know:

Not Their Best, But Good Enough

Under most circumstances, the Bruins (41-30-6, 88 points) would be happy with a 2-0 victory. After Thursday's game, however, the tune wasn't as celebratory as one would expect. Bruins players were openly critical of their performance against Dallas, despite the shutout.

"We didn't play a great game," said Brad Marchand. "We got the two points, which is huge right now. But, Tuukka played a great game. You have to give him a lot of credit."

That's the sign of a hungry team.

"Every team is going to win," Torey Krug said of the teams they are jockeying against for a postseason berth. "You have to put your foot on the gas pedal and keep this thing going."

Video: Bruins not overconfident heading into weekend

The Bruins will move forward to their game against Florida with a bit of reassurance, having won their first four meetings of the season against the Panthers. That, however, is no reason to be overconfident, according to interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

"Hopefully, we're right on that level where we're confident, but not arrogant or disrespectful," said Cassidy. "Just play a confident game and play to our strengths."

"It doesn't matter what's happened in previous games or games past," added Krug. "All that matters is looking forward and what you can control, and what we can control tomorrow."

With five games remaining and the Bruins sitting three points ahead of the Lightning for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot, the mobile defenseman knows his team needs to focus on their task at hand.

"When teams lose, they start looking to other teams and hoping they can find help elsewhere around the league," said Krug. "We're focused on doing our job so we don't have to worry about it."

The Bruins will have to do that job short a couple of men, as Cassidy said Frank Vatrano and Tim Schaller will miss both games this weekend as they continue to recover from their injuries.

Zdeno Chara and David Krejci also stayed off the ice on Friday, opting not to take the ice for Friday's optional practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Opposing View: Florida Panthers

The Panthers (33-33-11, 77 points) were mathematically eliminated from the postseason after a 6-2 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

Even though the Bruins will be facing a team outside the playoff picture, Cassidy and his bunch will be weary of a young Florida team one year removed from a 103-point season in which they captured the Atlantic Division title.

Aleksander Barkov, the Finnish native whom the Panthers selected second overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, missed Thursday's game against Montreal with an upper-body injury. His status for Saturday's game is yet to be determined.

Barkov (21 goals and 31 assists) and Vincent Trocheck (22 goals and 31 assists) are spearheading the youth movement in Florida as the team's top scorers this season. Trocheck, 23, and Barkov, 21, have given the Sunshine State plenty to be excited about for years to come.

Jaromir Jagr wouldn't be considered a part of the youth movement. At 45 years of age, however, the future Hall of Famer has plenty of spring in his step, having notched 15 goals and 27 assists in his 23rd NHL season.

The Panthers will also likely be without defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Ekblad, one of the league's young stars on the back-end, is still recovering from the effects of a concussion he suffered March 11 against Tampa Bay.

The Panthers are hoping to have Roberto Luongo in net against the Bruins on Saturday. Luongo has been out since March 2 with a core injury he suffered against the Philadelphia Flyers.

James Reimer (16-15-5, 2.60 GAA, .917 save percentage) and Luongo (17-15-6, 2.68 GAA, .915 save percentage) have each played 40 games this season while posting almost identical stat lines.

Florida ranks 23rd in the NHL in goals for (2.52 goals per game) and 20th in the NHL in goals allowed (2.81 goals per game).

Wait, There's More

  • Tuukka Rask recorded his 37th career shutout on Thursday night against Dallas. The shutout was also his seventh this season, which marks his new career high for shutouts in a single season.
  • Saturday will mark the 92nd all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Stars. The Bruins hold a 50-30-6-5 record against Florida.
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