November 03, 2014

The Boston Bruins are no doubt ready to play again at home after establishing their longest losing streak with four straight road defeats.

They could also be facing the perfect opponent.

The Bruins have won nine straight at home over a Florida Panthers team they are chasing in a tight Atlantic Division race heading into Thursday night's matchup.

Boston (39-27-6) totaled three goals in three regulation defeats on the West Coast before losing 5-2 at the New York Rangers on Wednesday. The Bruins are 0 for 9 on the power play in this slide.

It has been costly with Boston trailing Tampa Bay and Florida (40-24-9) by three points in the Atlantic. The Bruins have played one more game than those clubs.

Even worse, they are only three points ahead of Philadelphia and Detroit and could be out of the playoffs altogether if the losing continues.

"I said this morning we control our own destiny and right now we are giving teams below us some hope," coach Claude Julien said. "We have to turn this around quick."

The Panthers have one regulation win in their last 15 meetings with Boston, losing twice in regulation and once in overtime this season. They are 0-8-1 in their last nine on the road in this series since a 2-0 victory Dec. 8, 2011.

Florida has stopped other road slides this season, ending a 10-game skid in Washington, a six-game losing streak in Columbus and a nine-game winless run in Nashville.

"We've come into many buildings that haven't been kind to us, we've played good hockey, we've won some games so hopefully we'll do the same in Boston," coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's going to be a tough game, it's always a battle with them."

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each have five points in the season series to lead the Bruins. They went pointless on the West Coast before each notched an assist Wednesday.

Julien will have to decide which goalie to start after he replaced Tuukka Rask with Jonas Gustavsson after one period versus the Rangers. Rask, who sat out practice Tuesday with an illness, stopped six of eight shots and Gustavsson 13 of 15.

Florida opened a crucial three-game trip with Monday's 4-2 defeat to the Rangers. The Panthers play at Tampa Bay to close it Saturday.

"Obviously this game is a huge game for us, and the next game after that with Tampa," Gallant said. "There's three teams fighting for first place in that division, and we're all within what, three points? It's going to be a battle and whoever is going to win it is going to have some win some games down the stretch here."

Florida has several former Bruins, most notably fan favorite Shawn Thornton and winger Reilly Smith. Those players have returned to Boston while defenseman Steven Kampfer will face the Bruins for the first time since he played for them between 2010-12.

The Panthers expect to start Roberto Luongo, who is 0-6-1 with a 4.26 goals-against average in his last seven starts at Boston - including three losses in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals with Vancouver.

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