They may be a bit weary in the midst of a stretch that features 11 games in just 19 days, but they also come back to Garden in good spirits after beating the Rangers 3-2. It was the second straight win for the Bruins, who seemed to have put the struggles of their recent mini-slump behind them.
Prior to these two wins, Boston had managed just one win in the previous five games, but they're back to playing more like the way they performed when they opened the season with seven victories in their first nine games.
Adding another win on Thursday won't be easy. Florida has won four of its last six games, including a 2-1 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday.
It will also be an emotional game, as Bruins forwards Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell and Panthers defenseman Dennis Wideman will play their first regular-season game against their old clubs since they were traded for each other this offseason.
Boston Bruins (10-5-1, 21 points) vs. Florida Panthers (8-8-0, 16 points)
Nov. 18, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
This is the first of four meetings this season between the Bruins and Panthers. The Bruins went 2-1-1 against Florida last year, but all four games were decided by one goal and two went to a shootout. Boston holds a slim 27-26-6-4 edge in the all-time series, but is just 11-14-4-3 at home against Florida. The Panthers and Bruins also played twice in the preseason, with Florida winning a pair of 3-2 decisions, the first in Rochester and the second in a shootout at the Garden.
Tim Thomas keeps on racking up the wins, as he's now 10-1-0 on the season after making 34 saves in a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Wednesday. He could be in line for a night off with the back-to-back games, and Florida could be a good team to sit against as Thomas is just 4-6-2 with a 3.36 GAA and an .893 save percentage against the Panthers.
Tuukka Rask is still looking for his first win of the season at 0-4-1 with a 2.75 GAA and a .923 save percentage, but he has had success against the Panthers with a 1.45 GAA and a .938 save percentage in two games against Florida.
For the Panthers, Tomas Vokoun improved to 7-5-0 this season as he stopped 38 of 39 shots in a 2-1 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. He's had success against the Bruins of late, with a 2.50 GAA, .932 save percentage and two shutouts. Scott Clemmensen is just 1-3-0 with a 3.18 GAA and an .898 save percentage this year, but is 5-3-0 with a 1.98 GAA, .935 save percentage and two shutouts against Boston.
The Panthers and Bruins have exchanged players several times in the past year, with Bitz going to Florida in the deal for Dennis Seidenberg at last year's trade deadline and Wideman heading to the Panthers in the trade that brought Horton and Campbell to Boston this summer. Center Marty Reasoner also played briefly for the Bruins as well as at Boston College, while Clemmensen was also a BC Eagle and Chris Higgins played at Yale.
The Panthers are dead last in the NHL with just three fighting majors in 16 games. Enforcer Darcy Hordichuk has one of those fights while playing in just nine games. Wideman and Bryan Allen have the other fighting majors. The Bruins didn't have a fight for just the second time in the last 11 games Wednesday against New York. Boston has 18 fighting majors in 16 games, with Mark Stuart, Campbell and Adam McQuaid leading the way with three each and Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic each adding two. Last year, Thornton fought Allen and McQuaid took on Victor Oreskovich, who is now in the Vancouver system, in the four-game series.
After a light workload in October, the Bruins continue to make up for lost time in November with yet another set of back-to-back games. The Panthers won't have an advantage though, as they also played Wednesday night. The Bruins have struggled at home this season and had difficulty against the Panthers in Boston throughout their history, but they finally won at the garden on Monday and continued that momentum with a road win in New York on Wednesday. Now they'll try to make it three straight on Thursday.
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