The last two months have acted as a search for which teams in the NHL  can actually hang with the Bruins. Few can, but the Panthers have proven they’re one of those teams.
Not many teams have beaten the B’s since Nov. 1. In fact, only three have. One of those teams is the Panthers, and they’re in town Friday as the Bruins will look to head into the upcoming Christmas break with a victory over the last team to defeat them.
The Panthers came into Boston on Dec. 8, and played the perfect road game against the B’s. Florida stayed in a scoreless game until late in the third period, when Tomas Kopecky scored with less than three minutes remaining. Kris Versteeg added an empty-netter, and the Panthers left Boston with a 2-0 victory thanks to a shutout from Jose Theodore.
The Panthers remain at the top of the Southeast division, but when the B’s face them Friday, they’ll be a different-looking team. Florida will be without five of the players that skated in the Dec. 8 meeting, and they have seven players out overall. The team is dealing with injuries to Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm , Scottie Upshall, Jeff Skille, Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc, and are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss Thursday in Ottawa.
Injured or not, the Bruins know well enough not to take the Panthers lightly.
“They’ve got a bunch of injuries right now, so they’ve got a bunch of call ups, but they constantly work hard,” Daniel Paille  said Friday. “One thing is you can’t take them for granted anymore, because they’re top in their division. They’re a team that’s going to battle throughout every minute tonight. They showed it last game against us, so it’s going to be tough.”
Since beating the Bruins, the Panthers have had only two of their seven games decided in regulation (2-2-3). Whether it takes more than 60 minutes to accomplish, the B’s want to make sure they give the proper response to their last loss.
“I feel like we’re going to probably feel like we owe them something, so we’re going to play pretty hard,” Joe Corvo said. “No matter who’s in or out of their lineup, they play the same way. They play a good game, so it will be tough. We’ve just got to keep our minds on it and not think about Christmas break.”