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Maple Leafs-Bruins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (36-32-7) at Boston Bruins (28-35-13).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won four of their last five games to close to within six points of the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

The 10th-place Maple Leafs look to continue their upward climb when they close out their season series with the struggling Boston Bruins.

Toronto is 4-3 against the Bruins this season, and won the last meeting 5-4 in a shootout on March 14.

Darcy Tucker ended a 16-game scoring drought with two goals on Wednesday, and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the game-winner with just over two minutes to play in a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders.

The Maple Leafs have 79 points with seven games to play, and will be keeping an eye on Thursday's matchup between the Lightning (85 points) and ninth-place Atlanta Thrashers (80) at Tampa Bay.

"We're going to keep fighting and give it our best shot," Tucker said.

The Maple Leafs beat the Islanders despite being outshot 29-22 and twice falling behind.

"Things really didn't go our way," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said. "But we found a way to get the two points."

Meanwhile, the Bruins have dropped four straight and seven of their last eight games. They're eliminated from playoff contention after consecutive road losses at Montreal, 2-0 last Saturday and 5-3 on Tuesday.

Bruins defenseman Brian Leetch returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing Saturday's game because of a head injury.

The Maple Leafs have won two straight against Boston, although the Bruins have taken two of three meetings this season on their home ice.

STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 79 points, 4th place, 29 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 69 points, 5th place, 39 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 26 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 51 assists; Bryan McCabe, 64 points and 110 PIM. Bryan McCabe, 110 PIM. Bruins - Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm, 28 goals; Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes, 40 assists; Patrice Bergeron, 68 points; Hal Gill, 120 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.1 percent (92 for 457), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.5 percent (365 for 459), 24th. Bruins - Power play: 15.4 percent (61 for 395), 24th. Penalty killing: 83.4 percent (378 for 453), 13th.

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Mikael Tellqvist (10-10-2, 2 SO, 3.00 GAA); Jean-Sebastien Aubin (4-0-1, 1, 1.71). Bruins - Tim Thomas (11-11-7, 1, 2.67); Andrew Raycroft (8-19-2, 0, 3.71).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 4-3.

LAST MEETING: March 14; Maple leafs, 5-4 (SO). At Toronto, Ontario, the Maple Leafs used a three-goal second period to rally from a 4-1 deficit before Tucker converted the only goal of the shootout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 13-20-4 on the road; Bruins - 15-14-8 at home.

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