Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov, the Leafs two leading marksmen, will miss tonight’s key home game against the Boston Bruins. Antropov, out with a sore knee, could be back for the rematch in Boston in Thursday. The Leafs are less sure about Sundin’s return from a groin injury.
This is the game of games. After an unlikely run and five wins in six tries, the Leafs are just four points out of eighth, a spot occupied by the Bruins. The Flyers are just two ahead of Boston so it’s possible both teams could fall out of the playoffs, but the Flyers seem to have righted themselves with three straight wins. It looks like Boston or bust.
The Bruins are without Mark Savard, out after a severe cross-check from the Canadiens Steve Begin that should have drawn a suspension. Their best player, Patrice Bergeron was knocked out for the seasons by the Flyers’ Randy Jones.
So how is it that the return of a player low down on the depth chart can be big news?
Well, you might find out tonight. Boyd Deveraux, our since Feb. 21 after hurting a knee against Columbus comes back tonight.
“You have to have a structure on your team,” said Leafs coach Paul Maurice. “He’s a defensive player but he’s an energy guy who fits a certain tempo we’re trying to get to. We don’t have expectations of him being offensive to play well but he’s in good shape and he will bring his game.”
Maurice said another man on the penalty kill will help.
“Against Buffalo, we used a lot of guys and we’ve been pretty thin back there. We ran those guys pretty hard.”
Deveraux will play with Jeremy Williams and Kris Newbury.
“Your two top scorers are tough to replace,” said Deveraux. “It’s never a bad game plan to protect your end. They say your best offence is a strong defence. That’s going to be a real key.”
The Bruins offence would be prone to be shut down. In losing nine of 11, the Bruins have scored just 1.5 goals a game.
The Leafs, meanwhile, are trying to mend bursts of poor play at home. Over the last 10 games, they have lost just three times…each time on home ice.
Maurice said the Leafs shouldn’t have any trouble with home ice advantage.
“They’ve been in this mode for so long, it really shouldn’t be a factor in this game tonight.”