Leafs Look For First Win Against Bruins
MAPLE LEAFS (14-9-2) at BRUINS (15-7-1)
TV: CBC, NHLN-US (HD), NESN (HD)
LAST 10: Toronto 5-4-1, Boston 9-0-1
Season Series: This is the back end of a home-and-home that began Wednesday at Air Canada Centre, a 6-3 Bruins win, their third straight against the Leafs this season. Two of the three games were played during the Bruins' near-perfect November, but the B's first win in Toronto on Oct. 20 was an oasis in a journey through a 3-7-0 desert. Boston is 7-1-1 in its last nine against the Leafs at TD Garden.
Big Story: Despite the Bruins' head-to-head dominance, they lead the Northeast Division by only one point over the Leafs and managed to get that edge by beating them Wednesday. The B's grabbed every point they could in November save one, an amazing 12-0-1 stretch, marred only by a 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings in Black Friday's Discover Thanksgiving Showdown. It's the franchise's first month without a regulation loss since January 1969 (12-0-4). Not that the Leafs come in limping -- they had won four of five going into Wednesday's game.
Maple Leafs : Every time the Leafs seem to be getting on a roll, they run into the Bruins. Their first loss ended a five-game point streak (4-0-1), their second a two-game winning streak and a four-of-five stretch and this latest one a three-game streak and another four-of-five. Not only that, no other team has managed more than five goals against them, while the Bruins have scored at least six every time, a staggering 19-5 clip over three games.
They managed to hang with the defending Stanley Cup champs for two periods on Wednesday, but the Bruins took advantage of some penalties and turnovers to pull away in the third.
"They seem to have our number. I was pleased with the way we played," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said to The Globe and Mail. "Unfortunately, they had five or six power plays to our one and a half. We looked like we got a little weary late in the game but our young legs, like the [Joe] Colborne line, played pretty well. If we keep playing like that, we'll beat that team."
Bruins: For all of the accolades they've collected the past four weeks, it might be hard to believe there are some guys on this team who had been slumping a bit going into Wednesday. David Krejci, who signed a three-year contract extension on Thursday, hadn't scored a goal in nine games, while linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton hadn't lit the lamp in eight and four games, respectively.
All three got on the board against the Leafs, Lucic with a pair of goals, Krejci with a goal and two assists and Horton with a pair of helpers. No surprise for coach Claude Julien, who saw the breakout coming over the course of the last few games.
"I think it's important for those guys to build on that," Julien said in the Boston Globe. "They've got the confidence now. They've got to make the most of it more than they can relax and say, 'Well, now we're getting points.' I'd like to see them build on it."
Who's Hot: NHL points leader Phil Kessel got there by being consistent, as he logged points in 11 out of 14 November games, but hasn't scored a goal in four and has a lone assist in three games against the Bruins. Joffrey Lupul is right behind Kessel in the League scoring race, and he was only shut out twice in November. He's currently on a seven-game point streak. … Boston captain Zdeno Chara scored Wednesday his third goal in four games. Rich Peverley has five assists in his last five games. Against the Leafs, Lucic sets the pace with five goals and eight points.
Injury Report: James Reimer (concussion-like symptoms) will return to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 22 as Jonas Gustavsson's backup. Mike Komisarek (broken arm) is shut down till late January while Colby Armstrong (sprained ankle) is seven to 10 days away. Matthew Lombardi (shoulder) will be out three to four more weeks, while Mike Brown (back surgery) has been moved to injured reserve. … Health is a big contributor to sustained success, and the Bruins have a clean bill save for Marc Savard, sidelined for the season with concussion issues.
Stat Pack: Tim Thomas earned the NHL's first star for November with a 1.76 goals-against average over a nine-game winning streak and a 1.67 GAA against the Leafs in three games this season. Seguin's 24 points put him in the top 20 League-wide, but his plus-19 is tops. Chris Kelly is second with plus-16, while Chara and Brad Marchand share third with Nashville defenseman Shea Weber at plus-15. Patrice Bergeron's plus-14 makes it five Bruins in the top 10.
Puck Drop: "Unfortunately, the way the world works and the way this league works, November's gone. It's behind us. This is December." -- Thomas after the Bruins' November performance vaulted them to the top of the Northeast Division