Game preview: Bruins vs. Leafs

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Game preview: Bruins vs. Leafs

BOSTON -- The Bruins ended their losing streak Saturday, and they need to start their roll.
A victory over the Maple Leafs tonight would give them a two-game winning streak as they leave for a three-game West Coast trip. And Toronto is the perfect opponent: The Bruins are 5-0 against the Leafs this season, with a 28-10 advantage in goals.
In fact, the Bruins are 22-5-5 in their last 32 games against the Leafs and have played the stronger, better, older sibling in a big brotherlittle brother rivalry for the last five years.
It was a slap to the face when the Bruins saw the Senators in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings on Friday, and theyve finally started doing something about it.
We knew about it, and we were trying in those games against Florida (losses to the Lightning and Panthers last week), said David Krejci. Everything just went wrong, but it was nice to get a win finally. We need to build on that, though, and get a role going.
The Bruins are still very much aware that theyve gone 6-13-1 since the beginning of February, and a single win against a hated opponent (Philly) isnt enough to fully turn things around. They need continued solid defense from the newly combined pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, they need Tim Thomas to keep appearing as if hes found his second wind, and they need to keep playing with the snarling disposition they had from the very beginning of Saturdays victory.
They also need the points, thank you very much.
"Everybody's scrambling for points, said Zdeno Chara. Everybody's trying to establish position in the playoffs, in the standings and going into the playoffs. So every point is important."
Once again the Bruins will be playing on Monday night when both the Panthers and the Senators will not, so they have a chance to create a little more space in the standings. All they have to do is knock around Phil Kessel and Co. one more time in their own backyard, and thats something theyve had no problem doing for the last three season.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Joe Corvo will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season and for the second game in a row. Corvo is a minus-4 in nine games during the month of March, and was a big part of the defensive problem in games against the Lightning and Panthers during Bostons disastrous three-game road trip. If the Bruins continue to lock things down defensively with Corvo out of the lineup over the next few games, its difficult to see him forcing his way back into the top-six unless injuries hit their depth.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were just one point ahead. We want to make the playoffs, but we also want to have home-ice advantage. We want second place in the East. You could see in the last couple of playoffs that the home ice has helped us so much. David Krejci, feeling the Bs urgency with only 11 games left in the season.

KEY MATCHUP: Zdeno Chara continues to be Phil Kessels worst nightmare and that shouldnt be any different on Monday night. Kessel has one game and is a minus-9 in five games against the Bruins this season, and has never been able to overcome the physical abuse and grinding defense heaped on him each time he plays is old hockey club. Itll be that much worse for No. 81 now than Dennis Seidenberg has been matched up with Zdeno Chara in the shutdown defensemen pairing that performed so well for Boston in the postseason.

STAT TO WATCH: 13 the number of consecutive games that Tim Thomas has appeared in when he gets the expected start against the Maple Leafs on Monday night at TD Garden.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strain) is out for 4-6 weeks and may not return before the end of the regular season. Nathan Horton (concussion) hasnt appeared back on the ice since suffering a concussion on Jan. 22, and there is no timetable for his return. Rich Peverley (knee) has begun skating with the team and could be cleared for full contact at practice as early as Tuesday. For the Maple Leafs All-Star forward Joffrey Lupul is out with a shoulder injury and Mike Brown has been missing for the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: The Bruins plan on continuing to call Tim Thomas number and hell make his 13th straight appearance when he suits up against Toronto on Monday night. Thomas appeared to finally find some defensive comfort in front of him with the CharaSeidenberg defensive pairing reunited, and stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced Saturday afternoon against the Flyers. The matinee victory also introduced new pads and a new stick for Thomas, who appears to have found some luck with an equipment change. James Reimer will be getting the start in goal for the Maple Leafs and has stopped 63 out of 65 shots in his last two appearances. While the young goaltender struggled for much of the season, it appears hes finally putting it together at the end of the season.

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.

Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

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Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

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