The Toronto Maple Leafs have not forgotten their previous meeting with the Boston Bruins, but while trying to keep things in perspective, they hope to leave their Atlantic Division rival with something to think about in their final regular season meeting at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
“You look at it as another game, but (Boston) has gotten the better of us so far this year.” Auston Matthews said on Saturday morning. “It should be a game we’re all ready to play for and bring our ‘A’ game tonight.”
Toronto put forth a pair of weak efforts at TD Garden, the last being a one-sided 6-3 loss in early December in which they were outworked by a club without Patrice Bergeron, Jake Debrusk and Zdeno Chara in the lineup and outhit by the Bruins club intent on upping their physicality against the highly skilled and speedy Leafs.
“Boston plays a quick game, they rely on a group of forwards to really set the tone for them. They rely on their power play a lot, they have a couple guys on the back end that are mobile but defend well, and they make it hard on you.” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after the optional morning skate. “As far as the style (they play), I think it is perfect for us.”
Toronto relied heavily on Frederik Andersen in their only win over Boston (a 38-save effort in a 4-2 win on November 26). Earlier this week, it appeared as if Saturday was the target for Andersen’s return (after missing seven games with a groin injury), but the Leafs starter came down with the flu late this week, which means that backup Michael Hutchinson will make his fifth straight start against Boston.
Hutchinson made 27 saves for his second victory in New Jersey on Thursday and has provided the Leafs with some stability in goal with both Andersen and backup Garret Sparks injured.
“(Hutchinson) battles real hard, he’s given us an opportunity when he’s played” Babcock said. “He came in a situation where both our goalies were hurt. We’ve been looking for a goalie ever since we lost (Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard) and we were fortunate to be able to get him.”
Sparks skated and took shots on Saturday, but the Leafs head coach did not have a further update on when he would be able to return.
The Bruins will get defenseman Charlie McAvoy back in the lineup (after missing nearly three weeks with a foot infection) and go with Tuukka Rask in goal. Rask has excellent career numbers (16-7-2, 2.14 GAA and .925 save percentage) against Toronto, but the former Leafs first rounder has split time with Jaroslav Halak this season and Halak started in the three previous matches.
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