Panthers-Bruins Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 07, 2011
The Florida Panthers are receiving plenty of attention for their surprising start, but the Bruins have shown lately the road to the top of the Eastern Conference may still run through Boston. The Bruins look to bounce back from their first regulation loss since October with a fifth straight victory over the Panthers when the teams meet Thursday night at TD Garden. Boston (17-8-1) collected 29 of a possible 30 points in its previous 15 games before falling 2-1 at Winnipeg on Tuesday. Leading scorer Tyler Seguin was a healthy scratch after missing a team meeting earlier in the day, saying he set his alarm on Eastern time rather than Central time. He isn't expected to receive any further disciplinary action and should be in the lineup Thursday. Shawn Thornton scored the team's only goal despite the Bruins putting 40 shots on net. "It was one of those nights when they weren't going in,'' Thornton said. "We generated enough chances to probably win this game. The last month or so they've been going in. Tonight they didn't.'' It marked only the second time in 17 games the Bruins were held to fewer than two goals, and the first time it's happened when attempting at least 40 shots since a 3-0 loss to Anaheim on Dec. 20, 2010, when they attempted 45. Thornton refused to blame the defeat on playing the second of back-to-back games after winning 3-1 in Pittsburgh on Monday. "That's all mental as far as I'm concerned,'' Thornton said. "I think it's pretty easy to get through as long as you're strong mentally.'' Florida (15-8-4), meanwhile, has been one the league's biggest surprises while leading the Southeast Division. The Panthers improved to 6-2-1 over their last nine with a 5-4 win over Washington on Monday, getting two goals and an assist from Stephen Weiss. While coach Kevin Dineen said he viewed the contest against the four-time defending division champions as a big test for his squad, Weiss downplayed the idea of getting up more for a certain game than any other. "It doesn't matter who you're playing. The points are too important now to get caught up in rivalries and stuff," Weiss said. "We have to focus on our game, making sure we're doing (things) to be successful and we did it for forty minutes and it was enough." Florida has scored five goals in back-to-back games after scoring one in each defeat while losing three of its previous four contests. Goals, however, may not come as easy against the Bruins' defense. Boston is allowing a league-low 2.04 per game, and Tim Thomas is 10-0-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average since Nov. 1. His overall 1.87 GAA ranks third in the league, and he'll likely be in net for this contest after Tuukka Rask made 33 saves in Tuesday's loss - particularly considering Thomas is 5-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA in his last six starts versus Florida. Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore was slated to play in his 600th career game Monday, but was a last-minute scratch with the flu. It is unclear if Theodore will get the start in this matchup, but he's 8-0-1 with a 1.77 GAA in his last nine starts versus Boston. Boston has outscored Florida 11-4 in winning the last four meetings, and the Bruins are 7-1-1 in the last nine matchups overall.
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