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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Maple Leafs, Saturday April 3rd

With just five games left in the regular season, the Bruins (35-30-12) find themselves in desperation mode, needing every point they can get to cling to their playoff spot. That clinging starts tonight when they head north of the border to face the Eastern Conference’s cellar dwellers, the Toronto Maple Leafs (29-36-13).

Boston currently sits in a tie with Philadelphia for seventh in the East, but they are just two points ahead of both Atlanta and the New York Rangers, who hope to climb the ranks into the conference’s top eight.

If the Bruins are going to eek their way into playing playoff hockey this month, their offense is going to have to find a way to light the lamp. With just one goal in their last two games, coach Claude Julien decided to shuffle his forward lines at Friday’s practice. Most notably, Julien dropped struggling winger Michael Ryder to fourth-line duty, a punishment for his lack of offensive pop all season. Ryder is one of just three Bruins to lace up the skates for every game this season, but with guys like Shawn Thornton and Trent Whitfield willing to put in the extra effort, it could be Ryder who watches the game from the press box sooner rather than later.

Time now to tickle your fancy with some pre-game notes from Toronto…

  • Toronto is 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, making a strong case for themselves to leap out of the bottom spot in the East. They currently sit three points behind the 14th place Islanders, Panthers, and Lightning.
  • Boston is 3-1-1 in the first five games against Toronto this season, and 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against the Leafs. Toronto has yet to score a power play goal on Boston this season, going 0-for-17 in the five games thus far.
  • Boston’s defensive corps will be a little thin tonight, as both Andrew Ference (groin) and Mark Stuart (hand) will be out of action. The B’s have called up defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk from Providence as a reinforcement.
  • Speaking of Providence, recently signed forward Joe Colborne made his “Baby B’s” debut last night in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Worcester. Colborne had two assists in the game.
  • Getting back to Toronto, they will be thin on the blue line as well, with defensemen Mike Komisarek (shoulder) and Mike Van Ryn (knee) out for the remainder of the season.
  • Scoring for Toronto is led by familiar face Phil Kessel (30G, 25A), followed by defenseman Tomas Kaberle (7G, 42A) and winger Nikolai Kulemin (16G, 20A).
  • Goaltenders for the Leafs include veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere (9-14-7, 2.90GAA) and youngster Jonas Gustavsson (16-14-8, 2.84GAA). Whichever goalie mans the crease tonight, he will likely be opposed by Boston’s Tuukka Rask, a Toronto draft pick way back when. Rask is 3-2-0 with a miniscule 1.66GAA in his last six appearances, also posting a 3-1-0 career mark against the Leafs, with a 2.01GAA.

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