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Pregame Notebook: Bruins, Leafs Meet for First Time Since Game 7

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - Take a moment to remember the Bruins' Game 7 comeback against Toronto.

Because that's where the hype comes from heading into this game at TD Garden, as the B's host the Leafs for the teams' first meeting since that night.

It was special, historic, momentous, and propelled the Black & Gold further into the postseason.

But once the puck drops, it marks a chance for the Bruins to further continue their turnaround, build off of their 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, and pick up two points over a divisional opponent that sits three points above them in the standings.

When Head Coach Claude Julien was asked pregame about the matchup being a "test" for the Bruins, he didn't quite look at it in that specific way.

"To me, it’s an opportunity to improve our game. Not a test, but it’s more of a situation where we can find our game and be the team that we want to be, that we know we should be and can be," said Julien. "So that’s more my approach to it."

And like we saw in Pittsburgh, with the added jump from a postseason sting, the Bruins are expecting a fired up Leafs team.

"We all know that they’re going to have a little extra motivation going into this game and I think we should as well," said Milan Lucic. "It’s a big divisional game, it’s a divisional rival, a conference rival, that Original Six battle and they’ve become one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference now."

"So these are games that, for us, we need to get up for as well because they’re ahead of us in the standings and we want to catch up to them. So as much as they’re going to be motivated, we have to be motivated to play a good, hard, strong game as well."

"We just have to exceed their effort; we know they’re a fast-paced forechecking team and we’re going to have to play to our true abilities in the way we’re capable of," said Daniel Paille.

"You have to expect that it’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere so I think everyone will be ready for tonight."

Bruins Making Turnaround

The 4-1 win over Florida was a "step forward," but the B's have keyed in on their third period effort to build upon heading into tonight against the Leafs. They earned a three-goal outburst and started to show signs of their game coming through.

"Puck movement," Shawn Thornton immediately responded, when asked what caused the difference in that period. "I think we went back to making pretty crisp plays. I think our breakouts were a lot better and that’s a product of putting the puck on the tape instead of having to chase pucks; I think we did a pretty good job of controlling that."

"So hopefully the energy is up and we bring that this evening."

Sometimes, all it takes is one period, one shift, one goal to get that "feeling" back and turn it around.

"As a team and sometimes even as a player, when you’re in a slump and when you’re in a funk, sometimes it can just take a bounce or a period or something to go right to kind of turn things over and into the right direction again," said Milan Lucic.

"You hope that you can start the game the way we ended off the last one."

Prior to last game, the B's all talked about 'working through it,' and looking at themselves in the mirror to find the mentality and compete level to start playing with their identity.

The win was a start, but they still feel they can improve.

"For us, even though we felt that there was still some tweaks in our game, we felt it was more of a stronger game," said Paille. "So especially a game like Toronto tonight, there shouldn’t be any excuse to come out strong and have a lot of adrenaline coming out tonight."

Maturation of Young D

Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski are all growing into full-time NHL players. Sometimes, it's just a matter of time, and games played, to let the natural learning process occur.

"It’s called experience," said Julien pregame, when asked how the trio has become more confident. "And the more you get of it, the better you become. Experience also translates into confidence."

"And our young blueliners that you’re talking about are gaining that right now. They’re still making mistakes and we’re still working with them to improve their game but nonetheless they’ve been a real good asset to our team and have brought a bit of a different look and a fresh look to our back end."

Smith Emerging

Reilly Smith has 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) through 15 games with Boston, in his second full NHL season. He had nine pts in 37 games last year with Dallas.

"Just look at the stats; I think he’s been a real good player for us," Julien said, when asked about the winger's transition pregame. "He’s a young player I think that’s probably, not been overlooked, but kind of been in the shadow for a long time and now he’s kind of emerged with us here."

"He’s played a big role for us that we see on our power play, he’s moved up on the second line for parts of the season. Real smart player; creative, good hockey sense, smart, making good plays."

"So we’re really happy. We talk about getting Loui Eriksson in that trade but I think he’s another key asset in that trade as well."

Boston Projected Lineup

The Bruins held an optional skate pregame skate Saturday morning. Matt Bartkowski and Jordan Caron both stayed on for extra work, indicating they are the likely scratches for tonight.

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson

Carl Soderberg
-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith

Daniel Paille
-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk

Dennis Seidenberg
-Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid

Starter: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Chad Johnson

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