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Panthers-Bruins Preview @NHL
Panthers-Bruins Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (6-5-2) at Boston Bruins (5-5-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Boston Bruins couldn't afford another injury, but that's exactly what they got and it could be a costly one.

After learning top defenseman Brian Leetch will be out for a month with a knee injury, the Bruins hope to rebound from consecutive losses when they host the Florida Panthers.

Leetch is expected to miss the next month after being diagnosed with a strained knee ligament Wednesday. He got hurt Tuesday night in a collision with New York Islanders forward Shawn Bates during the second period of Boston's 4-3 overtime loss at Nassau Coliseum.

"I didn't see the puck in the dasher, I thought it was going down the boards," said Leetch, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with Boston this summer. "All of a sudden it was in front of me. So I went for it, and he dove and crashed into my knee.

"It was either his helmet or his shoulder that hit my knee."

Boston is already without starting goaltender Andrew Raycroft (strained hamstring), defenseman Ian Moran (knee), center Alex Zhamnov (bruised shoulder) and right wing Pat Leahy (broken finger).

Also Tuesday, forward Brad Isbister, who was back after missing three games with a groin injury, tweaked the groin and left the game.

Leetch, who ranks seventh on the career points list among NHL defenseman, has three goals and five assists in his first season with Boston.

Though they suffered their fourth loss in five games Tuesday, the Bruins have recorded at least a point in each of their past six contests (2-0-4).

The Panthers are coming off an overtime loss of their own Tuesday in Montreal. Florida goalie Roberto Luongo made 33 saves but couldn't stop Michael Ryder's power-play goal in the extra period that gave the Canadiens a 5-4 victory.

"We wanted two points," said center Stephen Weiss, who scored a pair of third-period goals on the power play to give Florida a 4-3 lead.

"Getting a point is OK, but we had the lead with four minutes left and we should have come out with two points, so we've got to find a way to do that."

Florida has lost its last three games and five of its last seven, the past six of which have been without center Joe Nieuwendyk, who has been suffering from back spasms and is not expected to play Thursday.

The Panthers have scored only 32 goals this season. Only Washington (25) and Columbus (24) have scored fewer.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 2): Panthers - 14 points, 3rd place, 3 PB, Southeast Division. Bruins - 14 points, 3rd place (tied), 5 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Nathan Horton, 7 goals; Olli Jokinen, 9 assists and 12 points; Branislav Mezei, 35 PIM. Bruins - Sergei Samsonov and Glen Murray, 7 goals; Thornton, 15 assists and 19 points; Hal Gill, 23 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 2): Panthers - Power play: 15.4 percent (13 for 84), 22nd (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (69 for 87), 21st. Bruins - Power play: 16.8 percent (15 for 89), 17th. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (74 for 90), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (6-4-2, 2 SO, 2.79 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-1-0, 1.61). Bruins - Hannu Toivonen (2-1-2, 3.57); Jordan Sigalet (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 13; Bruins, 5-2. At Sunrise, Fla., Murray had a goal and two assists as the Bruins took an early 3-0 lead and forced Luongo from the game.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 2-4-2 on the road; Bruins - 2-2-1 at home.

Associated Press

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