The NHL season may not yet be halfway over, but there will be two fairly desperate teams inside the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday night.
The Boston Bruins, still comfortably atop the Atlantic Division, have lost four straight games in regulation and five consecutive contests overall. You can bet that the Bruins want to end this losing streak right now.
Their opponent on Saturday night, the Florida Panthers, are not currently in a playoff position, and some of that has to do with their disappointing 3-3-0 homestand that still has three games remaining.
It's the longest homestand in franchise history, but the Panthers have failed to take advantage.
Even though the Panthers started this week ranked fourth in the NHL in goals scored per game, they have been shut down twice in a row. They were beaten 2-1 by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and 3-1 by the New York Islanders on Thursday.
"It's the NHL -- it's not easy to win," said Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who has allowed just six goals in his past four games. "But we have a great group of guys, very talented and skilled. We believe in each other. We will work hard and move on."
That's exactly what the Bruins want to do since this is their longest losing streak since going 0-5-0 in March of 2016.
"For the most part, we're playing the right way," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "But you don't want to let (the losses) snowball.
"If you start getting down on yourself and doubting yourself, then you will start to lose more games."
The Panthers beat the Bruins 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 12. That was their only meeting so far this season, and it was a great night for the Panthers, who rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the third period. Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle had the tying goal and two assists, and winger Mike Hoffman, who scored in regulation, got the winner in the shootout.
Fast forward to Saturday, and the trends show struggles for both teams. The Bruins are just 8-6-1 on the road (as opposed to 12-1-5 at home).
The Panthers, who are 9-6-2 at home, are led in points by winger Jonathan Huberdeau (37), and center Aleksander Barkov (36). Winger Brett Connolly, a steal of a free agent signing in July, tops the team with 14 goals, and Hoffman (12 goals, 11 assists) has a four-game point streak.
Bobrovsky, who allowed four goals to the Bruins in that game last month before getting pulled, is 11-8-4 with a 3.14 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.
David Pastrnak leads Boston (and the NHL) with 26 goals, and Brad Marchand tops the Bruins in assists (30) and points (48).
Rask is 13-4-3 with a 2.24 GAA and a .926 save percentage. His backup, Jaroslav Halak, also has solid numbers (7-3-3, 2.28 GAA, .927 save percentage).
Both teams are relatively healthy. The most significant player on the injured list is probably Bruins fourth-line winger Brett Ritchie, who has two goals and two assists in 19 games. He is out due to an illness.
--Field Level Media