A recent surge has pushed the Boston Bruins back into playoff contention. To continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, they’ll need to beat a team they’ve struggled against recently that also has playoff hopes.
The Bruins will try to snap a five-game losing streak against the Florida Panthers when the teams wrap up their regular-season series on Saturday night at BankAtlantic Center.
With four straight road wins and eight victories in their last 10 games overall, the Bruins (30-26-4) have 64 points and are tied with the New York Rangers for 11th in the East. Both teams are five points behind defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Bruins haven’t had a five-game winning streak since a six-game run from Jan. 29-Feb. 10, 2004.
The Panthers (23-26-13), though, have outscored Boston 17-8 while winning all three meetings this season. Florida, which hasn’t lost to the Bruins since Nov. 3, 2005, is 13th in the East with 59 points.
Boston’s road winning streak continued with a 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Friday. Brad Boyes scored twice, Brandon Bochenski had a goal and two assists and Phil Kessel and Marco Sturm each added a goal and an assist.
“It just wasn’t me. We got contributions from everyone,” Boyes said.
Marc Savard notched three assists to boost his team-leading point total to 80 and extend his point streak to seven games with two goals and 10 assists during that stretch. He’s had one assist in each of Boston’s losses to Florida this season.
Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins’ second-leading scorer with 54 points, missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury despite skating earlier in the day. Glen Murray, third on the team with 44 points, has been out the last two games with a groin injury.
While both players are day-to-day, Murray would be the bigger loss if he’s unable to go—he’s scored five goals in three games against the Panthers this season.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has lost all three starts to the Panthers this season while posting a 5.41 goals-against average. He’s surrendered 18 goals in four career starts against Florida with a 0-3-1 record.
Florida is 9-2-3 in its last 14 home games including a 2-1 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Juraj Kolnik’s second-period goal tied the score, and Ed Belfour made 16 of his 39 saves in the third period and overtime.
“He’s been pretty outstanding in that last little stretch (and Thursday) was no different,” Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “He kept us in the game for a while. It’s pretty amazing what he’s doing for a guy who’s over 40 years old.”
Belfour, who turns 42 on April 21, is 18-7-0 with three ties and a 2.33 goals-against average in 30 career games versus the Bruins, winning four of his last five starts against them. In two wins this season against the Bruins, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has given up four goals.
Olli Jokinen leads Florida with 24 goals and 35 assists, but has only two assists in his last five games. He has four goals and six assists during a five-game point streak against Boston.