NHL Hockey

Marchand milestone in sight as Bruins host Panthers

The Boston Bruins have clinched a playoff berth and the Florida Panthers are officially out.

Given those facts, there won't be a lot of intrigue on Saturday when the Panthers visit the Bruins. But one player to watch is Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who is closing in on what could be Boston's first 100-point season since Joe Thornton in 2002-2003.

Marchand, 30, had never had more than 85 points prior to this season. But he has 97 points now, including a career-high 63 assists.

"Compared to where I was when I first came into the league, it's amazing," Marchand said. "I never thought I'd be in this position."

Marchand was Boston's third-round pick in 2006, and he made his NHL debut during the 2009-2010 season, getting just one point in 20 games.

Back then, it's likely few if any fans or even so-called experts could've predicted what was to follow for Marchand, who stands to be just the 10th Bruins player to reach 100 points, joining a list that includes legends such as Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

A big difference for Marchand this season has come on the power play, where he has set career highs with 10 goals and 24 assists. Prior to this season, his career high for power-play points was 24.

Marchand's pairing with Patrice Bergeron on Boston's top line continues to work wonders. Bergeron has 32 goals, tying his career high, and a career-best 77 points.

"They are a go-to pairing for our team," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "It's special."

The Bruins, who are 5-1-0 in their past six games, will try to keep their momentum going as they prepare for the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Panthers had been outscored 20-9 during a brutal three-game losing streak that was snapped on Thursday in a 5-2 road win over the Ottawa Senators.

Florida's top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, center Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov finished with seven points in the game.

Since Feb. 17, Huberdeau has 14 goals and 20 assists in 22 games, ranking him second in the league in points during that span.

Barkov pushed his career-high points total to 90, making him just the third Panthers player to reach that plateau. He is just five points away from breaking Pavel Bure's franchise record for single-season points. Since Feb. 17, Barkov has 37 points, which is slightly better than Huberdeau and ranks first in the NHL.

Dadonov has put together his second straight 25-goal, 60-point season. He has 17 points in his past 12 games and leads the Panthers with 40 even-strength goals over the past two seasons.

Thursday's Panthers game also featured the NHL debut of 22-year-old defenseman Brady Keeper, who grew up in Cross Lake, Manitoba, a reservation of roughly 8,000 people located eight hours north of Winnipeg.

He is the first member of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to make it to the NHL.

"I'm just really happy to get the chance to play in the NHL," Keeper said. "My family and them are probably really proud of me - my community back home and other aboriginal people."

Panthers coach Bob Boughner said Keeper will "absolutely" see more playing time as Florida closes out its season.

Boughner said he wants for Keeper the same thing he desires for every player on his roster.

"We want to finish the season strong," Boughner said. "We want to end it feeling better about ourselves."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 29, 2019

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