BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to tighten their defensive-zone play and they hope to get a boost from the return of goaltender Jonathan Bernier on Wednesday after allowing nine goals and 75 shots on goal in back-to-back road losses to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this week.
Bernier is expected to start against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. He won eight of 12 starts before missing the past two games with a flu-like illness.
But the Maple Leafs have lost five of their past six games and will need more than just a change of goaltender to turn back the Bruins.
"I think the biggest thing is we've got to kill more time in their zone," Bernier said Monday. "I think the biggest thing is we've got to cycle the puck more in their zone instead of just going for the rush game. I think we've got to spend more time wearing their [defense] down. When we play well, that's what we do."
Bernier might not be the only returning Maple Leafs player. Leo Komarov, who has been out since Nov. 29 because of a concussion , took line drills with Peter Holland and Mike Santorelli during the Leafs’ morning skate Wednesday. Coach Randy Carlyle said Komarov would be a game-time decision.
The Bruins are hoping for a couple returns of their own. Center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Milan Lucic did not play against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. Both practiced Tuesday and coach Claude Julien said Tuesday a decision would be made on their status when game time is closer. The Bruins did not have a morning skate because the Boston Celtics had a game at TD Garden on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bruins were able to beat the Red Wings without Bergeron and Lucic in part because of the continued hot play of the line of Carl Soderberg centering Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly. That line has combined for 22 points in the past six games. Against the Red Wings, Soderberg had one goal and two assists, Eriksson had two assists, and Kelly had a goal and an assist.
Eriksson in particular has been on a roll, with six goals and 10 points in his past 10 games. He has nine goals and 23 points in 37 games this season after he had 10 goals and 37 points in 61 games last season, his first season with the Bruins.
"I think to his defense, last year was a tough start for him with two concussions in the first half of the year," Julien said. "You know again, I use the example of other guys who've had concussions, you don't come off those things very easily where all of a sudden you're back to playing and everything is good. It takes a while. I thought by the end of last year I thought he was a pretty good player. You know we tend to forget that. And then this year he had a slow start, like a lot of guys. But for some reason the focus was more on him than maybe others. And now he's playing well. So I think in my mind, I think we're seeing the Loui Eriksson that everybody kind of saw in making that decision to bring him to Boston."
Here are the projected lineups:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Daniel Winnik - Nazem Kadri - Joffrey Lupul
Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - Mike Santorelli
David Booth - Trevor Smith - David Clarkson
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly - Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Carter Ashton
Injured: Richard Panik (head)
Brad Marchand - David Krejci - Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Jordan Caron
Matt Lindblad - Craig Cunningham - Seth Griffith
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Scratched: Zach Trotman
Injured: Patrice Bergeron (undisclosed), Milan Lucic (undisclosed), Adam McQuaid (thumb)
Status update: If Bergeron and Lucic return for the Bruins, Julien will have some difficult decisions with how to make out his lineup. Cunningham had been playing with Krejci and Lucic, but Smith fit well with Krejci on Monday. ... McQuaid has been practicing with the Bruins for about a week. He may be close to a return.
Who's hot: Kadri has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak. ... Kelly has a point in six of the past seven games, with two goals and five assists in that span.