There will be no shortage of storylines in this one, but Kessel and Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin are sure to dominate the spotlight. Kessel struggled mightily against his old club last year, but he comes in red-hot this year and would love nothing better than to quiet the Garden crowd with a couple of goals in this one.
Seguin will be forever linked to Kessel as the Bruins selected him this June with the first of the draft picks acquired from the Leafs in exchange for Kessel. Add in the fact that Seguin grew up in suburban Toronto rooting for the Leafs and this is sure to be an emotional game for the youngster.
It’s also sure to be a physical contest, as both teams thrive on body contact and don’t shy away from the rough stuff.
“They’ve got a big D corps back there,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “They’re all physical. … As someone who kind of likes the physical battles, you know they’re not going to shy away from it so we’re going to be crashing into each other all game. That’s what makes it fun. It’s a great contact sport and you guys all know I’m looking forward to that.”
When and Where
Boston Bruins (4-2-0, 8 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5-2-1, 11 points)
Oct. 28, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
Head to Head
This is the first of six meetings this season between the Original Six rivals. The Bruins went 4-1-1 against the Leafs last year and lead the all-time series 276-253-98-6.
Tim Thomas is off to a spectacular start this season with a 4-0-0 record, 0.75 GAA and .978 save percentage, and he’s had plenty of success against the Leafs, going 14-4-3 with a 2.98 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Tuukka Rask hasn’t gotten off to as strong a start with an 0-2-0 record, 3.54 GAA and .894 save percentage, but has been even better against Toronto with a 4-1-0 record, 1.87 GAA and .943 save percentage.
For the Leafs, Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 4-1-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .908 save percentage this year, but is 1-2-1 with a 3.59 GAA and a .871 save percentage against the Bruins. Jonas Gustavsson is 2-0-1 with a 1.60 GAA and a .940 save percentage against Boston, and 1-1-0 with a 2.52 GAA and a .912 save percentage this season.
- Nathan Horton has scored in every game he’s played as a Bruin, going 5-4-9 in the first six games this season. That six-game point streak matches the longest point streak of his career, as he’s scored in six straight three other times.
- Adam McQuaid is poised to make his season debut on Thursday against Toronto. McQuaid should be getting used to making debuts against the Leafs, as he played his first NHL game last year in Toronto on Dec. 19.
- Greg Campbell leads the Bruins with 24 penalty minutes through just six games. His career high in a season is just 76 in 77 games with Florida in 2008-09. The only time he ever had more penalty minutes than games played was in 2003-04, when he had five PIMs while appearing in two games as a rookie.
- Clarke MacArthur, who was signed by Toronto after Atlanta opted to walk away from his $2.4 million arbitration this summer, became the first player in Toronto history to score a goal in each of the first four games of the season. MacArthur had 5-1-6 totals in those four games, but is just 1-1-2 in the last four games.
- Kessel leads the Leafs with 7-2-9 totals through eight games and is a plus-2, but he’s yet to score a goal against his old team. Despite 19 shots on goal, he was just 0-1-1 and a minus-5 in six games against the Bruins last year.
- The Leafs possess one of the more physical defenses in the league, with blueliners willing to both bang bodies and put their own bodies in harm’s way to block shots. Luke Schenn leads the way with 28 hits and 12 blocked shots, while Dion Phaneuf has 26 hits and 12 blocked shots, Mike Komisarek has 22 hits and 14 blocked shots and Francis Beauchemin has 12 hits and 17 blocked shots.
- Defenseman Johnny Boychuk suffered a fracture in his left forearm on Saturday and is expected to miss four weeks.
- Center Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is out indefinitely.
- Left wing Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is expected to be out until at least November.
- Center Trent Whitfield (ruptures Achilles) could miss the entire year.
- Forward Colby Armstrong (finger surgery) is out 4-6 weeks.
The Leafs have plenty of familiar faces on the roster. Kessel is the biggest name, but the Bruins also let enforcer Colton Orr get away when he was waived in 2005 after playing just 21 games in Boston, while Kris Versteeg never even made it up to the big club. He was traded to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in 2007, and went on to post two 20-goal seasons and win a Cup with the Blackhawks before being traded to Toronto this summer. For the Bruins, Rask and Shawn Thornton were both originally drafted by Toronto, while Seguin was selected with the second overall pick originally owned by the Leafs.
The Leafs already have eight fighting majors in eight games this year, led by Mike Brown‘s four and Orr’s three, while Versteeg has the other one. The Bruins are also averaging a fight a game this year, with six fighting majors in as many games. Lucic and Campbell each have two, with Thornton and Mark Stuart each contributing one. Last year, the six games between the division rivals produced five fights, all of which took place in the three games in Boston. There is a history of bad blood between the clubs and several personal rivalries. Lucic and Komisarek had a long-running feud when Komisarek played for Montreal, and Lucic also had his nose broken by Orr last year, while Brown might still hold a grudge for the extra shots Lucic delivered to him when he was already on the ice in their bout two years ago when Brown was with Anaheim.
The Bruins will be looking to bounce back from Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers that ended Boston’s four-game winning streak. The Leafs, who finished with the second-worst record in the league last year to enable the Bruins to draft Seguin, have been a much-improved team so far this year. They started the season 4-0-0 before hitting a rough patch, going 0-2-1 before beating Florida on Tuesday.
“I think they’re definitely on the right track,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Now we’re facing a team that’s coming in with lots of confidence, lots of speed and lots of energy.”