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Next Stop: Toronto

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- They don't get much bigger than Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. But for the B's, who remain last in the Northeast Division (4-7-0), a crack at the first place Leafs (8-3-1) with all of North America's hockey-loving fans watching, is downright huge.


"We know our backs are against the wall," said forward Shawn Thornton on Wednesday. "For us to dig ourselves out of this hole we've created we're going to have to take it one game at a time, but we have to be good in those games.

"So Toronto's next up and we're going to have to play our best and try and get another two points and get a little bit of a roll going here."

Thornton and his linemates Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell were all a big part of the Bruins 5-3 win over Ottawa on Tuesday night. Thornton and Campbell each earned fighting majors, while Paille scored the B's fifth goal with help from Shawn and Gregory.

"We didn't contribute the way we wanted to the first few games of the year, but [Tuesday] night was a step forward," said Paille, whose breakaway goal cemented the Black & Gold's lead at 7:18 of the third. "Two big fights for us, and getting a big goal...helps the team -- especially giving a little more of a cushion with so much time left.

"So it was definitely helpful for all of us to bring that energy."

Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien certainly thought so, and said as much late Tuesday night.

"I think their line was more of what we know them to be," he said. "I thought they did a great job of starting the game for us in Montreal the other night – got the puck in, and hemmed them in, and gave us some energy – and tonight was the same thing."

There will be plenty of energy in the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, and all of the Canadian-born players on the club are ready for a familiar setting and an "Original Six" matchup.

It's no secret that for Thornton it's exciting to return home to face the Leafs.

"Yeah, definitely. I was drafted by them and I came from a town that is a half hour outside [the city]," said the B's beat cop. "All my family and friends are always in the stands and I definitely grew up watching them."

"It's always special to go back into that building for me."

Thornton reminisced about growing up and going to Maple Leaf Gardens to watch Toronto take on the NHL.

"I practiced in there. I never got to play a game and I always wanted to play an exhibition game and I never got the chance," said Thornton. "I got to play a couple exhibition games in the ACC with a Leafs jersey on but it was a special place.

"I went there a couple of times when I was a kid.

"It was a lot like the Boston Garden from what I'm told. It felt like the fans were right on top of you, very intimate old building. It was pretty cool," he said.

Paille said that playing in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada is pretty much as big as it gets for a Canadian-born player.

"Oh, I'd say so -- it's Hockey Night in Canada, so I grew up watching that," said Paille. “Being a Canadian boy, I was always excited. It's kind of like Monday Night Football here in the States, too.
"It's something that a lot of families get to enjoy and to be a part of it every once in a while is special."

Despite the latent energy in the building on Saturday, Thornton and his line know they're expected to create momentum for the Black & Gold.

Alternate captain Chris Kelly, who when called upon, can also play an energy role, admired the "Merlot's" recent tenacity.

"I thought they played great in Montreal," said Kelly. "Obviously, they started the game for us and were high energy.

"Every shift they were generating something. It was one of those games that the rest of us just couldn't follow suit. But, for the most part they go out there, they work hard and they do a lot of the little things that maybe go unnoticed by a lot of people, but we definitely notice what they bring."

And last game was a prime example of how important the B's energy line is to the club's success.

"I don't think you can ask any more from a line," said Kelly. "Two fights. Thorty, first one, bringing us energy, and Soupy, at the end of the game; then, a huge goal by 'Paisie.'"

But Thornton and his mates shrug off the praise, and remain disappointed in their overall results through 11 games.

"It's our job," said Thornton. "Everyone has a role to play and that's ours, so we have no choice but to bring it.

"Obviously, in our building the fans probably feed off it a little bit more than on the road. On the road we can play a simple, hard-working road game and try to grind it out as much as possible in the other team's end."

And, like Paille on Tuesday, the occasional offensive contribution is important and can make a raucous crowd in an opposing rink pretty quiet.

"I mean, we want to contribute offensively, we haven't done enough of that this year," said Thornton. "It hasn't been easy and we've had some chances and we've hit some crossbars and hit some posts.

"Hopefully now that Paisie snuck one by maybe the gates will open a little.

"I'd love to get one eventually," added Thornton with a chuckle. "Sooner, rather than later."
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