Bruins-Leafs preview: Boston looking to continue winning ways

Bruins-Leafs preview: Boston looking to continue winning ways
March 23, 2013, 5:45 pm
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TORONTO – The Bruins know things can’t always continue the way they have for the last few years against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Much like the Bruins have staked ownership of the Ottawa Senators over the last three or four years, they have similarly dominated the downtrodden Leafs over the last three seasons. But Toronto is a better team than they’ve been in the past, and the Leafs have the look of a playoff team for the first time since 2004. So the feeling has to be that one of these days the young kid on the block is going to knock of the big, bad bully.

Could Saturday night’s tilt between the Leafs and the Bruins be that night?

The Leafs have won only four of their last 10 games and are falling back to back in the Eastern Conference, so there’s going to be some urgency in their game. The Bruins are fully aware of that, and have their own urgency as they look to fire up an engine that’s been operating at half-speed all season.

“It’s always a challenge against Toronto and it’s always tough teams,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just have to do what we’ve been trying to do lately, and that’s battle hard. I’m sure they’re going to do the same.

“We know we need to be better and remember that we need to play 60 minutes consistently. We know we need to be better. Tonight [against the Leafs] is going to be a good challenge for that.”

A win for Boston would mean a split of a road trip that started out badly with losses in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg, and a strong showing would be another sign that the B’s are trending upward even as injuries are depleting their depth, toughness and skill level.

That’s plenty to play for if you’re wearing a Black and Gold sweater tonight.

Someday the Leafs are going to finally take down the Bruins and end a spell that Boston has had over them seemingly since Phil Kessel forced a trade to the Maple Leafs. Bergeron and his pals are just hoping that day isn’t Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Rich Peverley has only four goals on the season and is a team-worst minus-9 on the year. But it doesn’t end there. The Bruins winger was also a healthy scratch for the first time in his Boston career in Thursday night’s win over the Ottawa Senators after managing just a single shot on net in losses to both Winnipeg and Pittsburgh. Peverley said he was “frustrated” at being scratched and admitted that he was “thinking about it a lot” in the aftermath of Thursday, so expect a shifty player shot out of a cannon when he gets back in against the Maple Leafs. It could also help Peverley if they keep Ryan Spooner in the lineup on the third line and scratch either Jay Pandolfo or Jordan Caron for a little more offense out of a line that’s produced the bare minimum.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Every one of these games isn’t going to be the same. We can’t take these guys lightly. We know they have a lot of skill. What we have to do is come out and show our identity early in the game and let them know that it’s going to be a long three periods.” –Tyler Seguin with his game face on ready for another win against a Leafs team that just can’t get over the hump against Boston.
 
KEY MATCHUP: Dion Phaneuf is a team-worst minus-9 for the Maple Leafs, and it will be his charge to stop Boston’s trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Phaneuf still has the scorch marks on his body from last year’s six games against the Black and Gold when he finished with a pair of assists and a minus-10 in six games against the Bruins. Meanwhile Seguin went wild with seven goals and 11 points in six games against the hometown Leafs club that he grew up rooting for, and should be primed for another big one at Air Canada Centre.
 
STAT TO WATCH: 19 – the number of games in a row that the Bruins have won consecutively against both the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The B’s will be going for their ninth in a row on Saturday night and haven’t lost to Toronto since the 2010-11 season.
 
INJURIES: The Bruins will be without Chris Kelly (broken tibia), Adam McQuaid (shoulder strain) and Johnny Boychuk (took a shot off the right foot) for Saturday night’s game against the Leafs. Boychuk is day-to-day with his injury suffered on Friday afternoon while Kelly and McQuaid will still be out for awhile. Toronto forward Leo Komarov is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Joffrey Lupul isn’t injured, but he’ll miss the game while serving a two-game suspension for his high hit on Victor Hedman.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is riding a two game losing streak and has been the goaltender of record in three of the four third period collapses for the Bruins since March 3. With that in mind Bruins coach Claude Julien might go with backup netminder Anton Khudobin after the Kazakhstan netminder stopped 27 shots in a solid winning performance against Ottawa on Thursday night. James Reimer is 10-4-3 in 18 games for the Leafs this season, and is likely to get the start even though he has split things with Ben Scrivens this season. No matter who starts for Boston this is an area the Bruins headed into the game.