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Bruins try to bounce back as banged-up Panthers visit

by Adam Kimelman

PANTHERS (7-14-6) at BRUINS (17-4-3)

TV: FS-Florida, NESN

Last 10: Florida 2-6-2; Boston 7-2-1

Season series: This is the second of three games between the teams this season. On Feb. 24, the Bruins beat the Panthers 4-1 in Florida.

Big story: The Bruins need a win to keep pace with the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens, while the Panthers, losers of two straight and 15th in the conference, just need two points.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Kris Versteeg was just three games into his comeback after missing a month, but it looks like he'll be out again after sustaining a lower-body injury Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Versteeg was racing for a puck when Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas came from across the ice and got there first. The pair collided, with Gudas' hip making contact with Versteeg's right leg. Versteeg went sprawling to the ice and needed help to get back to the locker room.

Coach Kevin Dineen said after the game that Versteeg was doubtful for the game Thursday, but was unsure how much time Versteeg could miss. If it's another long-term absence, it would just add to the Panthers' already lengthy list of injured players.

"Sometimes when it rains it pours," forward Jack Skille told the Miami Herald. "That's the nature of the game. You have to battle through it."

Bruins: The Bruins haven't been happy with their third-period play recently, and it came to a head Tuesday, as they blew a 2-0 lead in the final 6:18 of the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game they lost 3-2.

"After the second period I told our guys we couldn't just sit back and defend," coach Claude Julien "In the third period it was about playing our best period, but there was some really bad decision-making by us that led to those goals. We gave that game to them."

Players weren't about to make excuses for their third-period play, even though they had played the Senators to a shootout in Ottawa the night before.

"I don't think it was about the energy," center Patrice Bergeron told "I think it was about the way we approached that third period. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but it's not acceptable."

Who's hot: Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky has points in three straight and goals in two in a row. … Bruins forward Tyler Seguin has four goals in his previous four games.

Injury report: Besides Versteeg, the Panthers' long injury list includes defenseman Michael Caruso (wrist), Ed Jovanovski (knee), Mike Weaver (lower body) and Dmitry Kulikov (wrist), forwards Scottie Upshall (lower body), Stephen Weiss (wrist) and Sean Bergenheim (undisclosed), and goalie Jose Theodore (groin). … Bruins forward Chris Kelly (knee) is questionable.

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