|Will Panthers' Luongo get another chance vs. Bruins?|
Will Panthers' Luongo get another chance vs. Bruins?
The Boston Bruins, who are a virtual lock to reach the playoffs for the third straight year, visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Florida, which fell just one point short of the playoffs last season, seems destined for a similar fate in 2018-19.
The Bruins have 99 points with eight games remaining, and are in second place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers have 78 points and will likely fail to qualify even if they win all eight of their remaining games.
On Thursday, the Panthers rallied to beat the visiting Arizona Coyotes 4-2 as Florida goalie Roberto Luongo played his first game since March 7, and snapped his personal five-game losing streak.
"He looks rested," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "It was a good start for 'Lu.' "
It's possible Luongo will be back Saturday, when he faces the Bruins again. He shut them out on Dec. 4, making 33 saves in a 5-0 victory. But he also lost to Boston 4-3 in that March 7 game.
But the Panthers also have two other goalies, 22-year-old rookie Sam Montembeault and veteran James Reimer.
Montembeault had started six straight games prior to Thursday. In seven games overall this season, he is 4-2-1 and leads the team in goals-against average (2.58) and save percentage (.903).
Reimer has been relegated to third-string goalie and hasn't played since Feb. 26. He has lost his past two starts and is 13-11-15 this season with a 3.02 GAA and a .902 save percentage.
Boughner said Montembeault had earned playing time by winning four straight games, and Luongo handled the situation like a pro.
"The more 'Monty' stayed in there, and the team started winning, (Luongo) was the first guy to say, 'Play him again,' " Boughner said. "It wasn't difficult at all.
"We've always been honest and upfront with guys -- whether it's uncomfortable or not. That's the business we're in. (Luongo) understood it and supported it."
As for the Bruins goaltenders, they could go with Tuukka Rask, who beat the Panthers 4-3 on March 7. The other option is Jaroslav Halak, who took a 5-0 beating from the Panthers on Dec. 4.
For the season, Rask is 26-10-5 with a 2.35 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Halak is 19-10-4 with a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save percentage.
On offense, the Bruins have three 30-goal scorers: David Pastrnak (32), Brad Marchand (31) and Patrice Bergeron (31).
Marchand, with three assists on Thursday, reached the 90-point plateau for the first time in his career. He is the first Bruins player to reach 90 since Marc Savard in 2006-2007.
Pastrnak scored on Thursday in just his second game back from thumb surgery, and that was great news for the Bruins.
Bergeron, who had two goals to help beat the Panthers on March 7, had two more on Thursday. He reached 30 goals for the fifth time in his career.
The only concern for the Bruins is the status of some of their injured players. Center Sean Kuraly left Thursday's game with a hand injury after he blocked a shot.
"He didn't return, so that's never good," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We'll see."
Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk won't be back until April due to a forearm injury. Fellow defensemen Torey Krug (concussion) and Kevan Miller (upper-body injury) are also out.
Boston will have to contain Florida's two players with more than 80 points each: captain Aleksander Barkov (87 points) and Jonathan Huberdeau (82). It's the first time in history that the Panthers have two 80-point scorers.
In the two games against Boston this season, Huberdeau has three goals and three assists. Barkov has one goal and three assists.
--Field Level Media