In the NHL, they call games like tonight’s Boston Bruins (12-3-4) tilt with the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., TD Banknorth Garden) a trap game. The Bruins have won seven of their last eight, 10 of their last 12 and are the winners of their last six home games. The Panthers, on the other hand, are just 2-3 over their last five and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with just a 7-10-1 record.
Player to watch: The Panthers are led in scoring by Nathan Horton (6-5-11). But the one to really keep on a eye on tonight is defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent come next summer. The veteran blueliner has so far resisted the temptation to re-sign with Florida as he waits to see which direction the Panthers are going to go in the months ahead. Obviously, the trade of captain OlliJokinen to Phoenix last summer has not worked out so far this season. Bouwmeester has not handled the start to this season well, as he’s still looking for his first goal, has recorded just seven assists and is a minus-8. As the season wears on, one has to figure Florida will trade Bouwmeester to the highest bidder — and the Bruins will have to at least make a slight attempt to secure the type of puck-moving defenseman that could put them over the top come spring.
Quotable: The Panthers are led by first-year NHL coach Peter DeBoer, who previously coached the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) for seven seasons. He led the Rangers to 297 wins (a .676 winning percentage) and the 2003 Memorial Cup.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked what he’s seen of Florida on video: “If you want to look at their record, you can judge them from that. But think they’re a much more structured team with him. They’re a hard-working team. I think right now they’re going through the bumps along the way here a little bit, but they’re one of those teams that if you take them for granted, like we did against Toronto, they’re going to come in here and do some damage.
“I’ve always liked his coaching style; he’s done a good job over the past. And I knew that when they brought him in there, he’d put some stability in there as well. And he’s done that.”