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Leafs eager for first home playoff game since 2004

by Mike G. Morreale

BOSTON -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk has a simple message for those fans with tickets to Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.

"The louder, the better," van Riemsdyk told reporters following his team's series-tying 4-2 victory against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 on Saturday.

Both teams expect the packed house at Air Canada Centre on Monday night (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, CBC, RDS) to blow the roof off the building when the Maple Leafs take the ice for their first Stanley Cup Playoffs match since losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round in 2004.

"No doubt," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If you're Toronto right now and you haven't been in the playoffs for that long, your fans have got to be excited over there. We know it's going to be noisy and there's going to be a lot of electricity in the air and we have to face that."

Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf is looking forward to the reaction when his team skates onto the ACC ice for warmups prior to its first playoff game in nine years.

"We've said all year that we've got unbelievable fans," Phaneuf said. "We're happy with the way that we played [Saturday], but we've got lots of work to do yet."

The Maple Leafs finished 13-9-2 at Air Canada Centre this season while the Bruins were 12-9-3 on the road.

"It's great that our fans are enthusiastic and all of the passion that our fans do demonstrate," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "We think it's a great thing for our city, but again we've got a job to do. We've got to focus and the game is won on the ice. We have to prepare to play a better Boston hockey club on Monday … I guarantee you they will be better than they were [Saturday]."

After being outplayed in a series-opening 4-1 loss, the Maple Leafs turned the tables on their Northeast Division rival in Game 2. They outhit the Bruins 44-35 and got major contributions from their star players on the way to evening the series.

While Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton knows his team has an uphill battle, he is looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of a capacity crowd in Toronto.

"That'll be really cool; I think I remember going to playoff games as a kid and I know the fans are pretty good in Toronto," Hamilton said. "I'm sure it'll be a really good atmosphere."

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who is now 8-7 in 15 career playoff games, said it would certainly be a lot easier if his team were to gain a split in Toronto.

"As a road team you play two games and I think you're at least going to take one out of two, and they managed to do that," Rask said. "I'm sure they feel pretty good about themselves right now after the win, as they should. It's not going to be easy going there, but we just have to battle and play two good solid road games."

Despite the fact that Carlyle reshuffled his lineup and has had as many as 13 players experiencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their careers, the Maple Leafs head home all even with the Bruins. They'll look to take a 2-1 series lead with their first playoff home victory since '04.

"I think it will be crazy," Lupul said. "With the win [Saturday] and with [the playoff wait] whatever it is, eight, nine years, I saw the videos of the other day of everyone crowded around Maple Leaf Square [outside Air Canada Centre].

"I'm really excited. I'm thinking about it already. It's only 20 minutes after [Game 2] but I can't wait to get out Monday. Those fans deserve it. And hopefully the building's crazier than ever."


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