On Sunday, the Bruins suffered their first road loss since Jan. 29, losing a hard-fought battle with the Penguins 2-1. They continue their seven-game roadie at Toronto on Tuesday, as they take on the Maple Leafs in a rematch of last Thursday’s tilt at the TD Garden, which the Bruins won 3-2 in a shootout.
The Bruins are 2-2 since the Olympic break and 1-1 on this current road trip. They are entrenched in a tight playoff race and head into Tuesday’s game one point behind the Canadiens (whom they play Saturday at Montreal) in the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference standings.
Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs have played solid hockey since getting throttled by the Hurricanes 5-1 in their return from the Olympic break one week ago. After losing to Boston in a shootout, they beat the Senators 2-1 in a shootout before losing 3-1 at Philadelphia on Sunday.
Tuesday, March 9, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Bruins (29-24-11, 69 points, fourth place in Northeast Division, eighth place in Eastern Conference)
Maple Leafs (20-33-12, 52 points, last in Northeast Division, last in Eastern Conference)
The Bruins are 3-1-0 against their Northeast Division rivals this season. The two teams met last Thursday, when the Bruins came away with a 3-2 shootout win. This is the penultimate meeting of the season, as the Leafs and Bruins meet once more at the ACC on April 3.
The Bruins lead the lifetime series 273-252-98-5.
As a team already starved for offense, the last thing the Bruins need is to go through another stint without their playmaking center, Marc Savard. Savard has already missed 23 games in 2009-10, thanks to a broken foot and partially torn ligaments in his knee. Now, it is unclear how long he will be out after suffering a concussion on a blindside hit to the head by Penguins forward Matt Cooke.
Patrice Bergeron has been consistent all season as the team’s leading scorer, but it’s now or never for the likes of David Krejci, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic to create more consistent offense.
"We really need our whole team to step up," said head coach Claude Julien, according to The Boston Globe. "If we want to make the playoffs, we've got to win some hockey games. It's not about one or two guys stepping up. I think it's the whole team that has to step up their game. We're going to have to play desperate hockey from here on in."
Thankfully, goaltending shouldn’t be an issue, as Tuukka Rask is ready to return from injury and Tim Thomas has played superb in relief, stopping 92 of 98 shots faced and going 2-1-0 in Rask’s absence.
The Leafs are improving, but their power play continues to be an Achilles' heel, as it went 0-for-4 in their 3-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.
"This whole road trip, we played hard," Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf told the Toronto Star. "[On Sunday], that game was there for us. It was hard-fought, but they capitalized on their chances and we didn't, that was the difference. It's definitely not easy, scoring in this league. Whether you are young or old, it's not easy. Our power play wasn't good enough and that's a big part of a game like this."
Bruins Defensemen Goaltenders
Daniel Paille–Vladimir Sobotka/Brad Marchand–Michael Ryder
Blake Wheeler–David Krejci–Miroslav Satan
Marco Sturm–Patrice Bergeron–Mark Recchi
Milan Lucic–Steve Begin–Shawn Thornton
Mark Stuart–Dennis Wideman
Matt Hunwick–Johnny Boychuk
*Note: It is unclear how the loss of Marc Savard will affect the Bruins' lines.
Maple Leafs Defensemen Goaltenders
Nikolai Kulemin–Tyler Bozak–Phil Kessel
Jamie Lundmark –Rickard Wallin–Viktor Stalberg
John Mitchell–Christian Hanson–Luca Caputi
Jay Rosehill–Wayne Primeau–Colton Orr
Dion Phaneuf–Francois Beauchemin
Jeff Finger–Carl Gunnarsson
Tuukka Rask is 14-8-4 with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Rask started seven straight games for the Bruins before injuring his knee against Montreal on March 2. He was 4-1-2 during that seven-game stretch. Rask has four shutouts
Tim Thomas is 15-16-7 with a 2.47 GAA and a .917 save percentage. Thomas has four shutouts and is 2-1-0 in his last three starts. He made 31 saves in the 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Jonas Gustavsson is 10-13-8 with a 2.99 GAA and a .899 save percentage. His only shutout of the season came against the Bruins on Dec. 19, when he made 25 saves in a 2-0 win.
Bruins Zdeno Chara
Patrice Bergeron leads the team with 38 points.
Zdeno Charais second on the team in points with 35 and leads the team with 30 assists. Chara has two assists in four games since returning from the Olympics.
Marco Sturm had an assist on the Bruins’ lone goal on Sunday and now has 12 helpers to go along with his team-leading 19 goals. Sturm has three points in four games since returning from the Olympics.
David Krejci had an assist Sunday and now has a two-game point streak going after scoring in the 3-2 win over the Islanders on Saturday. Krejci has 21 assists and 33 points.
Blake Wheeler scored his 14th goal of the season on Sunday and has 32 points.
Tomas Kaberle leads the Leafs in assists with 40 and in points with 46.
Former Bruin Phil Kessel leads the Leafs with 22 goals and is second on the team with 42 points.
Dion Phaneuf has 24 points. He has two helpers since arriving via trade on Jan. 31 from Calgary.
Nikolai Kulemin scored Toronto’s lone goal on Sunday and now has two points in his last three games, including an assist against the Bruins last Thursday. Kulemin has 23 points this season.
Tyler Bozak has a goal and an assist in his last two games, and the goal came against the Bruins last Thursday. Bozak is playing on the first line now and has 13 points this season.
Andrew Ference is expected to be out until at least Saturday with a groin injury.
Marc Savard is out with a concussion.
Mikhail Grabovski (broken wrist) could return on Tuesday.
Fredrik Sjostrom (shoulder) is doubtful for Tuesday.
Defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee) is out for the year.
Defenseman Mike Komisarek had season-ending shoulder surgery last month.
Bobby Orr sets a new NHL record for goals by a defenseman, scoring his 38th in 5-2 win over Atlanta in 1975. Orr also nets his 600th NHL assist.
"A guy like that has to be suspended. That's the way I see it, because it's an elbow to the head from the blind side. That's exactly the examples they show of what we've got to get out of this game. We have a guy who's got a concussion. Our best player. He's going to be out for a while. He was [unconscious] on the ice for a bit. That's unacceptable."
–Claude Julien, on Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard
Marc Savard was diagnosed with a Grade 2 concussion on Monday.
Tuukka Rask is expected to suit up for Tuesday's game.
Colton Orr is regretting some showboating he did on Saturday after beating Sens defenseman Matt Carkner in a fight.
Leafs forward John Mitchell is hoping Matt Cooke's hit on Savard hit serves as the last straw and makes NHL general managers institute a rule against head shots.
Will NHL general managers get serious about head shots?
The rumors are flying that the Coyotes will be moving back to Winnipeg.
The Bruins have played some tight games against the Maple Leafs, as evidenced by their 3-2 shootout win last Thursday. So while this looks like a mismatch on paper, it promises to be another difficult game — as they all tend to be at this point in the season.
The Bruins need to continue to stick within the framework of their game plan and not get too cute or risky. The Leafs have speed and will burn the Bruins if they make errant passes or get sloppy. Another textbook, tight, defensive game is in order as the Bruins continue to battle for a playoff spot.
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