Panthers-Bruins Preview

Jose Theodore has manned the net for an array of teams over the
years, but there’s been one constant regardless of the sweater he’s
worn: Theodore is a thorn in the side of the Boston Bruins.

Now the starter for the Florida Panthers, Theodore seeks to
continue his dominance of the high-powered Bruins on Friday night
at Boston in a matchup of division leaders.

The Bruins (22-9-1) have outscored the opposition 22-7 during a
five-game winning streak – their third run of at least four in a
row since the start of November. Their last loss came Dec. 8
against Florida, a 2-0 home defeat in which Theodore made a
season-high 40 saves to shut down the reigning Stanley Cup
champions.

“There’s always something that gets you going,” Theodore said
after that victory. “And when you play against the best, you want
to raise your game.”

Theodore’s game tends to reach its biggest heights against
Boston. The veteran has defeated the Bruins six consecutive times
and is 9-0-1 with a 1.59 goals-against average and .948 save
percentage against them since the start of the 2005-06 season. He’s
defeated the Bruins for Montreal, Washington, Minnesota and the
Panthers (18-10-7) during that span.

Theodore did not face the Bruins during a two-plus season stint
in Colorado from 2006-08, but did eliminate them from two
postseasons (2002 and 2004) during his years with the
Canadiens.

He’ll be back in net Friday after backup Scott Clemmensen got
the call Thursday night at Ottawa. Clemmensen yielded four goals on
26 shots, including Bobby Butler’s game-winner 2:02 into overtime
as the Panthers lost 4-3.

Florida has lost two straight and is 2-2-3 since beating the
Bruins. Making the Panthers’ task tougher, they’ll be without
Stephen Weiss – their second-leading scorer with 32 points – who
left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury.

“He’s not going to play (Friday) night so he’ll be out through
the holidays and we’ll evaluate him (Friday),” coach Kevin Dineen
said. “But he’s sorely missed. He plays a lot of valuable minutes
for us. I’d be very surprised to see him early after the Christmas
break.”

Despite the loss earlier this month, Boston has no reason to be
intimidated by Florida. The Bruins are an NHL-best 14-5-1 this
season against opponents with winning records. Meanwhile, the
Panthers are 0-2-1 when playing for a second consecutive night.

“On our end of it we have no excuse – we had some time off,”
coach Claude Julien, whose team hasn’t played since Monday, told
the Bruins’ official website. “Hopefully we’ll be a fresher team of
the two when (Friday) comes around.”

Julien’s club defeated Montreal 3-2 on Monday, improving to
19-2-1 since the start of November. Tim Thomas made 33 saves to
improve to 13-1-0 with a 1.70 GAA and .949 save percentage over
that same span.

Thomas’ only loss during the hot streak came against Theodore
and the Panthers. He stopped 28 shots, allowing his only goal to
Tomas Kopecky with 2:32 remaining in the third period. Kris
Versteeg added an empty-netter for Florida in the final minute.

Bruins forward Milan Lucic is scheduled to return from a
one-game suspension for hitting Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo from
behind and into the boards on Saturday. Lucic also scored his 11th
goal of the season against the Flyers, but has failed to put the
puck in the net in his last eight home games.