BOSTON -- The Bruins host the Eastern Conference’s last-place team, the Florida Panthers, tonight at TD Garden.
The Panthers are 1-3-1 in their last five games and are trying to hang on for a playoff spot, trailing the eighth-place New York Rangers by eight points. Florida has been riddled by injuries this season with a total of seven players out of the lineup, including forward Stephen Weiss, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.
So, Bruins coach Claude Julien’s message to his team after Thursday’s morning skate was a simple one: Don’t take the Panthers for granted.
When asked what he expected from the struggling Panthers, Julien said he’s focused only on his team.
"To be honest, it’s what I expect from our team more than theirs right now,” Julien said. “Not to say anything about their team, we know they’re banged up, we know they’ve had a lot of injuries and they’ve had their fair share of struggles, but in this league there’s no such thing as an easy game and we should know that by now.”
The Bruins have uncharacteristically surrendered three third-period leads in three of the last six games, including a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Julien is looking for a complete effort against the Panthers.
“It’s more of how we’re going to bounce back from a real disappointing loss. Our decision-making [Tuesday] wasn’t as strong as it should have been,” said the coach.
“We need to bounce back with a strong outing, a 60-minute effort we keep talking about, and hopefully that will get us back on track,” added Julien.
Forward Shawn Thornton agreed that the Bruins need to play smarter hockey and finish games stronger.
"We need not to sit back as much,” he said. “Our decision-making with the puck needs to be better. We’ve made some mistakes that are uncharacteristic of us, as far as giving away pucks in areas that we usually don’t. If we played the same brand of hockey for the whole game then we’ll be fine, but it’s when we start to switch things up a little and ad-lib is when we get ourselves in trouble.
“There’s no panic button. Yes, it’s happened a few times lately, but there’s no hitting the panic button, we just know we need to be better for 60 minutes instead of 54,” he added.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who missed Tuesday’s game with the flu, was the first goalie off the ice this morning and is expected to make his 19th start of the season. He’s 13-2-3 with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. The Panthers’ Scott Clemmensen (2-3-2/4.28/8.52) will start for Florida.