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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Maple Leafs, Saturday 12/5

Boston Bruins left wing Marco Sturm, center, celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammates Patrice Bergeron, left, and Zdeno Chara (33) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

After one of the worst efforts of the season last night in Montreal, the Bruins (14-9-5) will look to get back on the winning trail tonight, as they return home for the much anticipated return of Phil Kessel and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs (8-12-7).

Tonight will be the first of three December matchups between these two teams. Boston was able to win five of six meetings last season over Toronto. The B’s hope to rebound after last night’s brutal performance north of the border, losing to the Canadiens, 5-1. Turnovers and soft goals were the theme last night, as goalie Tim Thomas and the Bruins defensive corps were completely outplayed from beginning to end. On the flip side, the rebuilding Maple Leafs are looking for their first 3-game win streak of the year, after a 3-0 shutout win over Montreal Tuesday, followed by a 6-3 thumping over Columbus Thursday night.

Let’s highlight a few more points to ponder, heading into this evening’s skate at the Garden…

  • I can’t begin anywhere else but with Phil Kessel. Kessel, who was shipped to Toronto in the off-season in exchange for three draft picks, has worked wonders for the Leafs since returning from injury. In his 15 games, he’s already got 10 goals, including his two scores in Thursday’s win over Columbus. Kessel has six points in his last four games, and is looking forward to the boos he’ll surely receive from the Garden faithful tonight.

  • Also atop the Leafs’ stat sheet is Tomas Kaberle, whose 27 points (2G, 25A) is best among the league’s defensemen. Behind Kaberle is Niklas Hagman (13G, 6A), and centers Matt Stajan (8G, 10A) and Mikhail Grabovski (4G, 14A).
  • Toronto’s injury woes start with top goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who after a second procedure earlier this week, is out indefinitely with an irregular heartbeat. Also sidelined for the Leafs are defensemen Carl Gunnavsson (elbow), Mike Van Ryn (knee), and forward John Mitchell (knee).
  • Because of Gustavsson’s injury, GM Brian Burke brought in ex-Bruin goalie Joey MacDonald to fill the void. MacDonald (1-3-0, 2.80GAA) is likely to get the start tonight over backup Vesa Toskala (1-4-2, 3.91GAA). MacDonald appeared in 7 games in ’06-’07 for Boston, going 2-2-1 with a 2.68 GAA in that time.
  • Also familiar to Bruins fans, beyond Kessel and MacDonald, are forwards Colton Orr (1G, 1A) and Wayne Primeau (2G, 1A). Orr played in 21 games for Boston between ’03 and ’06 before heading to the Rangers, while Wayne Primeau spent part of two seasons with the Bruins between ’05 and ’07. Primeau was one of three players that came to Boston from San Jose in exchange for Joe Thornton.

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