Wednesday night’s tilt between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers is going to be a test of the two top teams in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins enter the matchup 3-1-0, coming off a win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. The Panthers are one of just four team that remain undefeated in the league, with a perfect 6-0-0 record to start the season, with their most recent win coming on Monday in a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
These are two teams that had high expectations coming into the season. They are both seen as possible winners of the Atlantic Division and certainly should be around in the spring, fighting for a chance at the Stanley Cup.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida
TV: NESN, NHL Network
"Bruins projected linesMarchand-Bergeron-PastrnakHall-Studnicka-CoyleDeBrusk-Haula-KuhlmanFrederic-Nosek-Lazar Grzlecyk-McAvoyReilly-CarloForbort-Clifton UllmarkSwayman"
"Panthers projected linesVerhaeghe – Barkov – DuclairHuberdeau – Bennett – TippettMarchment – Luostarinen – ReinhartVatrano – Thornton – Hornqvist Weegar – EkbladForsling – GudasConnauton – Montour BobrovskyKnight"
Jack Studnicka second line center? Yes please. It didn’t make a ton of sense that yesterday, he was skating with the fourth line when Tomas Nosek, a regular fourth liner, was up on the second. It seemed like an easy switch, but Bruce Cassidy stated his reasonings yesterday. However, he seems to have changed his mind and has Studnicka in between Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle.
Curtis Lazar, having avoided a serious long-term elbow injury, is set to make his debut tonight. He said yesterday he was good to go, but would be reevaluated ahead of the game tonight. After skating on the fourth line in morning rushes, Cassidy said that he is all set to go and will play with Trent Frederic and Tomas Nosek to start.
Craig Smith, Nick Foligno and Anton Blidh did not travel with the team, so they will not play tonight or tomorrow.
I would say this is the first major test for Linus Ullmark in a Bruins uniform. Sure, both the Sharks and Buffalo Sabres were undefeated when the Ullmark faced them, but let’s not kid ourselves. Florida is a completely different animal and just like for the rest of the team, will be a good measuring stick to see where Ullmark is at against top talent.
The Bruins will have their hands full with an elite Panthers’ offense. Florida is averaging 4.5 goals per game, tied for the third-highest in the league. To make matters worse, the defense has been just as good, letting up an average of two goals per game, the third-lowest in the league.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in points with eight (three goals, four assists) with Sam Bennett right behind him (four goals, three assists). This offense is extremely deep, with eight players already recording at least two goals this season.
They will be without rookie Anton Lundell for the second straight game. The young forward has five points in five games played this season, but is dealing with an upper-body injury. Boston will not see former Bruin Noel Acciari in the lineup. He’s on the IR after sustaining a pectoral injury in the preseason.
This may very well be the final game coach Joel Quenneville has behind the Florida bench. With the results of the investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks handling of sexual assault allegations in 2010 where Quenneville was the coach, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Quenneville either steps down or his relieved of his duties.
Frankly, Quenneville should already have coached his last game in the NHL and be gone from the organization, but that’s just my two cents on the matter.
I wrote about it before, but this is the first of a tough three-game stretch to end October. The Bruins will have the Panthers again on Saturday, with a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes sandwiched between the two Florida games. Let’s see if Boston can make it three straight games handing a team its first loss on the season.