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Panthers, Bruins have played two very different games

by Alain Poupart
SUNRISE, Fla. -- In their first two meetings with Boston, the Florida Panthers had perhaps their biggest victory of the season and unquestionably their most embarrassing loss.

The teams meet for Round 3 on Monday night at the BankAtlantic Center, and don't think the Panthers have forgotten the 8-0 drubbing they absorbed at TD Garden on Dec. 23.

That game came 15 days after the Panthers recorded a 2-0 shutout at Boston on a night when Jose Theodore stopped 40 shots.

"Obviously we're not looking for the little Christmas coal we got last time against them," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "That was a pretty lopsided game, and deservedly so. We didn't play very well vs. the Bruins. I like the way, for the majority of the games, we've played on home ice and we're certainly going to need a strong effort to beat and compete with the Stanley Cup champions."

In that last matchup, the Panthers were coming off a 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa the night before, but worse were playing without seven injured forwards.

Florida was so shorthanded up front, in fact, that rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson was used as a right wing.

"We had a really rough go," Gudbranson said. "We played as individuals, we didn't play as a five-man unit. We hear it from our coaches, we hear it from everybody and we know inside this room if we play as a unit that we're a very good team, we're one of the best teams in the League. It's going to be key to do that tonight."

As if the revenge factor didn't provide enough motivation for tonight's game, the Panthers also are coming off a lackluster performance Friday night in a 4-1 loss against a Pittsburgh team that came in on a six-game losing streak and missing several key players.

The Bruins also are coming off a disappointing performance, a 4-2 loss at Carolina on Saturday. Since a seven-game winning streak that began on Dec. 10 and included the rout of the Panthers, Boston has gone 4-3.

Coach Claude Julien says his team needs to battle harder and take pucks at the net. That's where his focus is, and not on the Panthers having extra motivation to avenge an ugly loss.

"Basically, our whole game has just kind of slipped a little bit, not to the point of being a bad team but to the point of being a very mediocre team right now," he said. "We've got to bring it back to the level that is expected of our group.

"I don't know what kind of game we can expect from them. I would look more at, what kind of game do we expect to play tonight? We've just got to be better. When your team isn't playing at the level it should be, you like to focus on your team a lot more than worrying about what the other team is going to do."

For his part, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara expects a tough battle on Monday.

"They're really good at home," Chara said of the Panthers. "They play a very hard style. We just have to be ready to do our thing and make sure we work extremely hard and don't take anything for granted.

"We played really well that game (on Dec. 23) and they had not a great night. That's going to happen. I'm sure they're going to be way better tonight."
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