Leafs' Kessel faces Bruins for first time in Toronto
Saturday, 12.19.2009 / 7:00 PMBRUINS (16-10-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (12-16-7)
Last 10 --
Boston 5-2-3; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series --
The Bruins are making their first trip to the Air Canada Centre. They won the first two meetings this season at the TD Garden in a six-day span earlier this month, winning 7-2 on Dec. 5 and 5-2 on Dec. 10.
Big story --
Former Bruin Phil Kessel
takes on his old team in his new home. Kessel's return to Boston earlier this month after a preseason deal sent him to Toronto was a dud -- he was a non-factor in two losses. But he's been as-advertised as an offensive force with the Leafs, putting up 13 goals and 21 points in his first 21 games in blue-and-white.
Both teams are coming off losses Friday night. Boston dropped a shootout in Chicago, 5-4, and the Leafs were beaten 5-2 in Buffalo.
Some single points are better than others, and the Bruins were more than happy to leave the United Center with one Friday. The Bruins competed for 65 minutes with one of the NHL's elite teams (and its best home club) before losing 2-0 in the shootout.
"We hung in there," coach Claude Julien told the media after the loss. "I think you almost need a perfect game to beat these guys. We weren't perfect, but the fact we were able to score late and tie the game, the resiliency was there."
Still, the Bruins are 0-1-2 in their last three, and they've dropped into second place in the Northeast Division, five points behind Buffalo.
Maple Leafs --
Don't be surprised if Johan Gustavsson gets the call against the Bruins. Coach Ron Wilson wasn't thrilled with Vesa Toskala's play in the loss to Buffalo -- especially the way it deteriorated after he allowed a bad goal that put the Sabres ahead 2-1 at 7:02 of the second period. Toskala wound up allowing four goals on six shots in the period before being lifted.
"When you're not getting any saves, everybody gets shaky and you suffer breakdowns because you start running around trying to do too much," Wilson said. "They scored four goals on six shots and it's hard to play if you're not sure you're going to get a save."
Who's hot --
Boston's David Krejci
scored twice in the loss to the Hawks and is 4-3-7 in his last his last five games. … Kessel was held scoreless on Friday but has 3 goals and 5 points in his last three games.
Injury report --
For Boston, forward Milan Lucic
(ankle), and defensemen Dennis Wideman (unknown) and Mark Stuart (sternum) are out. Toronto is without defensemen Carl Gunnarsson
(elbow), Mike Van Ryn (knee) and Jamie Heward (concussion), as well as center John Mitchell (lower body).
Stat pack --
Boston has won the last seven meetings between the two teams -- the last five in 2008-09 and the first two this season. … Toronto has allowed five or more goals in four of its last eight games.
Puck drop --
Expect Kessel to be revved up and ready to go against his old team after two disappointing performances in Boston. Having the last line change will help Wilson keep Kessel away from Boston's top defenseman, Zdeno Chara
. The improving Leafs played well in Buffalo but were undermined by their goaltending, and they need every point they can get if they hope to get back in the playoff race.