The Bruins have dominated the Toronto Maple Leafs for years, but the phrase “what goes around comes around” seems to float to mind as the Leafs roll into the TD Garden for a Thursday-night showdown. Toronto played a physical game on Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators that probably took a little something out of them on the first night of back-to-backs, but the Leafs could also have a burr under their saddle against a Bruins team that’s been the big brother on the block for quite some time.
Leafs forward Frazer McLaren authored a savage beating on Ottawa center David Dziurzynski that knocked out the young Sens player, and Colton Orr also dropped the gloves. Lucic had said prior to their game against the Maple Leafs last month that McLaren was the only player that knocked him on his butt during a fight at the junior hockey level so he has a healthy respect for one of Toronto’s twin tough guys.
“Everyone saw that fight,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “Both guys were willing to go. I don't have a problem with staged fighting at all. I never have and I never will. It's one of those things where a punch gets through.
“A guy with that kind of power hits another guy. It's a physical sport, sometimes guys get hurt. It's the nature of the game.”
Clearly the Bruins watched that game and came away impressed with the Leafs, who stand just a single point behind the Black and Gold in the Northeast Division standings.
“Just look at last night’s game. They have done a great job with that team, the coaching staff. You’ve got to give credit to a lot of people there because they’re playing well defensively,” said Claude Julien. “They’ve really tightened that up. Offensively they have all the skill that they had, but they’re doing all the grunt work as well.
"They come at you hard and I’m one of those guys that believe they’re a legitimate contender. I already told our guys if they’re not ready for a tough game tonight then they’re making a big mistake.”
There are some Bruins that believe the Leafs might be trying to come into Boston’s backyard with a plan to win some respect on Thursday night, and they’ll be ready either way.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: The entire third line needs an air-pumping after the Bruins waived Chris Bourque and installed Jay Pandolfo at the left wing alongside Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Kelly scored 20 goals and was among the NHL’s top 10 in plus/minus last season with a plus-33, but he has also only one goal in 20 games and is a minus-7 this season. Peverley has three goals in that time period, but he’s also a team-worst minus-8 for a third line that needs to find answers quickly as the Bruins close in on the halfway point of the season.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Our game has slipped a little bit and we’re certainly not going to deny that. We need to pick it up. There are ups and downs during the season. I’m not saying we’re down, but we certainly need to be better to get back to where we want to be.” –Claude Julien, on the self-improvement play the Bruins will take into Thursday night’s game against the Leafs.
KEY MATCHUP: Today’s matchup is all about the Bruins top two forward lines continuing to do damage against Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf and whichever blueliner is patrolling with him whether it’s Mike Kostka or somebody else from their blueline corps. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin combined for 15 goals in the six games against the Leafs last season, though it was only Chris Bourque’s goal that proved the difference in their only meeting this season at the Air Canada Centre.
STAT TO WATCH: 7 – the number of consecutive wins that the Bruins have over the spellbound Toronto Maple Leafs while outscoring them by a 37-10 margin during that stretch.
INJURIES: Marc Savard is expected to miss the entire season for the Bruins with post-concussion syndrome, and his NHL career is in doubt at this point. Otherwise the Bruins are 100 percent healthy. For Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin (knee) is close to a return after missing the last 10 games for the Leafs. Forward Joffrey Lupul (arm) has been skating with the team, but isn’t close to returning to the fold quite yet.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Anton Khudobin will be making his second straight start at TD Garden after picking up a win in his NHL debut on the B’s home ice last weekend against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Khudobin is getting it done as Boston’s backup with a 3-1 record, but could certainly improve on the 2.52 goals against average and the .906 save percentage. James Reimer made 39 saves in a Wednesday night home victory over the Senators, so it’s expected that the Leafs will come back with Ben Scrivens. The two Leafs netminders have been sharing time straight down the middle.