BostonBruins.com - The Bruins met a stiff resistance in Washington D.C. against the Capitals on Wednesday night, falling to the top team in the Eastern Conference, 5-3.
After a day off on Thursday, the B's were back on the ice at Warrior Ice Arena on Friday, prepping for what they hope will be a bounce-back game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins have lost both matchups this season against the Maple Leafs, each by a score of 4-1.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Here is what you need to know:
The Bruins (26-22-6, 58 points) currently sit three points ahead of the Maple Leafs for the third playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The catch, however, is that Toronto has five games in hand on the B's. Saturday's game will undoubtedly be the B's most important contest of the season to date.
With those five games in hand, and having played more games than any team in the league, the Bruins will be the beneficiaries of much needed rest during February. After Saturday's game, Boston will have a four-day break before their contest against San Jose on Thursday.
Video: Backes previews matchup with Maple Leafs
While fewer games may seem like a blessing, Brad Marchand spoke about the challenges playing fewer games could also pose.
"We'll have a little bit more practice time now, and we do need to work on different areas of our game, which will help," said Marchand. "But, at the same time, we can't fall asleep on those days."
David Backes knows the team needs two points badly, but wants to recapture the strong play the team displayed during a three-game winning streak prior to its loss in the nation's capital.
"It's time to put up or shut up," said Backes. "We had a good three-game run against good teams. We took a step backward in the third period against Washington, but we need to get back on that forward track against Toronto at home and keep collecting points."
Patrice Bergeron missed Friday's practice with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
"When we say he's day-to-day, he's doing really well," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Certainly not erasing him from our lineup tomorrow."
Video: Julien provides updates on Bergeron and Rask
Tuukka Rask (maintenance day) also did not practice with the team on Friday. Julien said the team "expects" Rask to be in goal against Toronto.
"We're in game 53 and we've got one win from our backup goaltender. We're not blind to the matter," said Julien. "What we have to do right now is get ourselves in the best position possible. Having said that, we'd like to give Tuukka, maybe less games than he's had.
"But at the same time, we can't worry about what it's going to be like a month from now. What we have right now is an important part of the schedule. It's also part of the schedule where we're getting a lot of breaks.
"He's had two [days off] so far after the Washington game. He's getting some rest."
The Maple Leafs (23-17-9, 55 points) have been on a recent skid, dropping their last three games. Despite their slump, Toronto figures to be a major fixture in the playoff hunt down the stretch.
Toronto's opening-night roster was an average age of 25.7 years old, the second youngest in hockey. What once figured to be another rebuilding year has quickly turned into one that has the fan base buzzing over a possible playoff berth.
Viewed as an organization-changing prospect, Auston Matthews, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's draft, has not disappointed, logging 23 goals and 16 assists in 39 games. Matthews' solid season has been accompanied by the emergence of Mitchell Marner, who Toronto selected fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Marner has 42 points (13 goals and 29 assists) to date.
"It's pretty obvious they have a high skill level," said Julien. "When you pick early for that many years and do a great job of drafting players - I can name all the young kids, they're doing a great job.
"They're playing with confidence. They've got speed, they've got skill. I know that's what [coach Mike Babcock] likes…he's doing a great job with it."
Goaltender Frederik Andersen has had his way with the Bruins. In six career games, Andersen has posted a 6-0-0 record, giving up just eight goals. The B's will hope to reverse the trend and put pucks past the netminder on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs are sixth in the NHL in scoring (3.02 goals per game) and 20th in goals allowed (2.82 per game).
Wait, There's More
- With two goals on Wednesday, Brad Marchand moved into a tie for fourth in the NHL points race with 54 points (23 goals and 31 assists)
- Saturday will mark the 665th all-time meeting between the Bruins and the Maple Leafs. The B's hold a 295-260-98-11 record against Toronto, being outscored 1,970-1,960.