Bruins-Maple Leafs Preview
With trade rumors surrounding him for years, Tomas Kaberle had plenty of time to envision what it would be like to appear at Air Canada Centre as a visitor.
Kaberle provided consistent production from the back line for the Maple Leafs for more than 11 seasons, but it has been seven years since he has taken the ice in the playoffs.
With Toronto (31-31-10) again out of postseason position and Kaberle's contract set to expire this summer, general manager Brian Burke sent him to Boston for prospect Joe Colborne and two draft picks Feb. 18.
"My name has been mentioned the last few years," Kaberle said last month. "It's sad on one part, and on the other hand it's another challenge for me. I'm happy it was the Boston Bruins."
Burke's comments after the trade may ensure a positive reception for Kaberle from Toronto's fans.
"The player did not want to leave," Burke said. "He asked for a (contract) extension several times."
One reason the Bruins (39-21-10) added the veteran was to improve their power play, which ranks among the league's 10 worst at 16.5 percent. The unit, however, has been even worse since Kaberle joined the team, going 2 for 32 in 12 games, with Kaberle contributing one power-play assist.
While trying to hold off Montreal and secure the Northeast Division title, Boston is just 1-2-3 since a seven-game winning streak. The Bruins lost 4-3 in overtime at Nashville on Thursday.
"We have to get sharper in our decision-making because right now it's becoming too costly for us," coach Claude Julien said.
The Bruins rank among the league's stingiest teams, but they've allowed four goals in four of their last five games. Vezina Trophy favorite Tim Thomas has a 2.99 goals-against average in his last nine starts - he still leads the league at 2.03 - while Tuukka Rask has allowed 10 goals in three starts since winning four straight.
Rask is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA in his career against Toronto, which drafted him in the first round in 2005. Thomas is 6-2-2 in his last 10 versus the Leafs, but he stopped just 24 shots in a 4-3 home loss Feb. 15.
Toronto rallied with two unanswered goals in the final seven minutes of that game. Phil Kessel scored the tying goal - his second of the night after he was held without a goal in his first nine meetings with his former team.
The Bruins have Toronto's first-round pick this year from the Kessel deal, while the Leafs have Boston's first-round selection from the Kaberle trade, so both can potentially improve their position by winning Saturday.
The Leafs also are trying to make a final postseason push, but their 4-0 loss Thursday at Florida dropped them to 2-4-1 in their last seven. They are tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference, four points out of eighth with fewer games remaining than most of their competitors.
Boston will play without standout rookie Brad Marchand as he finishes a two-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Columbus' R.J. Umberger in a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday.
That was the Bruins' lone victory in the first three games of this four-game trip, although they're still an East-best 23-9-5 on the road.