Bruins-Panthers Preview: B’s Face Must-Win In Florida As Playoff Race Intensifies

The Boston Bruins can clinch a playoff spot Thursday night with a regulation or overtime win over the Florida Panthers combined with an Ottawa Senators regulation loss to the New York Rangers.

For that to happen, the Bruins must give a much better effort at both ends of the ice than they displayed in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. Too many turnovers, defensive breakdowns and a lack of traffic in front were among the many reasons why Washington controlled the game from start to finish.

Even though the Panthers have nothing to play for, they’v proven to be a difficult opponent for the Bruins this season. Every game in the season series has been decided by a single goal, most recently a 3-2 win for the Bruins thanks to a third-period comeback led by Milan Lucic, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak.

The Bruins still control their own destiny in the playoff race, but they need a win Thursday to maintain that heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale.

Here’s a preview of Bruins-Panthers.

TV, Radio Information: NESN Plus and 98.5 The Sports Hub

Season Series: Boston 2-0-1

Record: Boston (41-26-13, fourth in Atlantic), Florida (36-29-15, sixth in Atlantic)

Bruins Player To Watch: Ryan Spooner was a plus-17 Corsi at even strength and went 7 for 11 in the faceoff dot against the Capitals. He’s tallied four points in his last five games, including a multi-point effort (one goal, one assist) in his last game against the Panthers on March 31. Expect Spooner to play a key role in the outcome Thursday night with the Bruins’ offense struggling to score.

Panthers Player To Watch: Roberto Luongo has enjoyed a very good season in Florida and is 1-1-1 with a 1.92 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in three games against the Bruins this campaign. He gave up four goals on 22 shots in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in his last start Saturday.

Key Stat For Bruins: Boston is 1-for-15 on the power play over the last six games. The Bruins also didn’t have a single power-play opportunity in Wednesday’s defeat to the Capitals. Boston is 1-for-7 with the man advantage in three games against Florida this season.

Key Stat For Panthers: Florida ranks ninth in goals scored (34) and shooting percentage (7.9) at even strength since March 1.

Thumbnail photo via Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports Images

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