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MAPLE LEAFS (22-20-5) at BRUINS (29-14-2)
TV: SNET-O, NESN
Last 10: Toronto 4-4-2; Boston 6-4-0
Season series: This is the third of four games this season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. The Bruins won each of the first two games by a combined score of 8-3.
Big story: The stakes obviously won't be nearly as high as when Boston and Toronto met in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, but despite each coming off wins, the Bruins and Maple Leafs need two points from this one. The Bruins went 1-2-0 on a brutal California road trip against the top three teams in the Pacific Division, and the Maple Leafs recently snapped a four-game losing streak that dropped them out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Maple Leafs: Toronto is coming off a shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night, the team's first victory since outlasting the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout at the 2014 NHL Winter Classic 11 days earlier, but the Maple Leafs' struggles appear to run deeper than a four-game losing streak.
Toronto is currently fifth in the Atlantic Division and barely on the outside looking in at the East's playoff positions, but the Maple Leafs' place in the standings has been propped up by their ability to win shootouts. The team's 8-4 mark after overtime is the best in the League, but as the postseason chase reaches its homestretch, Toronto may be doomed by a dearth of regulation and overtime wins if it doesn't start racking them up soon. Toronto only matches one team currently in playoff position in the East, the Washington Capitals, in regulation and overtime wins, with 14. Over recent weeks, non-shootout wins have been in increasingly short supply for the Maple Leafs, who have two regulation wins in their past 26 games.
Even as the Leafs struggle to pick up wins in 60 or 65 minutes, they're taking the points however they come at this point.
"We needed this bad," goalie Jonathan Bernier said following Toronto's win Sunday. "We found a way. If that's what it takes to go into a shootout and get points and move on like this, it feels good for the confidence."
Holland, 22, has played 22 games with the Leafs this season and has nine points (five goals, four assists) and 10 penalty minutes. He had a goal and two penalty minutes in four games with the Anaheim Ducks this season before being acquired by Toronto on Nov. 16, 2013.
Bruins: The Bruins, currently pitted in a battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic, did themselves no favors on their recent road trip. On a three-game swing through California, the Bruins suffered rough losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings before salvaging the trip with a 1-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
"We talked about it before," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said following their win against slumping San Jose. "It's about pride too. You come on these road trips and lose the first two games, you don't want to get swept. We talked about it and gave a sharp effort, and it paid off with a win."
If there is a bright spot from the trip, it could be that Boston is starting to get missing players back into the lineup. Forward Loui Eriksson returned from a concussion Saturday, and forward Shawn Thornton came back from suspension. On Monday, forward Chris Kelly was skating on his own at practice five weeks after sustaining a broken leg, though his return is still not imminent.
"He started last week, mid-week, and just started skating on his own," Bruins coach Claude Julien told the team website. "He's not close to returning here, there's still lots of time for him to continue to heal, so just basically more getting him to stay positive here. It's a frustrating injury that's going to take a while."
Following their game against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Bruins go back on the road for four of their next five games.
Who's hot: Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel has a goal and three assists in the past two games. ... Bruins forward Carl Soderberg, who scored the game-winner against San Jose on Saturday, has a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists).
Injury report: Goalie James Reimer (flu-like symptoms) and defenseman Mark Fraser (flu-like symptoms) are questionable. They were among five Maple Leafs players who were sick over the weekend. Centers Trevor Smith (broken hand) and Dave Bolland (lacerated ankle) are on injured reserve. Bolland hopes to resume skating soon. … Bruins forward Jordan Caron (back injury) is questionable, and Kelly (broken leg) remains on IR. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton (undisclosed) sat out practice Monday.
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