Bruins open four-game road trip vs. Panthers (Jan 6, 2017)
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Boston Bruins landed in Miami at 5:05 p.m. on Friday.
Their flight, originally scheduled to land in Fort Lauderdale, was diverted from that airport after a shooting there killed five people and wounded eight.
That type of tragedy puts hockey – or any sport – in its proper perspective.
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“It’s pretty crazy when you think of what happened,” Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. “Everyone in South Florida is a tight-knit community. It’s tough to see something like that happen anywhere but especially five minutes from where I live.”
Still, there is a season to play, and the Bruins (20-17-4) will presumably be the more-rested team when they play Florida on Saturday night at the BB&T Center. Boston is coming off a 4-3 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
However, Florida (17-15-8) beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Friday night, moving within two points of the three teams tied for second place in the Atlantic Division – including the Bruins.
It’s possible Boston will start backup goalie Zane McIntyre, who was called up on Friday from Providence of the American Hockey League.
The Bruins would like to get some rest for starting goalie Tuukka Rask, and they are placing their faith in McIntyre – for now at least. Former backup Anton Khudobin (1-5-0) cleared waivers on Thursday and was sent to Providence.
McIntyre, 24, struggled when he was called up earlier this season, going (0-2-0, 4.04 GAA), losing to a pair of powers – the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.
Since then, McIntyre regrouped. He went 10-0-0 with an AHL-best 1.41 GAA at Providence.
“He’s here,” Bruins coach Claude Julien, “because he’s playing well.”
The Panthers, who beefed up security for Friday night’s game against Nashville, said there will be a larger police presence on Saturday as well.
Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko said the team was in touch with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as well as several law enforcement entities and Broward County officials.
“We got word around 4 p.m. that the situation was under control,” Luukko said. “It was isolated to just the airport.
“We decided as an organization that it was best to go on with the game. This (tragedy) is the way the world is today, unfortunately. But as part of the community, we felt it was best to move on and not let something like this terrible act affect our daily lives.
“We are a gathering place for the community. Perhaps in these situations, it is best for the community to come together. We did feel it was important to move on but also respect those who were killed and pray for the wounded – pray for their recovery.”
Panthers starting goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled moments before the start of Friday’s game due to upper-body discomfort. Luongo has been stuck on 447 career wins for three straight games. If he can get one more win, he will pass Terry Sawchuk for fifth place on the NHL’s career victories list.
With Luongo likely out for the Bruins, backup James Reimer is ready. Reimer slumped in November but was brilliant in December. He had a 1.90 goals-against average and .941 save percentage last month and then won his first January start on Friday.
Panthers center Nick Bjugstad suffered a lower-body injury on Friday and is questionable for Saturday’s game.
Bruins center David Backes, attempting to return from a concussion, made the trip to Florida while defenseman John-Michael Liles (concussion) practiced on Friday and should return soon.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a 19-year-old Bruins’ prospect, was named the Player of the Game on Thursday as he led Team USA over Canada in the World Juniors final.
McAvoy, a native New Yorker who grew up rooting for the Rangers, plays for Boston University.