After spending the last four days in New York City having played games at the New York Islanders on Tuesday and at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers on Thursday, the Panthers should be in a New York State of Mind. However, like most of the country, the Panthers have their attention turned towards the recent tragic events that have occurred in Boston over the past few days, especially since they are scheduled to play the Bruins at TD Garden on Sunday at 12:30pm.
That was even made more of a case with the recent shifting of games for the Bruins as their game that was supposed to be played tonight against the Penguins was moved to Saturday afternoon and Saturday's game against the Sabres was moved to Tuesday.
“It is on the horizon and we all are aware of what is going on in Boston, but at this time we will take the lead of the National Hockey League, the Bruins and the authorities and respect all decisions that are made over the next few days,” said Head Coach Kevin Dineen. “We are just small piece of what is going in Boston right now and our thought and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted by this ongoing tragedy.”
“It is obviously very scary for the city of Boston and their residents,” said Panthers G Scott Clemmensen who played four years at Boston College. “At this point we have to focus on playing New Jersey tomorrow and continue to watch what happens with this ongoing situation.”
While Boston is set for Sunday, the Panthers will first play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday (1pm). Florida held a spirited 40-minute workout at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan on Friday in preparation and after suffering a disappointing 6-1 loss the Rangers on Thursday, which prompted a post-game team meeting.
“I have always been a believer in brutal honesty and in being able to say something to people and not about people,” said Dineen after this team went through the workout. “We want our guys to be better players, we have a group of really good people and we want them to be the best they can be on a nightly basis.”
The Panthers will play their last set of back-to-back games this season with their games against the Devils and Bruins. The first two meetings with the Devils this season have been extremely close affairs with New Jersey pulling out a 2-1 victory in New Jersey on March 23 and the Panthers getting a game-tying goal from Shawn Matthias with less than 30 seconds to play to force overtime where Dmitry Kulikov netted the game winner in Sunrise a week later.
“The Devils have been a really great rival for us. We have had great games in the regular season and an exciting playoff series last year,” said Dineen. “It is 1-1 in the season series and we would like to get the win tomorrow and looking it as a big opportunity.”
Florida will be without the services of defenseman Erik Gudbranson (upper body) for this weekend’ s games as he left Thursday's game against the Rangers in the final minutes of play. Fellow blueliner Tyson Strachan (upper body) was sent home to South Florida for further evaluation. Missing the Rangers game, defenseman Filip Kuba skated with the team on Friday and is expected to play this weekend.