BOSTON — The Boston Bruins look to extend their point streak to 18 games Thursday night when they welcome the Florida Panthers to TD Garden.
Florida still is hanging on to its last sliver of hope to reach the postseason, as it currently trails the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens by 11 points in the Wild Card standings with 16 games remaining on its regular-season schedule. While the Panthers have earned at least a point in five of their last six games, they haven’t earned a full two since Feb. 25.
The Bruins, meanwhile, arguably are the hottest team in the NHL. Boston currently owns a two-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. With the Tampa Bay Lightning on a fast track to the division crown, the B’s will need to continue to rack up the points in order to ensure home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston will receive a boost Thursday night in the form of Sean Kuraly, who returns to the lineup after missing the last two games with a concussion. Marcus Johansson, who sustained a lung contusion in Tuesday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, will be inactive for at least a week. Peter Cehlarik will take Johansson’s spot on the second line against the Panthers.
Here are the projected lines and defensive pairings for both teams:
BOSTON BRUINS (40-17-9)
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk–David Krejci–Peter Cehlarik
Joakim Nordstrom–Charlie Coyle–David Backes
Sean Kuraly–Noel Acciari–Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara–Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug–Brandon Carlo
John Moore–Matt Grzelcyk
FLORIDA PANTHERS (28-26-12)
Jonathan Huberdeau–Aleksander Barkov–Evgenii Dadonov
Frank Vatrano–Vincent Trocheck–Mike Hoffman
Jamie McGinn–Riley Sheahan–Troy Brouwer
Jayce Hawryluk–Henrik Borgstrom–Dryden Hunt
Mike Matheson–Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle–MacKenzie Weegar
Mark Pysyk–Josh Brown
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports