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Bruins-Maple Leafs Preview @NHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs barely missed a beat while Mats Sundin was out with a torn elbow ligament.

Coming off their biggest offensive output of the season, the Maple Leafs are expected to have their longtime captain back in the lineup Saturday when they meet the Boston Bruins in the start of a two-game series at Air Canada Centre.

Sundin hasn't played since a 4-1 win Nov. 6 over the Philadelphia Flyers. The 35-year-old center was playing some of his best hockey of the season before being sidelined, recording three goals and six assists in a five-game points streak.

Toronto (13-7-4) had won four of those five games.

In the seven games Sundin missed, the Maple Leafs scored at least four goals in five of them, but were just 4-2-1.

First-year coach Paul Maurice said he eagerly awaits Sundin's return.

"There are enough players that I would expect to score that we should be able to survive," Maurice said after Toronto's 7-1 thrashing Friday of the Washington Capitals. "But at the end of the day we need him back in our lineup."

Against the Caps, though, the Maple Leafs showed they may want to rest Sundin a little longer. Kyle Wellwood and Michael Peca scored before the game was three minutes old, and the Leafs got four goals in a 4:10 span of the second period.

Darcy Tucker scored his 16th goal and added two assists for Toronto. Tucker, who has five goals during a four-game streak, is tied with Marian Hossa of the Atlanta Thrashers for second in the league in goals - one behind Brendan Shanahan of the New York Rangers.

One of his 11 power-play goals accounted for his lone point this season against the Bruins.

The Bruins, who are in last place in the Northeast Division, have put added emphasis on these back-to-back road games against their longtime rival.

"Any of the divisional games are very important, the fact that you're playing them twice in such a short time period, they're even more important," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday.

Boston is 10 points behind second-place Toronto, and 18 in back of the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs have split their first two meetings of the season, both in Boston. On Nov. 9, Nik Antropov had two goals and an assist in the Maple Leafs' 6-4 win.

A week later, Patrice Bergeron scored 34 seconds into overtime to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 win.

"Except for one game against Buffalo, all our other divisional games have been pretty good matches," said Chiarelli, whose team is 3-3-1 within the division. "I would expect the same.

"I know they get up for Boston, it's an old-time rivalry, and Boston gets up for them. So it should be a couple of good games."

Bergeron scored the lone goal in Boston's 5-1 loss Friday to the Carolina Hurricanes, giving him two goals and four assists during a five-game points streak.

Bergeron, who had team highs of 31 goals and 73 points in 2005-06, has a goal and two assists against the Maple Leafs this season. Last season, he had a point in three of four games at Toronto, with all three of his assists coming on the power play.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet again on Tuesday night.

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