Bruins-Maple Leafs Preview
The Boston Bruins are on their best run in nearly eight years, though their slow start still has them chasing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Northeast Division.
A victory in Toronto on Wednesday night in the opener of this home-and-home set would change that.
Boston (14-7-1) has gone 11-0-1 since Nov. 1, earning at least one point in 12 consecutive contests for the first time since Jan. 27-Feb. 21, 2004.
Kelly has nine goals in 22 games, already creeping up on his career high of 15 set in 2006-07 and matched in 2009-10.
"He's doing the right things,'' said Rich Peverley, who assisted on both of Kelly's goals. "He's getting in the right position to score goals.''
The Bruins' recent 10-game winning streak helped them recover from their 3-7-0 start, though they remain one point behind Toronto (14-8-2) for the division lead.
If the previous two meetings this season are any indication, Boston has a solid chance to move into the top spot.
Kelly had a goal and an assist in a 6-2 victory in Boston on Oct. 20, and Tyler Seguin recorded his first career hat trick in a 7-0 win in Toronto on Nov. 5.
While Seguin looks like one of the NHL's top young players, the Leafs can't currently complain about their end of the deal.
Kessel leads the NHL with 16 goals and 31 points after earning an assist in Sunday's 5-2 win at Anaheim - Toronto's third straight victory. He hasn't done much against his former team, though, posting two goals and four assists in 14 games.
Kessel went scoreless in each meeting this season, but he could have some help from linemates Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul in this contest. Bozak has a pair of two-goal games in his last three - all six of his goals have come in his last eight games - while Lupul is right behind Kessel with 29 points.
Lupul has two goals and eight assists during a six-game point streak, while Bozak has remained on the top line despite Tim Connolly returning from injury.
"I'm comfortable. I think I can play with those guys,'' Bozak said. "We've had a ton of injuries, but guys have stepped up and responded really well.''
That group includes Jonas Gustavsson, who made 26 saves Sunday and is 4-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average in his last four starts, giving Toronto a solid option with James Reimer recovering from a concussion.
Reimer, however, is progressing enough that he could back up Gustavsson when the teams conclude this home-and-home set Saturday at TD Garden.
The Leafs may need him considering Gustavsson has struggled against the Bruins in the two meetings. He started and allowed six goals in October, then came on in relief of Ben Scrivens in November and allowed two goals on six shots.
Milan Lucic, who has three goals and four assists in a three-game point streak against Toronto, scored one of his two goals in the second meeting on Gustavsson as Tim Thomas earned his third career shutout against the Leafs.
Prior to winning both meetings this season, however, Thomas had lost five of his previous six starts versus Toronto with a 2.82 GAA.