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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Maple Leafs, Tuesday February 15th

The Bruins (31-18-7) will aim to get back on track this evening, as they host Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs (23-27-6) at TD Garden.

Boston’s licking their wounds after getting completely outplayed over the weekend in a pair of losses to the Detroit Red Wings. On Friday night, it was a 6-1 beatdown handed to the B’s, who followed up that effort with another loss on Sunday afternoon in the Motor City, 4-2. Clearly, the better team won both of these contests, and if the Bruins want to be considered amongst the NHL’s elite, GM Peter Chiarelli will have some roster tinkering to do before the February 28th trade deadline.

Toronto GM Ron Wilson isn’t waiting until February 28th, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, based on his heavy transaction activity the past few years. With Toronto 10 points out of the playoff picture right now, sitting in 12th place in the East, Wilson has already begun retooling the Maple Leafs’ roster, completing two trades before the deadline days really heat up. Last week, he shipped Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim, in exchange for winger Joffrey Lupul, prospect Jake Gardiner, and a conditional draft pick. Then yesterday, the Leafs followed that up by sending former Bruin Kris Versteeg to East-leading Philadelphia, getting a first- and third-round pick in return.

It’s always fun when “Phil the Thrill” and the Original Six rival Leafs come to town, so let’s get some pre-game notes out there to get you ready for tonight’s tilt at the Garden…

– Tonight marks the fourth of six meetings between these two teams this season. Boston has taken two of the first three, and has won their last six against Toronto at home, dating back to last season. Overall, the B’s enjoy an 11-1-2 mark against the Leafs in their last 14 games.

– The Bruins made some roster moves since Sunday’s loss, sending both Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron back down to Providence. Daniel Paille, who finished serving his four-game suspension over the weekend, is eligible to return to action tonight and will skate on the team’s fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Tyler Seguin, a healthy scratch for two games last week, returns to center the third line between Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler.

– Boston’s lead in the Northeast Division has been cut to just a single point over rival Montreal, with the B’s still having one game in hand over the Habs. Thankfully, the B’s have come to one of the softer sections of their schedule, giving them a golden opportunity to extend that division lead to a more comfortable level over the next few games. With the Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Senators on the docket this week, the B’s will face three of the East’s four lowest teams in the current standings.

– Tonight’s game will be Boston’s last before heading out on a six-game road trip that takes the team to the Canadian northwest next week, to take on Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton. They’ll wrap up the voyage with a second stop in Ottawa on March 1st, before returning home to host Tampa Bay on the 3rd.

– Flipping over to the Toronto side of the story, the Leafs are coming off a dismal 3-0 defeat in Montreal Saturday night. It was the ninth time Toronto had been shut out this season, which leads the NHL in that department.

– Toronto is really, just plain awful in so many statistical categories. They rank in the bottom 10 league-wide in goals per game (27th at 2.50), goals against per game (25th at 3.05), power play percentage (tied for 23rd at 16.2%), and penalty kill percentage (28th at 77.4%).

– Kessel is in a monster scoring slump right now, which is music to many B’s fans’ ears. Kessel hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games, and has never scored in the nine games he’s faced his former team, since being traded north of the border before last season. If he goes goalless again tonight, the 15-game drought will match his career high, set in his rookie year with the B’s. But hey, the league gave him a new car a few weeks back for being the last guy picked in the All-Star Fantasy Draft, so at least he’s got that going for him.

– Scoring for Toronto is led by winger Clarke MacArthur (17G, 27A), followed by center Mikhail Grabovsky (22G, 20A) and winger Nikolai Kulemin (21G, 20A).

– In net for the Leafs is veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere (11-10-3, 2.88GAA) and youngster James Reimer (6-4-1, 2.39GAA). Jonas Gustavsson (6-13-2, 3.29GAA) has also seen a lot of action for Toronto, but is currently sidelined after undergoing minor heart surgery last week to repair a condition causing an abnormal rhythm.

– Lastly, two hockey notes unrelated to tonight’s B’s-Leafs battle. First up, a sad day for Colorado’s Peter Forsberg yesterday, as he announced his retirement from the NHL. Forsberg had made a comeback this year with the Avalanche, the very team with whom he won two Stanley Cups, back in 1996 and 2001. He worked his way back to appear in two games for Colorado this season, but with nagging foot injuries still causing too much pain, the 13-year veteran decided to ultimately hang up the skates for good.

– And of course, a big congratulations goes out to the Boston College Eagles for winning a very exciting 7-6 overtime game over Northeastern University last night in the Beanpot Championship game. Northeastern gave the nation’s top-ranked team all they could handle, tying the game at six with under two minutes left in regulation and taking the Eagles to OT, but it was Boston College who prevailed in the end, winning their third Beanpot tournament in four years.

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