- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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WELCOME BACK: For the first time since leaving the Bruins organization on a self-imposed hiatus in order to spend more time with his family after the 2011-2012 season, goaltender Tim Thomas will face his former team on Garden ice. The Bruins defeated Thomas and the Panthers, 3-2, on Oct. 17 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The last time the Panthers were in town, on Nov. 7, Thomas was sidelined with a groin injury as Boston defeated Florida, 4-1. Thomas spent a total of eight seasons with the Bruins and helped Boston to a Stanley Cup title in 2011. He won a Conn Smythe and was a two-time Vezina Trophy winner for the Bruins. He spent a 16-month span away from the game before signing a one-year deal with the Panthers in September.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: The Bruins are in the midst of a major upswing, posting a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games. Boston is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games. On Monday, the Bruins posted a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders to conclude a stretch of 7-of-9 games on the road with a 5-3-1 record during that span. On home ice this season, the Bruins are 19-5-2. The Panthers are 11-13-3 on the road. Florida is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games. The Panthers are coming off a dramatic 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
POWER UP: The Bruins’ second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith are playing with some incredible chemistry. In Monday’s win over the Islanders, that trio combined for three goals and six assists. Marchand has been dialed in of late, too, scoring seven goals and adding five assists for 12 points in the last five games.
KELLY, KELLY, KELLY: It’s likely Bruins forward Chris Kelly will return to the lineup Tuesday night against the Panthers. He’s missed the last 22 games due to a broken right fibula he suffered on Dec. 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. If he does return, he’ll be back in the middle on the Bruins’ third line between Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. As a result of Kelly’s return, rookie forward Ryan Spooner will likely be assigned to Providence of the AHL so he can continue to play and develop. Fellow Bruins forward Jordan Caron would likely be the healthy scratch.