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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Rested, Missing 1 Key Player for Boston Bruins



Florida panthers
The Florida Panthers celebrate after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in overtime in Game 2 on April 23 in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

FORT LAUDERDALE — It has been a week since the Florida Panthers won their first-round playoff round and tonight, they open the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Bruins.

The Panthers took a couple days off after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and were able to watch the final three games of the Bruins-Toronto series which finally ended in overtime on Saturday night.

Although some may think Boston has an edge in tonight’s Game 1 fresh off an emotional win on Saturday, the Panthers say they used their time off wisely and are ready to go.

“It feels like we’re starting the playoffs now,” Matthew Tkachuk said after Sunday’s practice.

“The break was really good for us. We’re refreshed and our mindset is great. Even though we didn’t know who we were playing, we were fine-tuning our game, kind of looking back at the last series a bit and just seeing what worked.”

Enemy Lines: Follow the Bruins at Boston Hockey Now

Last year, the Panthers were the team with just a day off between series.

After beating the Bruins in Game 7 of the first round on a Sunday night, the Panthers flew to Toronto and played in Game 1 of the second round on Tuesday.

The Panthers set the tone in that game, taking a 3-2 lead into the third and ended up winning the series in 5 games.

“You can pull examples about Game 7s,” coach Paul Maurice said. “They just played 7, so they have more miles on them than we do. Last year, we played 7 and it just did not matter. None of it matters. … We have talked for a week, and none of that matters when the puck drops. It won’t have anything to do with how the first minute of that game goes. The game is going to get played, and that’s it.”

What the Panthers do expect is the Bruins to come out flying.

Boston survived the Maple Leafs and avoided becoming the first major North American team to lose a series in which it had a 3-1 lead in consecutive years.

“They are a such an unbelievable team and we have played them a lot in my two years here,” Tkachuk said. “It is going to be an exciting series, and I am glad we got home ice so we can play in front of our great fans here to start. I know everyone is going to be excited.

“They’re coming off short rest, but I think that will be an advantage for them at the beginning of Game 1 just to get right back into us. It is a challenge for us to get off to a great start. Hopefully our rested legs can take over at some point and we can take over the game and the series.’’

The Bruins also have a little payback on their minds when it comes to the Panthers who ruined their record-setting 2022-23 season.

“It all started Game 5 when went to Boston losing 3-1,” captain Sasha Barkov said. “We had a great game plan, knew how to execute and what to do on the ice, how to play the right way. It all kind of started then. Games 5, 6 and 7 just showed us when we do things the right way and play hard, anything is possible.”

Florida came out of its series with the Lightning moderately healthy with only Sam Bennett ruled out for Game 1 against Boston.

Bennett injured his hand on a Brandon Montour slapper in the second period of Game 2; Maurice said he skated again Sunday and is now ‘day-to-day.’

“He skated well today,’’ Maurice said. “He is at or probably better than [where] I thought he would be. He will not play tomorrow night, but we will list him as day-to-day.’’

Florida is expected to run out the same lineup it did for Game 5.

On Sunday, Ryan Lomberg was running with Jonah Gadjovich on what looks like the scratched fifth line.

The Panthers also recalled a number of players from AHL Charlotte, including Matt Kiersted, Justin Sourdif, and Mackie Samoskevich.

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