Craig Anderson makes his first start since February 3rd, a 4-3 overtime victory over Toronto. Anderson is 10-4-5 this season with a .929 save percentage. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
BOSTON – Goalie Craig Anderson, who has stepped up in key situations so many times for the Panthers the past two years, will be asked to do so again this evening here at TD Banknorth Garden.
With Tomas Vokoun nursing the flu, Anderson will get the start this evening against the Bruins as the Panthers begin a five-game road trip.
“I’ve been in this situation before,” said Anderson Tuesday afternoon after the team’s pre-game skate. “I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready.”
Anderson was a key factor in getting the Panthers season on-track earlier in the year and comes into tonight’s game 10-4-5 record with .929 save percentage and 2.49 goals against.
Because Vokoun has been on such a roll – three shutouts in his last six games – Anderson will be making his first start since Feb. 3 when he helped the Panthers to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the Maple Leafs.
Anderson stopped 40 shots March 2 last season at Boston to earn the second of consecutive 1-0 shutouts. In all, Anderson stopped 93 shots in those two games.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t have to do the same thing tonight,” said Panther coach Peter DeBoer. “He hasn’t played in a while so he should have good energy. It’s a good opportunity. He’s a good goalie, we know that. Because of the play of Tomas he hasn’t had a chance to play lately so, hopefully, he comes in and does for the job for us.”
Asked if he had any concerns about Anderson being thrown in after playing only two games since Jan. 17, DeBoer said, “I’m not worried.”
“I think I’ve said all year we have the luxury of two starting goaltenders, and it makes these kinds of decisions easy,” he added.
The Panthers will go with the same lineup that delivered a 2-0 shutout Saturday against the Bruins at BankAtlantic Center. Nick Tarnasky will be in for Brett McLean on the fourth line.
“Boston is a big, physical team and it gives us a little more size, a little more speed on the wings,” DeBoer said. “It worked last game so there’s no use changing.”
BIG WEEK FOR CATS
Let the fun begin.
Beginning tonight, the Panthers play the first of five crucial games, four in a row against some of the top team’s in the league and the first three against teams in the midst of change and struggle.
Start tonight at 7 p.m., against the first-place Bruins, who begin a six-game homestand after having lost six of their past seven games, including Saturday’s 2-0 loss at BankAtlantic Center against the Panthers.
Move onto Thursday in New York, where the Panthers meet a Rangers team that fired coach Tom Renney and brought in the blustery John Tortorella Monday.
Come Saturday afternoon, the team pushes to New Jersey where they could meet old nemesis Martin Brodeur, who could be making his first start since undergoing surgery Nov. 6.
And Sunday afternoon, it’s Washington and the best player in hockey, Alex Ovechkin.
Bruin winger Michael Ryder, who’s missed the past seven games due to facial injuries, will play this evening…Bruin head coach Claude Julien, who was angry with his team’s performance Saturday against the Panthers, said the team played better despite losing Sunday in Tampa. Julien said every team battles through slumps during an 82-game schedule – the Bruins are 1-3-2 over the last six – but added, “Right now it’s up to us to find our game again.”… Phil Kessel’s goal Sunday in Tampa was his first in 11 games since returning from injury…The Bruins are 19-4-4 at home…The Panthers are 13-13-3 on the road…The Panthers power play is 26th in the league, the Bruins sixth…