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Maple Leafs-Bruins Preview @NHL

The Boston Bruins are no doubt glad to be heading back home.

The Bruins look to earn a split in their home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs when the teams meet on Thursday.

Boston (19-15-3) is returning home after losing three of four on its road trip, during which the team gave up 18 goals. Monday's 5-1 defeat at Toronto dropped the Bruins into last place in the Northeast Division, one point behind the fourth-place Maple Leafs.

Boston's last game at home, where the team has won five of seven, was a memorable one. The Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Dec. 23 in front of their first sellout crowd since the season opener.

"We had a talk before the game that this was the biggest game of the year," center Marc Savard said after that victory. "These guys were hot. It was an awesome crowd. Hopefully they keep coming back."

Goalie Tim Thomas also was impressed by the home crowd.

"It was the best atmosphere we've had this year," he said. "In the first period, I actually had to calm myself down because I was too excited."

Boston's road trip appeared to have worn on the team in its loss on Thursday. The Bruins were outshot 35-28 and did not score after Zdeno Chara's goal at the 4:51 mark of the first period, and Thomas allowed five goals for the second time in three games.

"We had no energy, no legs. There's no excuse. Toronto outworked us in all areas," coach Dave Lewis said. "We just looked like we were skating in sand."

Mats Sundin scored twice and added and assist for the Maple Leafs (18-17-6), who had dropped five of six.

"We need to win hockey games right now. We can't wait for people to get back from injuries. There's no time for excuses," Sundin said. "We have to do better defensively as a whole group and I thought tonight was a step in the right direction. If we want to be a playoff team we need to improve there."

Though Darcy Tucker returned Monday after missing two games with a foot injury, Toronto is still without injured forwards Michael Peca (broken leg), Nik Antropov (ankle), Kyle Wellwood (groin/hip) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder).

Sundin is doing his best to make up for those absences, totaling six goals and three assists during a six-game point streak.

"Mats is putting us on his back, and it's fun to watch him play. It's a lot of fun to be around him," goalie Andrew Raycroft said.

Raycroft, who played the first five seasons of his career with Boston before signing with Toronto in July, had allowed at least three goals in five of his previous six starts.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak in the series for the Maple Leafs, who won the first meeting of the season 6-4. The Maple Leafs had scored just one goal in each game during that slide.

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