Phil Kessel Centering Maple Leafs’ Top Line Against Tim Thomas, Bruins

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The Bruins won’t be changing much for Saturday night’s game in Toronto.

After shutting out the Flyers 3-0 in Philadelphia on Wednesday and routing Tampa Bay 8-1 at the Garden on Thursday, there’s not much need for tinkering.

Toronto, on the other hand, has lost four straight and managed just four goals in that span. Not surprisingly, there will be plenty of changes in the Leafs’ lineup as embattled coach Ron Wilson, who was given the dreaded vote of confidence from GM Brian Burke this week, tries to find a way to turn around the flagging fortunes of his club.

Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere will make his first start since Nov. 16. He suffered a groin injury that night, when he won against Nashville despite giving up four goals on 28 shots in 47 minutes. He did come on in relief Thursday against Edmonton, though he didn’t provide much relief as he allowed three goals on just 13 shots in a 5-0 loss to the Oilers.

Up front, the Leafs’ latest attempt to find a top-line center to set up former Bruin Phil Kessel is to put Kessel himself in the middle. Now all the Leafs need is to find a sniper to play on the wing of that line.

Granted, Kessel wasn’t exactly getting that job done either as he has just three goals in his last 16 games. He’s also yet to score in seven meetings against his old club. Kessel made the switch to center at practice on Friday, and will work with Colby Armstrong, who is making his return after being out since Oct. 26 with a finger injury, and another former Bruin in Kris Versteeg.

The Leafs also demoted 2009 first-rounder Nazem Kadri to the fourth line, where he will have plenty of protection but not much production skating between tough guys Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill. Rosehill was recalled on Friday after Mike Brown was lost for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger suffered blocking a shot against Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

The Bruins held another optional workout rather than a full morning skate on Saturday. Only Tuukka Rask, Daniel Paille, Jordan Caron and the injured and nearly-traded Marco Sturm took part.

Rask’s presence indicates that Tim Thomas will likely get the nod again after stopping 78 of the 79 shots he faced in the last two games. Thomas also stopped all 20 shots the Leafs threw at him in a 2-0 shutout at the Garden on Oct. 28.

Paille and Caron are expected to be the scratches again up front as the Bruins will go with the same line combinations they used in Marc Savard‘s return to action on Thursday. Those lines helped produce eight goals against Tampa Bay, so there’s little need for Claude Julien to do any tweaking at this time.

Projected Bruins lines:

Forwards

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Mark Recchi-Patrice Bergeron-Blake Wheeler
Tyler Seguin-Marc Savard-Michael Ryder
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

Defense

Zdeno Chara-Andrew Ference
Dennis Seidenberg-Johnny Boychuk
Mark Stuart-Adam McQuaid

Goalies

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Scratches: Daniel Paille, Jordan Caron

Projected Maple Leafs lines:

Forwards

Colby Armstrong-Phil Kessel-Kris Versteeg
Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin
Fredrik Sjostrom-Tyler Bozak-Tim Brent
Colton Orr-Nazem Kadri-Jay Rosehill

Defense

Francois Beauchemin-Mike Komisarek
Tomas Kaberle-Luke Schenn
Keith Aulie-Carl Gunnarsson

Goalies

Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Jonas Gustavsson

Scratches: John Mitchell, Brett Lebda

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