Boston owns the top spot in the Atlantic Division; Florida sits one point out of third place.
"It's obviously a real tough game," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said after today's morning skate. "They're coming off a tough loss the other day in Tampa Bay, and obviously we're not happy with our last two games here at home. "We expect that type of game all game long. You've got to be at your best when you're playing Boston for a lot of reasons. You've got to play both sides of the puck and you've got to have a purpose. Let's respond the right way."
Averaging the fifth-most goals per game in the league (3.35), Florida's high-powered offense was held in check during Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Thursday's 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders. Prior to that, they'd scored fewer than two goals just once.
At the other end of the ice, however, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been spectacular in net for the Panthers - an encouraging sign for when the team's sticks inevitably heat up again. Over his last four starts, the 31-year-old has stopped 136 of 142 shots for a .958 save percentage.
Bobrovsky is expected to make his fifth consecutive start tonight.
"He's been huge," Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman said of Bobrovsky, who owns an 11-8-4 record this season. "He's the only one that we can say played well the last two games. He gave us a chance to win those games and we didn't take it. We owe him two [wins]."
The Panthers are led up front by the duo of Jonathan Huberdeau (37 points) and Aleksander Barkov (36 points). Free-agent steal Brett Connolly leads the team with 14 goals - including eight over his last 12 games - while Keith Yandle paces the club's defenseman with 26 points.
The last time they faced the Bruins, Yandle scored with 1:39 remaining in regulation to help the Panthers claw back from down 4-0 in the third period and force overtime during a 5-4 shootout win at TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 12 - the biggest third-period comeback in franchise history.
"Obviously we liked the result we got against them last time," Yandle said. "Obviously you don't want to go down four [goals], but I liked our compete against them. They're a great team and a team that you have to have respect for, but also not give them too much time and space on the ice. You've got to find a way to be in solid in your own defensive zone and take away their time."
Stuck in their longest losing streak since 2016, the Bruins dropped their fifth straight game with a 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday. During their five-game skid, they've only scored more than two goals once - a 4-3 overtime loss against the Chicago Blackhawks back on Dec. 5.
But, like the Panthers, Boston has already proven this season that it can put the puck in the back of the net. Ranking just ahead of Florida on the offensive leaderboard by a razor-thin margin, the Bruins are currently averaging the fourth-most goals per game in the league (3.36).
Brad Marchand leads the team in scoring with 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists). Behind him, David Pastrnak has tallied 46 points, including a league-leading 26 goals. Over the last 14 games, that duo has combined to produce 15 goals and 16 assists for a total of 31 points.
"It's not just that line, but that line is obviously very good," Stralman said. "Like any good line, you try to limit their time and space. When you have the puck, you try and keep it. Whether it's in the neutral zone or offensive zone, you're trying to hold onto pucks and not give them away freely. Puck management in general is going to be big against this team."
Tuukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak could be between the pipes for the Bruins. After winning six straight starts, Rask has gone 0-2-1 over his last three outings while surrendering at least three goals in each.
Overall, he owns a 13-4-3 record with a .926 save percentage this year. Florida has won each of its last two meetings with Boston.
"It's a response game for us," Panthers winger Colton Sceviour said. "It's been a couple games where we haven't played to our identity and haven't played well enough against some high-end opponents. I think we've got to respond and show what we can do against one of the best teams in the league."
-- Jonathan Huberdeau has registered at least one point in 23 of Florida's 31 games and leads the team in scoring with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists). Over his last 19 games, the 26-year-old has recorded 24 points (six goals, 18 assists), including six multi-point performances.
-- Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers in multi-point games (13) and ranks second in scoring with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists). Over his last 19 games, the 24-year-old center has notched 10 goals and 13 assists.
-- Brett Connolly leads the Panthers with 14 goals. The 27-year-old winger also ranks sixth on the team in points (22). Over his last 12 contests, he's found the back of the net eight times.
-- Mike Hoffman enters tonight's matchup on a four-game point streak, recording two goals and three assists in that span. The 30-year-old winger leads the Panthers in shots (93) and is tied for the second-most goals (12).
-- Vincent Trocheck has registered three goals and five assists over his last 13 games.
-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (23:59), while also leading the club's defensemen in goals (5) and ranking second in points (18). Over his last 10 games, the 23-year-old has tallied three goals and five assists.
-- Keith Yandle ranks second among the league's defensemen in assists (23) and power-play points (15). The 33-year-old paces Florida's defensemen with 26 points, including one goal and seven assists over his last seven games.
-- Noel Acciari ranks first on the Panthers in hits (50); Anton Stralman has the most blocks (46).
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano - Noel Acciari - Denis Malgin
Mark Pysyk - Brian Boyle - Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle - Anton Stralman
Mike Matheson - Josh Brown
Scratches: Dominic Toninato
- Dec. 11: F Jayce Hawryluk was assigned to AHL Springfield on a conditioning loan.
- Dec. 11: F Aleksi Saarela was loaned to AHL Springfield.
- Dec. 6: F Aleksi Saarela was recalled from AHL Springfield.
- 50/50 Raffle with Guaranteed Pot of at Least $25,000
- Territory Takeover (Sunrise/Plantation)
- City Furniture Tailgate
- World of Coca-Cola Polar Bear Appearance
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
- Nachos for $6 at Select Concession Stands
HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN
When: Saturday, Dec. 14, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
Stream: FOX Sports GO
Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM 222, App/Streaming 932