BOSTON — The Bruins will try to prevent their season-long four-game losing streak from reaching five Thursday night when they host the Florida Panthers in a crucial Atlantic Division matchup at TD Garden.
Boston enters the game three points back of both Florida and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the division standings. The Bruins have yet to lose to the Panthers in three meetings this season, however, and Florida has not won in Boston since 2011.
“I wasn’t really aware of that,” Panthers winger Reilly Smith, a former Bruin, told reporters Thursday morning, via NHL.com. “It’s been such a long time since the Florida Panthers have won in this building. We’re coming off a couple tough games, and we’d like to jump back into that winning column. Obviously, they played last night so we’ve got to take advantage of that (Thursday night).”
The Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night after losing all three games of their California road trip. Goaltender Tuukka Rask played just one period of the loss at Madison Square Garden before an illness forced him to exit the game. It remains to be seen whether Rask or backup Jonas Gustavsson will start in net against Florida.
“I haven’t really talked to (Rask), but we’ll see here,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said in his pregame news conference. “There’s going to be a decision made, and unfortunately, sometimes you have to make those last-minute decisions.”
The Panthers carry a two-game losing streak into Thursday night but have won four of their last seven overall.
Here’s a look at the projected lines and pairings for both teams, with a note that since the Bruins did not hold a morning skate, their exact lineup won’t become clear until pregame warmups:
UPDATE (6:40 p.m. ET): Rask led the Bruins onto the ice for warmups, meaning he’ll start the game in net. Boston also revamped its bottom three lines, as detailed below.
BOSTON BRUINS (39-27-8)
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Lee Stempniak
Matt Beleskey — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Loui Eriksson — Ryan Spooner — Frank Vatrano
Jimmy Hayes — Noel Acciari — Brett Connolly
Zdeno Chara — Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles — Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
FLORIDA PANTHERS (40-24-9)
Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen — Vincent Trocheck — Reilly Smith
Jiri Hudler — Nick Bjugstad — Teddy Purcell
Garrett Wilson — Greg McKegg — Shawn Thornton
Dmitry Kulikov — Aaron Ekblad
Brian Campbell — Alex Petrovic
Jakub Kindl — Steven Kampfer
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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