Whether it’s on or off the ice, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are quite used to bumping into each other the past few years. From the 17,565 at the TD Garden taunting Phil Kessel whenever he touches the puck, to the numerous trades made by Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli and ex-Leafs GM Brian Burke, the teams have been quite used to one another.
And finally, the two Northeast Division foes meet for the first time in the shortened 2013 season. The last time these two teams met nearly one year ago, the Bruins blew the Leafs right out of the Garden to finish the series sweep.
The Black and Gold will look to make it seven in a row against Toronto Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, but they might have their work cut out for them with the injuries to Shawn Thornton (out 7-10 days with a concussion) and fellow Merlot line mate Daniel Paille (upper-body, day-to-day). Boston is coming off its first regulation loss of the season Thursday night against Buffalo, 7-4.
Meanwhile, the Leafs are coming in winners of two in a row. And although Kessel has seen his struggles – much like another component of the infamous trade a few years ago – Toronto is getting plenty of contributions from some of their role players, including leading scorer Nazem Kadri (three goals, four assists) and former Hobey Baker winner Matt Frattin (four goals, two assists).
After the jump, lineups, storylines, linkage and tweets of interest
Gametime: 7 p.m.
Location: Air Canada Centre
T.V./Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins (5-0-1, 11 points), Leafs (4-3-0, 8 points)
Bruins projected lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Chris Bourque-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Lane MacDermid-Gregory Campbell-Jamie Tardif
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dougie Hamilton-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Leafs’ projected lines
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikholai Kulemin
Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-Matt Frattin
Colton Orr-David Steckel-Ryan Hamilton
Dion Phaneuf-Mike Kostka
John-Michael Liles-Carl Gunnarson
Mark Fraser-Cody Franson
Bruins to watch
What would a Bruins-Leafs matchup be without the mention of Tyler Seguin? This time around, though, he’ll be looking to break out of his early season slump. In what many expect to be another breakout year for the former No. 2 overall pick, the now 21-year old forward has had trouble finding his groove with just one goal in the first eight games. That doesn’t mean he isn’t doing some of the little things well as seen when he drove to the front of the net on Brad Marchand’s second goal Thursday night. But for the Bruins to be effective in the month of February, Seguin is going to need to be a little more assertive.
Another member of the Kessel trade, Dougie Hamilton, is returning home to Toronto for his first game against the Leafs. The 2011 first round pick has surprised many with his solid play on the Bruins’ blue-line in the first 1/6th of the season. With his good puck-moving ability, it would not be surprising if Hamilton gets a little more time on the struggling Boston power play.
With Thornton and Paille out, Lane MacDermid and Jamie Tardif will fill their spots on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell. Chris Bourque will return to the third line after being a healthy scratch Thursday and this could be his last shot to impress. Otherwise Paille or Tardif could fill his spot with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.
Leafs to watch
In case you haven’t read up until now, Kessel is obviously a name on Bruins’ fans radar. But after tallying four points and a -2 rating in his first eight games, the ex-Bruin will look to break out of his early season slump. Against a team that he has struggled mightily against in his career, a solid performance against his former team could be just what the doctor ordered. Either way, Boston fans will still be chanting “Thank You Kessel” whenever Dougie or Seguin score against Toronto.
ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald talked to Dougie about returning home.
The Days of Y’Orr folks are pretty sad hearing about Thornton’s injury.
Boston Sports Then & Now examines the Bruins’ first two weeks by the numbers.
Mary Findlater of The Pink Puck recaps the Leafs’ overtime victory over the Washington Capitals from Thursday.
Sportsnet.ca talks about Kessel and the rest of the team hoping to break its slump against the Black and Gold.
Tweets of interest
While Andrew Ference @Ferknuckle hopes for a speedy recovery for No. 22, he still likes to have a little fun on the social media platform. File this under Ference being Ference.
In honor of Thorty being an ultimate team guy, he’s my example in another great app, OldBooth. I’m easily entertained… twitter.com/Ferknuckle/sta…
— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) February 2, 2013
And The Hockey Writers @TheHockeyWriter are keeping track of who has more goals than Kessel (includes a link to THW). Still not as trendy as more goals than Scott Gomez in this humble writer’s opinion.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) February 2, 2013