PANTHERS (3-8-4) at BRUINS (8-5-1)
TV: FS-F, NESN
Last 10: Florida 1-5-4; Boston 5-4-1
Season series: This is the second of five games between these Atlantic Division clubs. Reilly Smith scored the game-winning goal for the Boston Bruins in the final minute of regulation of a 3-2 road win against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 17.
Big story: Panthers goalie Tim Thomas will not return Thursday from a lower-body injury. Thomas played for the Bruins from 2002-12 and won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011. Thursday could have been his first appearance in TD Garden since Boston was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Washington Capitals on April 25, 2012. The Bruins seek to extend their winning streak against Florida to five, while the Panthers try to snap a six-game losing streak in which they've lost three times in the shootout and once in overtime.
Panthers: Florida has scored the initial goal just four times in its first 15 games this season and the inability to start out strong has them heading south in the East standings. The Panthers did find the back of the net first in their most recent game Tuesday against the visiting Edmonton Oilers, but went on to surrender three straight goals. Veteran Scottie Upshall forced overtime by scoring his first two goals of the season in the third period, including tying the game with an extra attacker in the final minute, but Upshall's penalty in overtime led to a power-play goal as the Oilers won 4-3.
While the silver lining is that the Panthers are managing to grab a point in a majority of the games during their losing streak, coach Kevin Dineen acknowledged that won't be enough to help them catch their competitors.
"We are at a level that if we're serious about our preseason goal, which is to take a run at the playoffs, these are points that we have to have and we had to leave everything on the ice," Dineen said. "We had a good push-back in the third period, but we need a more complete effort."
Bruins: Boston has lost four of its past five games following a four-game winning streak in late October, so hosting the struggling Panthers in the second of a five-game homestand could be exactly what it needs to start heating up again. The Bruins look to bounce back from an upsetting game Tuesday where they faced the Dallas Stars with former Bruins Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. Boston held a 15-1 shots-on-goal advantage at one point late in the first period but could only manage a goal by defenseman Torey Krug. The Bruins went ahead 2-1 in the third, but a bad line change in the closing minutes led to defenseman Dennis Seidenberg getting on the ice late and taking down the Stars' Vernon Fiddler. Fiddler was awarded a penalty shot and put a backhander over goalie Tuukka Rask to send the game to overtime and eventually the shootout, where the Stars emerged with the 3-2 win.
"The first 10 minutes were good, and then we got back to some [of] our old habits," coach Claude Julien said. "Eventually, when you play that way, you find ways to lose hockey games. And that's what we're doing right now; we're finding ways to lose."
Who's hot: Upshall is in the midst of a three-game point streak for the Panthers with two goals and two assists. … Smith has an assist in each of his past two games and is second on the Bruins with seven this season.
Injury report: Defenseman Ed Jovanovski remains sidelined with a hip injury for the Panthers. According to The Miami Herald, the Panthers are hopeful Thomas can return for one of their two games this weekend. … The Bruins expect to have a fully healthy lineup.