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Bruins face Panthers in battle of elite East teams

by Brian Hunter /
PANTHERS (15-8-4) at BRUINS (17-8-1)


Last 10:
Florida 6-3-1; Boston 8-1-1

Season series:
First of four meetings, with Florida visiting Boston twice over the next 16 days. The Bruins swept the Panthers last season and were led by 4 goals from Milan Lucic, who had the hat trick in a 4-0 win on Nov. 18, 2010.

Big story:
Boston's scintillating 14-0-1 run finally ended Tuesday in Winnipeg, and with a regulation win Thursday the Panthers would pass the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings.

Team Scope:

Panthers: This is just the latest in what Florida forward Stephen Weiss termed a season full of big games for a franchise that last tasted the playoffs in the spring of 2000. Weiss made those remarks prior to Monday's 5-4 win over Washington, the four-time defending champions of the Southeast. The Panthers had lost the previous game they played against the Capitals this season, but rode power-play goals by Weiss, Dmitry Kulikov and Sean Bergenheim to a 5-1 lead before holding on for the two points. Weiss added a second goal that held up as the game-winner.

"This isn't to take anything from the teams we had in the past, but we have a different mindset here and different attitude as well as a different skill set," said goalie Scott Clemmensen, who stopped 28 shots. "It's been working so far for us. Hopefully, the League and the other teams in the division are going to take notice of us."

Bruins: For the first time since an Oct. 29 loss to Montreal left the reigning Stanley Cup champs seemingly in tatters, Boston dropped a game in regulation Tuesday, 2-1 in Winnipeg. The five-plus weeks in between saw the Bruins transform from bottom-feeders back into one of the top teams in the League, with a shootout loss to the Red Wings in the Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown on Nov. 25 the only blemish to an otherwise perfect month. Their loss to the Jets came with sophomore scoring sensation Tyler Seguin scratched because he overslept and missed a team meeting earlier in the day.

"He's a smart kid," said forward Shawn Thornton, who scored the Bruins' only goal Tuesday. "It's only his second year, but he gets it. We've all been through it. We've all made mistakes."

Who's hot: Weiss has recorded consecutive 3-point games for the Panthers, totaling 3 goals and 3 assists. Kulikov also had a 3-point night Monday and has goals in consecutive games. … Thornton and linemates Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille have combined for 2 goals and 4 assists over the Bruins' last two games.

Injury report:
Florida goalie Jose Theodore (flu) and forward Mark Cullen (upper body) are day-to-day. Forwards Scottie Upshall (upper body), Matt Bradley (upper body), Marcel Goc (concussion-like symptoms) and Mikael Samuelsson (groin) are on injured reserve, though Samuelsson could be activated and make his debut for the team. He's been sidelined since suffering a groin injury in an Oct. 18 game for Vancouver, which traded him four days later as part of a package to acquire David Booth.

Stat pack:
Weiss has five 3-point efforts in his last 11 games and leads the Panthers in scoring with 29 points. … Seguin and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara lead the League with a plus-19 rating, followed by teammate Chris Kelly at plus-16. Brad Marchand is tied for fourth at plus-15 with Weiss and his teammate, Tomas Fleischmann.

Puck drop:
With realignment into four conferences expected to take effect for the 2012-13 season, Florida would see a whole lot less of current Southeast Division rivals Carolina and Washington, and more of the current Northeast teams, including Boston.

"We're in a conference with teams that have always drawn very well," team president Michael Yormark told the Miami Herald. "Each year, Toronto and Montreal are featured teams. Boston and Buffalo always draw well. And [Tampa Bay] is developing into a great intrastate rivalry."

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