Bruins-Leafs preview: Get out the rakes

Bruins-Leafs preview: Get out the rakes
April 3, 2014, 3:00 pm
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PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Reilly Smith has just a goal in his last 24 games, and could really use a hot streak at the tail end of the season headed into the playoffs. Claude Julien didn’t wholly dismiss the notion of taking a look at Loui Eriksson with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in these last six regular season games just in case Smith doesn’t pull out of his current offensive downturn. He showed some positive signs in the loss against the Red Wings on Wednesday night with three shots on net and significant offensive involvement, and has assists in two games in a row. Don’t look now, but the tires are starting to fill with air.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We try to win both at home, and on the road. We’re going for consistency. We know [the President’s Cup] is there, but our No. 1 goal isn’t getting the best record in the league. It’s making sure our guys are ready for the playoffs.” –Claude Julien, on the B’s mission statement for the final six games.  

KEY MATCHUP: Dion Phaneuf is a minus-19 in 24 career games against the Boston Bruins, and that extends to a minus-25 in 31 career games if last year’s seven game playoff series is also included in the tally. It will be about attacking Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarson per usual, and seeing the B’s top six forwards go on a scoring spree against a Toronto team that’s allowing over three goals per game this season. It’s always been the key matchup over the last few years, and it will continue to be the key matchup as long as Phaneuf is their cornerstone defenseman. The Bruins will be looking to exploit Toronto, and further ensure that the Red Wings can’t be pushed down to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

STAT TO WATCH: 32 – the number of days between regulation losses for the Bruins on March 1 to the Washington Capitals, and April 2 to the Red Wings, 3-2, in Detroit.

INJURIES: Bruins forward David Krejci (sore throat) played Wednesday, but could be due for a game off to rest up for the playoffs anytime now. Jarome Iginla (lower body) missed Wednesday night’s game, but Claude Julien indicated it was something minor he could have played if it were the playoffs. Adam McQuaid (strained quad) hasn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 19, and Dennis Seidenberg is out at least through the first few rounds of the playoffs after blowing out his right knee in late December.

Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger (upper body) played Tuesday after missing five games. Forward Phil Kessel (foot) continues to play despite needing X-rays Saturday.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask may get the start against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre after he was saddled with the loss to the Red Wings. Or the Bruins could opt for Chad Johnson to give the Finnish netminder a rest, and allow him to build on his 17-3-1 record with 2.04 goals against average and .926 save percentage. Rask is wrapping up a Vezina Trophy-worthy season with a 34-15-5 record to go along with a 2.04 goals against average and .930 save percentage. For Rask it’s all about getting his work in and getting another ‘W’ for the Black and Gold as he prepares for the playoffs.

Jonathan Bernier appeared to be the start for the Maple Leafs at Thursday morning skate, and has emerged as the “go to goalie” for Toronto in his first season in Toronto. Bernier is 26-19-7 with a 2.69 goals against average and .923 save percentage, but it’s tough to hide the fact that a hideous Leafs defense has pushed them to 26th in the league in goals against this season.