florida_panthers_logoHopefully the Boston Bruins won’t have sand in their boots, severe burns on their foreheads or too much lotion left over on their hands when they take the ice tonight.

A couple of regular practices were mixed among three days of fun and free time in the Sunshine date between the Bruins’ win at Carolina Tuesday and the date with the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise should’ve been just what the doctor ordered.

The Bruins, who despite the win in their last outing were looking sluggish for a couple weeks, should now be rested and refreshed. Hopefully Patrice Bergeron was able to bask in the glow of breaking his three-month-long scoring drought (even if he did only score on an empty net) and Phil Kessel was able to forget about his woes and figure a way to come back as the Kessel of November and December.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for the Bruins to get their edge back, as both Florida and Tampa Bay, tomorrow night”s opponent, have improved since Boston’s last trip to the land of South Beach and Disney. The Panthers in particular have turned into a formidable potential playoff foe.

I’d expect a somewhat slow start from the Bruins tonight, but almost in a blink of an eye they should be back in form and ready to conquer the most popular hockey team in the Florida retirement communities.

Season series: The Bruins have won the previous two meetings between the two clubs by a combined score of 8-2 (including a 4-0 shutout by Manny Fernandez). The Bruins have won three straight at BankAtlantic Center.

What they’re writing: David J. Neal of the Miami Herald tells us that there’s a renewed love affair between the fans of South Florida and the Panthers. Dave Joseph of floridapanthers.com has a look at veterans Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman.

Florida player to watch: You won’t have to look to hard to find him because he’s always out on the ice. But you want to watch defensemen Jay Bouwmeester not just because he’s an outstanding talent but also because he could be trade bait. Slated to hit the open free agent market this coming summer, the All-Star hasn’t decided to re-sign with Florida. So even though the Panthers are in prime position to make the playoffs, they could still deal their young star for a jackpot package by the March 4 trade deadline. The Bruins should be among 8-10 teams in the running, although it would mean Boston trading some prime chips (and even a roster player or two). More importantly, he could go to another Eastern Conference contender and shift the balance of power for the stretch run. Bouwmeester leads the league in ice time at 27:11 per game and his 12 goals tie him for sixth in the NHL among blueliners.