BRUINS (41-26-13) at PANTHERS (36-29-15)
TV: TVA Sports, NESN-PLUS, FS-F
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Holding the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference by a tiebreaker, the Boston Bruins will face the Florida Panthers on Thursday as one of five teams battling for four remaining postseason berths.
The Bruins, who finish the regular season Saturday at Amalie Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning, didn’t hold a morning skate Thursday at BB&T Center after arriving in South Florida following a 3-0 loss Wednesday to the Washington Capitals that snapped a five-game streak.
“I know they’re going to be a desperate hockey team, so we’re going to have to be prepared for that,” said Panthers wing Shawn Thornton, who played seven seasons for the Bruins (2007-14) and was part of their 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team.
The last time these two teams met, March 31 in Boston, the Panthers were still in contention for the playoffs. The Panthers led 2-1 in the third period before the Bruins scored twice to win. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said the loss has probably been the toughest to accept.
“The Boston game was a huge game, the first game of that [five-game] road trip in Tampa was a huge game,” Gallant said. “If we would have won those, it would have been a big difference, for sure. We’d be right there. They were big games, and we played well in those games. We just didn’t win them.”
Since beating the Carolina Hurricanes the following game, the Panthers have lost their past two, to the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens at home, by a combined score of 8-1.
“The first day after we got eliminated you knew it was going to be real tough, and the next two games were real tough,” Gallant said. “We didn’t play that well and we didn’t play inspired hockey. Hopefully we’re over that now.”
“I’m not going to lie to you -- it sucks,” Thornton said of being eliminated with games remaining. “It’s been a week for us that we’ve kind of known we’re going to be out. But we have two left and guys are playing for jobs next year, trying to show they belong here.
“We like our team. We think we should have been in the mix. So if we want to prove to everybody that we still think we’re a good team and we like each other, then we’ve got to perform in these next couple of games to show people we want to stay together.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Krejci
Milan Lucic -- Ryan Spooner – David Pastrnak
Reilly Smith – Carl Soderberg – Loui Eriksson
Gregory Campbell – Ryan Spooner – Brett Connolly
Zdeno Chara – Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug – Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Bartkowski – Zach Trotman
Scratched: Daniel Paille, Max Talbot
Injured: Dougie Hamilton (undisclosed), Kevan Miller (right shoulder)
Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr
Brandon Pirri -- Vincent Trocheck -- Jimmy Hayes
Jussi Jokinen -- Dave Bolland -- Brad Boyes
Scottie Upshall -- Derek MacKenzie -- Shawn Thornton
Brian Campbell – Aaron Ekblad
Willie Mitchell – Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov -- Alex Petrovic
Scratched: Tomas Kopecky, Steven Kampfer, Dan Ellis
Injured: Nick Bjugstad (back)
Status report: Winger Scottie Upshall will return to the Panthers’ lineup, replacing Tomas Kopecky. In addition to Kopecky, defenseman Steven Kampfer will be a scratch. … Gallant was non-committal on whether goalie Al Montoya (groin) would be Roberto Luongo’s backup. … Jaromir Jagr will play in his 1,549th NHL game, trying Alex Delvecchio for 11th all-time. … For the Bruins, defenseman Dougie Hamilton (undisclosed injury) and Kevan Miller (right shoulder) are out. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and center Carl Soderberg will play their 81st game of the season.
Who’s hot: Panthers forward Brandon Pirri, who has a career-high 22 goals, has scored nine in his past 13 games. … In 19 games together, the Panthers’ top line of Aleksander Barkov (six goals, seven assists), Jonathan Huberdeau (four goals, 15 assists) and Jaromir Jagr (five goals, nine assists) has combined for 46 points (15 goals), 130 shots and a plus-10 rating. … Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has allowed nine goals on 167 shots (.946 save pct.) in his past six games. … Soderberg has two goals and four assists in his past six games. … The Bruins’ penalty kill has erased 22 of 25 extra-man opportunities (88 percent) in the past 10 games.