BOSTON — After enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation during the NHL All-Star break, the Bruins are ready to get back to business. Their first opponent: the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs, who visit TD Garden on Tuesday night for the third and final time this season.
The Bruins hold the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card playoff spot entering the Atlantic Division tilt, and their sights are set on avoiding the pitfalls that doomed them last year. Boston lost 18 of its final 32 games, missing out on a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.
“We need to be at a better place,” center Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s only representative at Sunday’s All-Star Game, said Tuesday morning. “We need to realize that it’s only half the battle if you’re in a playoff spot at the All-Star break. You have a lot of work to do ahead of you, and that’s the position we’re in right now. We gave ourselves a chance to be fighting for a spot until the end of the year, and we need to keep playing and keep some consistency to our game if we want to advance to our goal.”
The Bruins are expected to return to a more traditional lineup against the Leafs; Ryan Spooner was back at his usual third-line center spot at morning skate following a three-game stint on the wing.
“It doesn’t really matter to me where I play,” Spooner said. “My game doesn’t really change. I just need to focus on moving my feet, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Tuukka Rask is expected to start in net for the Bruins, but he’ll have a new man backing him up. Jonas Gustavsson has been cleared to practice but not to play after being hospitalized with an elevated heart rate last week, meaning American Hockey League call-up Malcolm Subban will serve as Rask’s understudy against Toronto.
Subban, who said he’s been working with Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa to tweak his technique, was shelled in his lone NHL appearance to date, allowing three goals on three shots in a loss to the St. Louis Blues last February.
“You can’t get on too much of a high or too much of a low,” the 22-year-old said Monday. “Obviously, (my Bruins debut) didn’t go the way I wanted, but I know I could have played a lot better, so I’m just looking to show that the next opportunity that I get.”
Here are Tuesday’s projected lines and pairings:
BOSTON BRUINS (26-18-5)
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Brett Connolly
Loui Eriksson — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo — Max Talbot — Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara — Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg — Colin Miller
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (17-22-9)
Peter Holland — Nazem Kadri — Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner — Tyler Bozak — P.A. Parenteau
Shawn Matthias — Nick Spaling — Daniel Winnik
Joffrey Lupul — Byron Froese — Richard Clune
Matt Hunwick — Morgan Rielly
Dion Phaneuf — Frank Corrado
Jake Gardiner — Roman Polak
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images