AHL Players Center Stage As Bruins Visit Toronto
Boston Bruins (5-1-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3-0)
The Bruins visit Toronto for the first of four meetings this season and try and leave the trauma of Thursday night's beat down against the Buffalo Sabres behind them. Last season the B's swept the Leafs in all six meetings, outscoring them 36-10, in their last meeting in March, Boston shutout Toronto 8-0.
James Reimer started that game in net for the The Leafs and will be looking for redemption as he gets the start between the pipes. Tuukka Rask will be starting for Boston as expected.
Both the Leafs and Bruins have substantial injuries and have tapped into their AHL reserves for tonight's match-up. Shawn Thornton will be out seven to ten games with a concussion after getting his face rearranged Thursday against John Scott. Dan Paille, who took a Tyler Myers high stick to the face in that same massacre, also did not make the trip to Toronto and is day-to-day with an "upper body injury", fingers crossed that is also not a concussion. Coach Julien stated the Paille's absence from the road trip is only a precautionary measure and in a shortened year they want to very careful. If it walk likes a duck and quacks like a duck...must be a concussion, just saying.
Chris Bourque will return to the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley while Lane MacDermid and Jamie Tardif, up from Providence, will anchor Gregory Campbell on what used to be the Merlot Line. Tardif is second in scoring in the AHL and was on the AHL All Star roster last weekend in Providence. He is known for his strong forecheck and backcheck, that is in the AHL, and any player who has made the transition from the A to The Show will tell you its the hardest transition in all levels of hockey.
The Good News
Against any other team, having three AHL players on your NHL roster (yes I'm including Chris Bourque as an AHL caliber player...watch his game) might be a problem...that is unless you're playing the Toronto Maple Leafs who recently called up Matt Frattin who has fit quite nicely with his former Marlies linemates Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. Joffrey Lupul is out with a broken arm, Clarke MacArthur with a lacerated pinkie and Mike Brown with a shoulder injury.
Phil Kessel, despite tons of opportunities and shots, just cannot seem to bury the puck. If Leafs fans listen closely tonight, they'll hear the "Thank You Kessel" chants all the way from Boston.
The Bad News
The Buffalo Sabres proved to the Bruins, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and the last time James Reimer and the Leafs saw Boston the B's sprinkled salt on the season sweep wound with an 8-0 romp. Toronto has won two in a row and it's AHL line of Kadri, Komarov and Frattin have been red hot. Frattin has four goals and two assists in four games and Kadri leads the Leafs with seven points. The current state of the Bruins' defensive game is not ideal against a line of guys trying to solidify big boy contracts on a scoring streak. Boston needs to be more aware of their positioning on defense and in the neutral zone, and more often than not we have been seeing the Black and Gold left in the dust after letting up bonehead turnovers. Also, it wouldn't hurt to play sixty minutes of hockey either.
Even with a few weak links, the Bruins are still the better team here...on paper that is. They were also the better team going into Thursday's game against Buffalo and we all know how that ended up. If Boston can get back to basics, play a solid sixty minutes of hockey, tighten up their defense and prevent turnovers they should be able to leave The Air Canada Centre with two points. The first two lines are healthy and can score, but everyone on the ice needs to step up their defense, its just too much to leave all the Rask...Bruins by two.
Side bar: Bruins fans get their first opportunity to check out James Van Riemsdyk in a blue sweater. Let's see if Boston's "love" of JVR sees no color.
Where To Find It
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TV: NESN 7pm
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
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