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Preview; Bruins host Kessel and the Leafs in Original Six game

October 28, 2010

The Bruins return to action tonight when they face off with the surprising Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. The Bruins are coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday which broke the Bruins four-game winning streak.

The Maple Leafs 5-2-1 record is good for second in the Northeast, behind only the Canadiens. This is a marked improvement from last year in which the Leafs only had one win in all of October en route to the second-worst record in the NHL. The Leafs rebirth is due in large part to Brian Burke working his roster magic, transforming the team from undersized skill players to a mix of offensive talent and big bodies with a lot of grit.

Former Bruin Phil Kessel has seven of the Leafs 23 goals this season in just eight games. Clarke MacArthur is just behind Kessel with six goals, together they have over half of the Leafs goals this season. Needless to say, Zdeno Chara will be out on the ice shadowing Kessel’s line much like he did against Alex Ovechkin. Chara and the Bruins have done a great job against Kessel in the past, holding him to one assist in six games and a -5 rating. A lot of Bruins think that Kessel’s poor play against his former team is ‘eating him up inside’, so we’ll have to see how determined the Bruins are to shut him down once again.

Both teams will be without key players for the next 4-6 weeks, the result of very similar injuries. Both Colby Armstrong and Johnny Boychuk were injured with two-handed slashes that didn’t look vicious but were clearly damaging. The Leafs have called up Luca Caputi for Armstrong, and the Bruins will dress Adam McQuaid to fill in for Boychuk.

Expect Tim Thomas to start tonight folks. Tuukka Rask has let up eight goals in two games behind poor defense, but it’s still eight goals. Thomas has played too well not to start in a big divisional game.

The game could get chippy with a lot of tough guy rivalries in the mix. There is of course Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek, but also Colton Orr and Shawn Thornton skating tonight. I can imagine the Brian Burke-led Leafs wanting to establish their physicality as they turn the page this season and there isn’t a much better time than against the Boston Bruins. I don’t think it will be as laden with fights as the Rangers game was but there could be a bout or two.

That’s how the Leafs beat the Panthers on Tuesday. Colton Orr bowling over the goaltender and getting credit for the goal. Ron Wilson later said that the goal shouldn’t count and Orr probably should have been penalized. Gee, you think? If someone does something similar to Thomas tonight, you know he’ll respond.

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