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.