WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins are used to seeing familiar faces when they take on the Maple Leafs.
Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the bulk of the attention has centered on the awkward reunions with forward Phil Kessel, who leads the NHL in scoring this year with 16-15-31 totals but has struggled mightily against his old club with just 2-4-6 totals and a minus-9 in 14 games against Boston.
Former Bruin Colton Orr has been Toronto's primary enforcer since 2009, while former Providence Bruins coach Scott Gordon joined the Leafs as an assistant coach this year.
But there's now another ex-Bruin making a name for himself in Toronto. Joe Colborne, Boston's first-round pick (16th overall) in 2008 and part of the hefty price the Bruins paid to acquire Tomas Kaberle last February, was recalled from the AHL by the Leafs on Nov. 19 and has made an immediate impact.
In five games, Colborne has 1-3-4 totals and is a plus-2 while averaging 12:06 of ice time. He'll take a three-game point streak that began with his first NHL goal against Tampa Bay on Nov. 22 into his first clash against his old club when the Leafs host Boston on Wednesday.
Colborne's success doesn't come as a surprise to Bruins coach Claude Julien. Though Julien never got to coach Colborne in a regular-season game, he saw enough of him in training camp last year to recognize that the 6-foot-5, 213-pound center had the ability to play in the NHL and would have reached that level eventually in any organization.
"I think it would have been a matter of time probably with us as well," Julien said after Tuesday's practice before the Bruins departed for Toronto. "I liked him. I liked his skill level, obviously his size. He's a big, strong centerman. I don't think anybody wishes him not to do well, and I'm one of those guys who really liked him personally."
Colborne, 21, actually made his NHL debut last year, recording an assist against Montreal in his lone appearance last April against Montreal. This season, a string of injuries in Toronto opened up an opportunity for him after he had gotten off to a strong start in the AHL with 10-9-19 totals in 13 games with the Toronto Marlies.
"He was a great individual and to see him get an opportunity to play in the NHL is always nice," Julien said. "Unfortunately it can't always be with the same team, but at least guys that deserve it get to play in the NHL, and he's certainly one of those players that deserve it."