The Bruins salvaged the California road trip with last weekend’s win over San Jose, and now face another interesting challenge. They will need to show the same kind of urgency and focus on a one-game hiatus at home against the Leafs before they head back on the road to face the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks.
The Leafs are struggling and haven’t found many answers lately, while the Bruins have continued to maintain first place in the Atlantic Division despite a slew of injuries including major ones to Dennis Seidenberg and Loui Eriksson. At least Eriksson is back with the team and ready to assume a key role on the third line with some very real offensive potential. The Bruins have also lost Dougie Hamilton for the short term with a "mild."
The bottom line is the Bruins need to take care of business with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens in hot pursuit in the Atlantic Division.
“Toronto won their last game, and they have a good lineup,” said Gregory Campbell. “I don’t know much about what’s going on with them, but I know they have a good lineup and they’re well-coached.
“It doesn’t serve us well to look back to the past [of last year’s playoffs]. They’re built similarly to us: They’re physical, they’re big, and they’ll play defense so it’ll be a good match-up.”
The numbers show that the Bruins and Maple Leafs aren’t all that close in their styles of play this season, but anything can happen with a Toronto team that still harbors some serious hatred for the Black and Gold.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Milan Lucic has just one assist in four games during the month of January. He missed a loss to the Ducks with a food poisoning-type illness, and he has generated just six shots on net. Lately he hasn’t been his customary physical presence out on the ice. His entire line has gone into the deep freeze with just one goal and four points in 14 combined games during the month of January.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We’ve talked about upping our game as well. We had a tough start there on that California trip and we kind of found our game there in the last one. So you can't just rely on one game and think that it is going to continue, we have to do the same thing. Both teams are built with some physical players and a lot of it from the back end from both sides. But it is a physical game every time we play each other but they end up being good games.” – Claude Julien, on facing the Leafs
KEY MATCHUP: The Leafs are 22nd in the league allowing three goals per game, and have shied away from Randy Carlyle’s physical, grinding style of play this season. That means there are defensive holes for the Bruins to explore as they’ve done in the past. It should be another big day for the Bruins’ best offensive players as they should once again make Dion Phaneuf pay for his sketchy play in the defensive zone.
STAT TO WATCH: 1 – That's the number of goals in the month of January for David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic in 14 combined games.
INJURIES: Forward Chris Kelly (ankle) remains on the injured reserve, but has begun skating on his own. Jordan Caron has missed the last four games with a stiff back, but has practiced with the Bruins over the last few days. Dougie Hamilton is out with a “mild concussion” suffered last weekend against San Jose.
Goalie James Reimer (flu-like symptoms), David Clarkson (flu-like symptoms) and defenseman Mark Fraser (flu-like symptoms) are questionable. They were among six Maple Leafs players who were sick over the weekend. Centers Trevor Smith (broken hand) and Dave Bolland (lacerated ankle) are on injured reserve.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask has been pulled from two of his last six games, and allowed five goals in two of the other games as both the goalie and the defense in front of him find their new identity without Dennis Seidenberg. He made 26 saves in a solid shutout performance against the Sharks last weekend, but it’s been an up-and-down period for him over the last month after such an all-world start.
Jonathan Bernier has started nine of the last 10 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and has wrestled control of the Toronto netminding situation with a 2.57 goals against average and .926 save percentage.