Preview: Florida Panthers Vs. Boston Bruins

Apr 21, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) hooks Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (7) during the first period of a NHL game. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins (3-2-0) at Florida Panthers (2-5-0)

Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas returns from a groin injury tonight to start against his former club when the Florida Panthers take on the Boston Bruins tonight at the BB&T Center 7:30 p.m. ET.

Tim Thomas played in eight seasons for the Bruins (02-03 & 05-12). With the Bruins he won two Vezina Trophies (2009, 2011) one Stanley Cup (2011) and one Conn Smythe Trohpy (2011). His time with the Bruins ended on a sour note as he sat out the 2012-13 season while he still had one year left on his Bruins contract. The Panthers signed Thomas as a free agent this September and tonight will be his first start against his former team as well as his former backup in Boston, Tuukka Rask.

“I never thought that we would play against each other,” Rask told the Bruins website following practice Wednesday in Sunrise, Fla. “But I’m glad that he made his comeback and proved people wrong again, and I hope he does well.”

The Panthers are returning home after a one game road trip to Nashville in which they lost 4-3. Despite the losing effort, the Panthers showed a lot of grit and head coach Kevin Dineen was satisfied with his team’s performance just not the result.

“We talked about a 60-minute game and we got that,” Dineen said, “At the end of it we’re going to have to find a way to win these games.”

Tonight’s game against the Bruins marks the start of a six game home stand for the Panthers, their longest of the season. The Panthers, who have played five of their first seven games on the road, are hoping that a little home cooking helps turn their season around. The Panthers are 1-4 on the road and 1-1 at home. Their one home win was a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in their home opener.

The Bruins pose a stiff challenge for a Panthers team struggling to score. The B’s rank third in the league allowing only 1.60 goals per game. Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask has allowed more than one goal just once this season, Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Rask comes into tonight’s game with a 1.41 GAA and .951 Sv %.

Tonight is the first of five match-ups between the Panthers and Bruins, two teams who are entering their first season as Atlantic Division rivals. Boston has dominated Florida over the last few years, going 9-2-0 in their last 11 games against the Panthers.

Players to Watch:

Jonathan Huberdeau has been heating up recently for the Panthers. He scored a beautiful goal in Tuesday’s loss to the Predators and he now has three goals in the Panthers last four games. Thomas Fleischmann leads the Panthers in points with seven (1-6-7) and he has been part of a potent line alongside Brad Boyes (4-2-6) and rookie center Aleksander Barkov (2-3-5).

The Bruins have been led by Milan Lucic who has five points through the teams first five games (3-2-5). New addition Loui Eriksson has two points, both goals, while Jarome Iginla has only managed one assist through five games so far.

After being benched Tuesday in Nashville, Scottie Upshall will be back in the Panthers lineup with Krys Barch being the healthy scratch. 21-year-old center Nick Bjugstad will be back in the lineup after making his season debut Tuesday. Bjugstad missed the first six games of the season with a concussion. Defenseman Matt Gilroy scored a goal against the Predators and he should be in the lineup for the fourth straight game which means Ryan Whitney will again be a healthy scratch.

Here is the lineup I think we will see from the Panthers:

Huberdeau-Gomez-Versteeg

Fleischmann-Barkov-Boyes

Winchester-Goc-Matthias

Upshall-Bjugstad-Kopecky

Gilbert-Campbell

Kulikov-Weaver

Gilroy-Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

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Topics: Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask

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