Preview: Rested Panthers gear up for season’s 1st matchup vs. Bruins

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.

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SUNRISE, Fla. –– The Florida Panthers (10-10-5) should be well rested when they play host to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

With no game Sunday or Monday, it’s the Panthers’ biggest break since they got back from Finland one month ago.

“It was our fifth game in eight days,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We started the week with a back to back, and we ended with a back to back. You could tell our tank was a little bit empty toward the end.”

Indeed, the Panthers have blown multi-goal leads in two of their past three losses.

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Meanwhile, the Bruins (14-8-4), who are Florida’s rivals in the Atlantic Division, have also been off since Saturday, although they did have to make the trip down to Sunrise while the Panthers rested.

Boston is trying to win now while also breaking in young players, and that’s especially true on defense, where injuries have taken out the Bruins’ top two players: Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Chara is out with a knee injury, and McAvoy has a concussion.

Two other Bruins defensemen who have played this season are also on injured reserve: Kevan Miller (throat) and top rookie Urho Vaakanainen (concussion).

Due to those injuries, the Bruins have been forced to play rookie defensemen Connor Clifton, 23; and Jeremy Lauzon, 21. Between the two of them, they have just 22 games of NHL experience.

The Bruins will rely on their more experienced defensemen — Brandon Carlo, John Moore, Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk — for most of the playing time against a potent Panthers offense.

The hottest Panthers forwards at the moment are Jonathan Huberdeau, who has a five-game, multi-point streak; and Mike Hoffman, who has 24 points in his past 23 games.

Panthers center Vincent Trocheck, who has scored 54 goals the past two seasons, is out with a fractured ankle. But the Panthers still have captain/center Aleksander Barkov (10 goals, 23 points), winger Evgenii Dadonov (12 goals, 26 points) and a power play that has scored in 14 of their past 15 games.

Defenseman Keith Yandle, the quarterback of Florida’s power play, earned career assist No. 40 on Saturday.

The job of being the last line of defense against that offense on Tuesday will likely belong to Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who is off to a 6-5-2 start with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Boston’s offense is also making an adjustment that skews younger. Center Patrice Bergeron, 33, who scored 30 goals last season and has nine this season, is out due to a shoulder injury.

David Pastrnak, 22, leads the Bruins in goals (19) and points (30). Jake DeBrusk, also 22, has 10 goals after scoring 16 last season.

The Bruins are also still looking for breakthroughs from players such as Ryan Donato, a rookie from Harvard who produced nine points in 12 games late last season and has two goals and no assists in 13 games this season.

“We’ve got some young wingers who are learning their way,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

After Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Cassidy bemoaned Boston’s inability to finish chances at the net. But, he added, “there was fire in the group.”