TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs feel like they are a much different team today than the one that hosted the Boston Bruins on Oct. 25.
The last time they played, the Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 4-1 in Toronto. It was after that game the Maple Leafs held a players-only meeting and have since gone 4-1-1.
"They just decided enough was enough," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. "They knew we just couldn't go on playing the way we were."
At the time of the loss to Boston, the Maple Leafs had slipped to 3-4-1 and were 1-4-0 at home. It was early in the season, but playoff positions are lost that time of year.
"Teams go through ups and downs and I think we're playing more the style of hockey we want to play," said Toronto right wing David Clarkson. "Every team is going to have a good week and a bad week, and I think that was a tough go for us. We're playing better and more like a team. We're getting better starts to our games, which was hurting us before."
The Bruins, who are fifth in the Eastern Conference at 10-6-0, have concerns of their own with veterans Zdeno Chara and David Krejci injured. Yet they have managed to go 6-1-0 since Chara hurt his knee against the New York Islanders on Oct. 23. Others, in particular third-year defenseman Dougie Hamilton, have helped pick up the slack. Hamilton, 21, had one goal and two points in the nine games Chara played and since has two goals and 10 points.
The Maple Leafs are not surprised the Bruins have continued to play well in Chara's absence.
"I think that's what good teams do," Clarkson said. "I think good teams always find a way to keep going when they lose their big guys. They find ways to win and I think that's the reason they are where they are every year. They are a well-coached team and have a lot of good players in their locker room who push and make up for the players that are missing."
Said center Nazem Kadri: "They're a good organization and they're well-coached. Their systems are in place and the team follows the rules. Also they've got some good talent and great leaders; guys who have been around for a while. For young guys sometimes all you need is a path to follow and they have the right guys to do that."
Boston coach Claude Julien said the Bruins have not put their entire focus on the loss of Chara and he is not the least bit surprised they have continued to win without their captain.
"It is because we believe in ourselves," Julien said. "We've got some good players on this team and when you lose a few players here and there you rely on your team concept and structure, and you play as best you can."
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic - Chris Kelly - Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Matt Fraser - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Simon Gagne - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille
Dennis Seidenberg - Dougie Hamilton
Joe Morrow - Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug - Zach Trotman
Scratched: Matt Bartkowski
Injured: Zdeno Chara (knee), David Krejci (lower body), Kevan Miller (shoulder)
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - Mike Santorelli
Richard Panik - Trevor Smith - Josh Leivo
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly - Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Matt Frattin
Injured: David Booth (broken foot), Joffrey Lupul (broken hand)
Status report: Winnik is expected to play after missing two games with a concussion. … Marchand needs one more assist to reach 100 for his career. … Gagne is two points shy of 600 for his career ... Julien said the Bruins starting goaltender will be a game-time decision.
Who's hot: Kessel had a six-game points streak snapped against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday but still ranks fifth in NHL scoring with eight goals and 19 points in 15 games…Holland has goals in back-to-back games ... Smith has scored in consecutive games and is on a three-game points streak… Bergeron has points (six) in four straight games… Rask has won four straight.