With two victories in the books already against Phil Kessel and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins will look to make it three in a row against their Northeast Division rivals in the first half of the home and home series tonight at the Air Canada Centre. Tim Thomas is expected to get his second straight start for the Black and Gold, while Jonas Gustavsson should get the nod for the Leafs.
The Bruins (14-7-1, 29 points) are coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night at the TD Garden and look to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 to end the month of November. The Leafs (14-8-2), meanwhile, are winners of their last three — including Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks — and have climbed atop the Bruins in the division standings with 30 points.
More after the jump…
Puck Drop: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
2011-12 season series: Bruins 2-0
Expected goalies: Thomas vs. Gustavsson
What to watch for (Bruins)
David Krejci’s struggles have continued in the early part of the 2011-12 season. Last year’s leading scorer during the playoffs has struggled generating offense with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 19 games and is a minus-4. The Bruins’ second round pick in 2004 did tally an assist on Zdeno Chara’s power play goal Saturday, but still needs to find some consistency with fellow linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.
Although the top line has seen their struggles, the other three lines have picked up the slack. The second line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand has been the team’s best line all year, and the third line of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Benoit Pouliot have been gelling since being put together earlier in the month. Not to mention, the team’s fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille continues to bring energy when called upon.
In the two wins, the Bruins, despite having different line combinations in those contests, have used its depth to their advantage exposing Toronto’s defensive weaknesses. With the team finding its strive in November, the Bruins might be able to exploit those mismatches again against the injury proned Leafs.
What to watch for (Leafs)
Of course, when the Leafs-Bruins matchup is discussed these days, the focus is on Kessel in Beantown. Boston’s former first round pick is off to a hot start; leading the league in scoring with 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 24 games, but has been held scoreless against his former team in 2011-12. Look for Kessel to try to make an impact against his former squad tonight as the Leafs look to extend the division lead to at least three points.
Although Kessel’s play has been widely noticed, another former Bruins’ first round pick, Joe Colborne, has made a name for himself the past few games. Since being called up from the Toronto Marlies (AHL), the 14th overall pick of the 2008 Draft has tallied four points in five contests — a goal and three assists — and has tallied one point in each of the team’s last three games. Colborne, who was dealt at the Trade Deadline for Tomas Kaberle, faces his former squad for the first time in his career.
Bruins gameday links
Colborne talks about his first game against his former squad (Joe Haggerty/CSNNE.com)
To add injury to insult for Montreal Canadiens’ fans, head coach Claude Julien compared Max Pacioretty’s hit on Kris Letang Saturday — that got him a three-game suspension — to Matt Cooke’s elbow-to-the-head of Marc Savard in March of 2010 (Jesse Connolly/New England Hockey Journal)
Leafs gameday links
Toronto is using the first game of the home and home as a measuring stick against the defending Cup Champs (David Shoalts/Globe and Mail)
Gustavsson’s stats might not be startling, but “The Monster” is getting the job and is gaining confidence (Chris Johnston/Globe and Mail)