The Bruins and Leafs both desperately need a win.
Both teams have lost more games than theyve won recently, and both are back-sliding within the Eastern Conference.
Of course things are a little more real for the Leafs as they sit five points out of a playoff spot and have newly hired Randy Carlyle behind the bench looking to spark a Toronto team bracing for a collapse. The Bruins havent won two games in a row since Jan. 12 and are an imperfectly .500 hockey club dating back to the seminal regular loss to the Vancouver Canucks in early January.
While the Bruins were encouraged by the losing effort against the Rangers, its results that matter this time of year. They showed some emotional spark, they got secondary goal-scoring outside the trio of David Krejci-Milan Lucic-Tyler Seguin and they managed to come back twice against a Rags hockey team that simply doesnt blow two-game leads.
But they didnt get the two points and instead sit mired in a two-game losing streak.
We know they have a new coach and they played well in Montreal, said Chris Kelly. They had a big win there. Ive been in that situation before with a new coach and you want to play well and gain his trust. We know theyre going to come at us hard.
We want to be consistent. Thats our main focus. We havent been consistent for 60 minutes or in consecutive games. So consistency is our main focus against a team that should be motivated.
Itll be the hockey club desperately seeking consistency against a Toronto squad clinging to their very lives with a new drill sergeant in town.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Tim Thomas has a .910 save percentage, a goals against average approaching 3.00 and a .500 record since the beginning of January, and needs to really show some of his characteristic moxie between the pipes. The Bruins need the 37-year-old goaltender to start raising his game and showing the Conn Smythe version of himself for last season as his teammates drop like flies to injuries all around him.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Im sure theyll be a little refreshed with a new coach. On the other side, though, we have enough that we have to worry about in this locker room. We have to get back to consistent hockey. Thats our focus right now. Shawn Thornton when asked if the Bruins are headed into a potential buzz-saw in Toronto with newly hired Randy Carlyle as Leafs head coach.
KEY MATCHUP: It will be the same as it always is when the Bruins and Leafs play each other these days: Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel out on the ice attempting to conquer the other with their disparate skills. As with most years Chara has had the upper hand in this years battles and the Bruins are undefeated in four meetings with the Leafs entering tonights game. The 24-year-old Kessel is a point-per-game player in the NHL this season, but has a single assist and a minus-7 in four games against Boston this season.
STAT TO WATCH: 1 the number of years since anybody other than Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask has played in goal, dating back to April 11, 2009 when Manny Fernandez dropped a 6-1 game to the Buffalo Sabres.
INJURIES: Rich Peverley (right knee sprain), Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, and both Andrew Ference (lower body injury) and Daniel Paille (upper body) are day-to-day. Both Ference and Paille were expected to skate on Tuesday. For Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson missed three games with an ankle injury but has returned to the lineup.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is expected to get the start against the Maple Leafs and will be appearing in his fourth straight game after appearing in 10 of 13 games during the month of February. Jonas Gustavsson will be getting his 36th start of the season sporting a 2.86 goals against average and a .905 save percentage as James Reimer has struggled in his sophomore season.