BOSTON (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers haven’t played a lot of big games over the past few years, but their strong season has led them to several important contests over the past couple weeks.
The Boston Bruins may have more to worry about than just the team right behind them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Panthers are also in position to catch the Bruins, and they’ll try to end a seven-game losing streak in Boston in Tuesday night’s critical matchup.
Boston (38-25-13) holds the East’s last wild-card spot with 89 points – three more than Ottawa, which has a game in hand.
The Panthers (35-26-15) are four points behind the Bruins after beating the Senators 4-2 on the road Sunday. Jaromir Jagr scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitry Kulikov each had two assists.
“This was a Game 7 for us and now we have to get ready for the next Game 7 against Boston,” Jagr said.
Florida ended an 0-8-1 slide in this series with a 2-1 shootout win March 21 after the Bruins extended their run at home with a 2-1 win Nov. 4 on Brad Marchand’s overtime goal.
That contest marked the return of winger Shawn Thornton to Boston, where he played the previous seven seasons. The Bruins played a video tribute for their former enforcer.
Another former Boston skater who will be on the ice is Jagr, who played for the 2012-13 conference champion Bruins and has six points in six games against them since leaving.
Jagr, traded from New Jersey to Florida on Feb. 26, has been energized by playing with youngsters like Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad.
Huberdeau has 16 points in March to trail only Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby among East skaters, while Ekblad is second among all rookie defensemen with 35 points.
“They’re so talented,” said Jagr, who has 12 points in 14 games with Florida. “I said they’re going to surprise the league in two years, they might win the Cup the way they play. They’re going to get better and better.”
Roberto Luongo could get the chance to earn his 400th win and move within one of Chris Osgood for 10th place on the all-time list. Luongo is 0-4-1 with a 5.14 goals-against average in his last five starts in Boston, including three defeats with Vancouver in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins figure to start Tuukka Rask, who made 30 saves in Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win at Carolina one day after he left a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers early with what was originally described as dehydration.
“I feel good,” he said. “I had some kind of migraine that we thought was dehydration at first, but then I talked to the doctors. When you can’t really see it’s tough for a goalie to stay out there. I was seeing dots and went out there and saw two number 37s taking the faceoff so I thought `You’ve got to get out of here.'”
Rask is 11-1-1 with a 1.05 GAA in 13 starts against the Panthers.
Boston has been boosted by the unheralded Ryan Spooner, who has a team-high 12 points in March, and David Pastrnak, who has 11.
Florida is playing its final road contest before a closing five-game homestand that includes a matchup with Boston on April 9.
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