Kessel back in Boston as Leafs challenge Bruins
Saturday, 12.05.2009 / 7:00 PMMAPLE LEAFS (8-12-7) at BRUINS (14-9-5)
Toronto 5-3-2; Boston 6-2-2
First of six meetings this season between Northeast Division rivals. The Leafs won the first matchup last season, but the Bruins captured the next five. Blake Wheeler torched Toronto for six goals, leading all scorers, and David Krejci
scored four, including a hat trick in an 8-5 win on Dec. 18, 2008. Jason Blake, Mikhail Grabovski
and Alexei Ponikarovsky each tallied three goals to lead the Leafs.
Big Story: Phil Kessel
, who scored three of his 36 goals last season against Toronto, will face his former Boston teammates for the first time since being traded in the offseason for three high draft picks. Kessel wasn't ready to start the regular season due to a rotator cuff injury, but he's made up for lost time since coming back. Kessel has averaged a point per game for the Leafs, including 10 goals, in the 15 games he’s played. The team is 7-5-3 with their star acquisition in the lineup.
"It's not just another game for him," Blake told the Toronto Sun. "It's a big game. And don't be surprised if he has a big night."
One thing that has eluded Toronto this season is a three-game winning streak. The Leafs have won two in a row for the third time after a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday in Columbus. They will try to sweep a three-game road trip that started with a 3-0 victory over Montreal on Tuesday.
"We're just doing the things that we should do," Blake said. "We use our speed and forecheck and make it tough on defensemen. If we don't do that, we're easy to play against. The last few games, we've been doing that. We've been getting rewarded. We've just got to keep doing it."
This is the second game in as many nights for Boston, which had been on a string where it picked up at least a point in nine out of 10 until the Canadiens beat the Bruins decisively Friday night, 5-1 before a raucous crowd in Montreal that was on hand to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the franchise's founding. They'll look to rebound back at home before having four days off before the next game.
"They're all important," goalie Tim Thomas
said. "We have like four games in 12 days so we're not playing a lot. Some other teams are catching up with us, as far as playing more games, and they have a chance to make up points.
"So that makes those points even more valuable because you need to get the wins you can to stay where you want to be."
Blake and Kessel each scored twice against the Jackets. For Blake, it doubled his goal total for the season, while Kessel now has four goals and six points over his last four games.
Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson
is out indefinitely after undergoing a second procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson
is expected to miss six weeks with a hyperextended elbow, while forward John Mitchell is also on injured reserve with a knee injury. Defenseman Mike Van Ryn is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Boston's lone entry on the injury report is forward Milan Lucic
, who will miss at least four weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Fresh off his first win of the season, Leafs goalie Joey MacDonald will get a second straight start Saturday. MacDonald played in seven games for the Bruins during his rookie season in 2006-07, going 2-2-1 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
In a scheduling quirk, the Maple Leafs will return home for a pair of games at the Air Canada Centre and then come right back to TD Garden to face the Bruins again on Thursday.