SUNRISE — The Boston Bruins will again be without their captain against the Florida Panthers as Patrice Bergeron did not make the trip and will miss Game 3 tonight.
Boston coach Jim Montgomery said following Friday’s morning skate at FLA Live Arena that Bergeron — who left the regular-season finale in Montreal early with an upper-body injury — is focusing on a return in Game 5 on Wednesday night at the Boston Garden.
While Bergeron has been out of the Boston lineup, the Panthers are waiting on an offensive breakout from their captain.
Sasha Barkov has yet to score in this series although he had an assist in the Game 2 win on Wednesday night while winning 11 of his 16 faceoffs.
Barkov also had a shorthanded breakaway which may have given his team the initial lead had he not been pulled down in front of the net.
“Of course, I can be a lot better and I am working on it,” Barkov told FHN on Friday morning. “I am trying to play my best and am playing as hard as possible. But I am also trying to play smart as well. I am not concerned about anything because I am working hard every shift. I am playing in the moment.”
The truth is, Barkov’s importance to the Panthers lies more than in just scoring goals.
Barkov is Florida’s top defensive forward who has been logging big minutes against Boston’s best.
“His game built from 1 to 2, for sure,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “I would say the (offense) does not matter because the standard there is, the top two lines are going to neutralize each other and saw each other off. There are 16 teams left and they all have two really good lines. Boston has four.
“But if they all come out even, you’re happy with that especially on the road. … I am good with his game. It is going to build.”
Said Barkov: “The game is a little different now. The playoffs are different and I have to be better defensively here than in the regular season. I trust the process.”
Eric Staal has been in Barkov’s skates in the past as his team’s No. 1 center and team captain in the postseason.
He knows what Barkov is going through and sees a lot of good in his game in these playoffs thus far.
“This is the playoffs and that is how it goes. Some games are tight and you have to make sure you are staying in the grind,” Staal told FHN. “Part of that is staying in front of the net and Barkov made a huge screen on the Montour goal.
“He is still a huge factor. He has enough talent to, when the moment comes, he is going to deliver. Barkov is going to find those opportunities. There is not a lot of room for those big guys. We’re excited to see how he plays as this series goes on.”
FIGHT NIGHT II?
Staal was involved in perhaps the most controversial part of this series to date on Wednesday night when he was hit high in the corner from Tomas Nosek.
No penalty was called and no supplementary discipline was handed out — but that does not mean the Panthers did not like it then nor now.
The hit set off a verbal assault between the two benches with Nosek, Staal and Matthew Tkachuk being the most vocal.
It led to seven ejections in the final two minutes of the game as fights broke out all over the ice and led game officials to end the contest with three seconds left on the clock.
Staal says the heavy play is going to continue but that is as much the nature of the two teams and the situation more than what happened Wednesday night.
“It has to be a fresh game. Our focus is winning Game 3 at home,” Staal said. “I didn’t love the play, but time to move on. It’s all about tonight and having our home crowd behind us and taking advantage of the excitement of this building. We’re going after the Bruins.
“In the last game, the score being what it was at the time, sometimes it goes that way. You have to keep a level head in those moments because the most important thing is the next game. That game was in the bag for us. We needed it, we got it and have to get through the rest of it. Once it is gone, it is gone.”
Ryan Lomberg was one of the main combatants on Wednesday night and did not participate in Friday’s morning skate as Zac Dalpe and Givani Smith filled in for him on the left side of the third line.
Maurice said Lomberg was fine and will play tonight. Dalpe and Smith are expected to be healthy scratches.
Alex Lyon is back in net for the Panthers.
Florida general manager Bill Zito made a rare visit to the press level for morning skate on Friday and it was to say hello to some old friends.
Columbus Blue Jackets color analyst Jody Shelley and studio analyst Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre will be part of the TNT broadcast for the two games in Sunrise. Zito was the associate GM in Columbus before joining the Panthers in 2020.
Jim Jackson, the play-by-play voice of the Flyers, will be on the call tonight.
Former Florida play-by-play voice Jeff Rimer is expected to make an appearance at the arena as well. Rimer left the Panthers for Columbus in 2005 and still makes his offseason home in South Florida.
Bally Sports Florida — with Steve Goldstein, Randy Moller, Jessica Blaylock, Katie Engleson, Jeff Chychrun and Ed Jovonovski — will continue to have all of the games in the opening round.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Series tied 1-1)
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Regular Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last Season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: @Boston 3, Florida 1; Game 2: Florida 6, @Boston 3; Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (BSF, TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, 3:30 (BSF, TNT); Game 5: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26 TBD (BSF, TBA); Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30. (*) — If Necessary.