BOSTON — After suffering their first regulation loss in 16 games Tuesday in Winnipeg, the Bruins will look to begin a new win streak Thursday when the Florida Panthers visit the Garden.
That won’t be an easy task, as the Panthers are leading the Southeast Division and just one point behind the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It’s going to be a tough game and they play a lot like we do in a lot of areas, and so there is a similarity there,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Whether one of our old coaches [Craig Ramsay] has brought some of that philosophy with him, I don’t know, but we see a lot of similarities anyways. And a team that’s obviously playing well on the road, power play’s been extremely good and so we need to respect that and this is a good challenge for us, for numerous reasons; whether it’s standings where they’re a point behind, whether it’s us bouncing back from losing a game, back at home and going back on the road, so we need to be good tonight and be ready.”
Ramsay served as Julien’s assistant for three seasons in Boston before being named Atlanta’s head coach last year. After he was not retained by the franchise when it relocated to Winnipeg, Ramsay joined the Panthers staff as an assistant. Former Bruins Gord Murphy and Robb Tallas are also assistants, while forward Marco Sturm is making his return to the Garden. He’s on his fourth team since being traded to Los Angeles last season, with stops in Washington and Vancouver before being dealt to Florida earlier this year.
Julien confirmed that Tyler Seguin will be back in the lineup after he was sat out in Winnipeg for missing the team breakfast and a meeting that morning.
Tim Thomas is also likely to be back in net. Tuukka Rask got the start on Tuesday, but Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate on Thursday, traditionally an indication of who will start that night.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen didn’t reveal his starter in goal, but Jose Theodore is likely to get the call after missing Monday’s game against Washington with the flu.
Florida will also get forward Mikael Samuelsson back. He’s been out since Oct. 24 with a lower-body injury, missing the last 24 games.
“We’ve had a long wait for Sammy, and we’re going to slowly matriculate him into our lineup here,” Dineen said. “It’s going to be well worth the wait. He’s a quality player and a great individual. He’s going to add a lot to our mix right now.”
The Panthers will also have a new addition to the lineup, with enforcer Krystofer Barch making his Florida debut after being acquired from Dallas on Wednesday.
“I think he brings health,” Dineen said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year and I think what we’re looking for is some energy. He’s got some experience as a veteran player and I think giving us that stability throughout the lineup is really important right now. I think he’s a really good addition for us.”
Barch also brings some needed toughness to the Panthers lineup. He has tangled with Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton several times, including last year in one of three bouts in the opening four seconds of Dallas’ visit to the Garden.
Mike Hasenfratz and Brad Watson will be the referees, with Matt MacPherson and Derek Nansen working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Jordan Caron, Steven Kampfer
Projected Panthers lines
Tomas Fleischmann-Stephen Weiss-Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim-Shawn Matthias-Tomas Kopecky
Marco Sturm-Mike Santorelli-Jack Skille
Mikael Samuelsson-Tim Kennedy-Krystofer Barch
Brian Campbell-Jason Garrison
Erik Gudbranson-Ed Jovanovski
Mike Weaver-Dmitry Kulikov
Scratches: Keaton Ellerby, Mark Cullen, Evgeni Dadonov